Xbox Live's Rules Are A Train Wreck

Valve takes a few shots at Microsoft’s Xbox Live update policy while outlining 13 things at which they failed.

Erik Johnson: Favourite conversation of ours! PS3, so far. The way we’ve dealt with those customers so far, and the product that they have, and the lack of updates on the 360 for TF2 is also a total failure. Those are the ones that sting the worst because…

Doug Lombardi: There’s actual ramifications.

Erik Johnson: Because it got all the way through to customers. It’s like a bug. If you fix a bug before it ever ships, it’s pretty cheap. If you ship it and then fix it, it’s really expensive. Those ones are really bad.

Gabe Newell: That’s why we’re really happy with the current situation with the PS3… We’re solving it now in a way that is going to work for our customers, rather than assuming something is going to emerge later that will allow us to fix this.

PC Gamer: Was the mistake on the Xbox side to think that Microsoft would let you update it more often?

Gabe Newell: We thought that there would be something that would emerge, because we figured it was a sort of untenable… “Oh yeah, we understand that these are the rules now, but it’s such a train wreck that something will have to change.”

Erik Johnson: We did kind of blindly go off and build… you know what we’ve done in TF2 because you’ve played TF2, right? We built a lot of things. So there is this business issue of how do you keep delivering software, which we did kind of think we could resolve in some way. Market forces are dictating it should be resolved. But then memory’s a problem for us now – we’ve added all these things, so you have to consider those budgets at this point.

Erik Johnson: I mean it’s a trade-off. I don’t know how to evaluate that trade-off today. TF2 on the PC side has delivered a huge amount of value, but we’ve screwed up on the other side.

Thanks, Microsoft, you idiots.

Not to defend Microsoft but that reads like Valve decided to do something that doesn’t work with how Microsoft does things and they’re blaming Microsoft for the fallout from that.

I guess they believed that Microsoft would not want the bad PR associated with TF 2 getting lots of free content on the PC via steam as opposed to not much (or nothing at all?) via xbox live.

They guessed wrong.

What’s odd is that even as someone outside the industry I could have told you Microsoft was not going to support Valve or anyone else for that matter when it came to free content. That was pretty obvious from the get go and was common knowledge on most of the big game forums shortly after the 360 was released. DLC and all that…

Yeah, MS has always hated free content on Live. Shit, didn’t Epic refuse to ship Unreal Tournament on 360 back in the first year or two of the 360’s existence, because of MS’s refusal to countenance any free level delivery? I also wish MS would change its policy there, but it’s not like they’ve been inconsistent.

MS is dead set against free updates and content past a certain point. (I think you get the first one free, but after that you have to pay them to distribute your files or something like that.)

Part of the official reasoning was that it would force developers to really get some good QA done before shipping rather than just succumbing to the “ship now, patch later” strategy. That has completely backfired in this day and age.

I wonder if it’s frustrating as a 3rd party dev to see the number of updates and patches the MS published titles get (Halo 3) versus your own?

Yeah, 500 pound gorilla met a 600 pound gorilla with predictable results. <shrug>

This is a classic PC-developer-who-is-a-n00b-to-consoles mistake. Anyone who’s worked with console acceptance procedures should know that “something will emerge” ain’t a viable plan for dealing with the process.

Valve fucked up. /shrug

Just so I understand, but this is Valve being frustrated because they can’t deliver free updates to 360 customers?

And the reason MS is against this is because of the expense of delivering these updates, or a general “nothing free” policy?

Which they freely admit. They assumed that MS would change their minds. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Whoops!

I do have to agree that the Live’s blanket policy of “no good free stuff ever” is pretty stupid at this point. I think there are some benefits to be had in some cases. I know they want to clearly brand Live as a store that “adds value” to gaming, but once Valve gets Steamworks going on PSN, I think it’s going to look increasingly stupid when Portal 2 gets free stuff for the PS3 and PC but not for the 360.

I thought that was the only time when Microsoft made an exception? When something was released for free on PS3?

I haven’t ever noticed a difference in pricing in PS3 vs. 360 DLC. And if the Valve dudes like PS3 so much more, then why is L4D only on 360 and PC?

hex bawk support being so useless over my weird region blocking issue has convinced me to buy Dead Rising 2 on the PC. Suck it Micro$oft.

One of the early gears of war map packs was “free” in that it was supported by advertising (i.e.: someone else footed the bill besides the end users).

They didn’t like the PS3 until this recent e3.

Anyone who’s worked with console acceptance procedures should know that “something will emerge” ain’t a viable plan for dealing with the process.

That’s not a viable plan for dealing with anything, ever.

And if the Valve dudes like PS3 so much more, then why is L4D only on 360 and PC?

They were pretty late to the party with the PS3. Wasn’t it just at E3 that they announced they were working with Sony? Up until then they were pretty much hating on it.

And if the Valve dudes like PS3 so much more, then why is L4D only on 360 and PC?

Because Valve never really felt like providing enough internal resources to support a third plattform - especially one that wasn’t overly easy to develop for. It’s safe to say that being allowed to port Steamworks onto PS3/PSN was what changed their mind because it enables them to bring a part of their platform to the console space. Don’t expect future Valve projects to be plattform-exclusive. Unless Sony or Microsoft pay to get an exclusive deal, of course.

Sony just passes the cost on to the developer, they charge 16 cents per gig used to publishers. From an old MTV Multiplayer article:

It applies a 16-cent charge to every Gigabyte of content downloaded from the PS3’s PSN online store. For free content, like demos, those charges apply only during the first 60 days of the content’s release. For paid content, like map packs, the charges rack up in perpetuity, or until that content is removed from the PlayStation 3’s online store.

For a demo that is sized at exactly 1GB and is downloaded one million times, that would add an extra $160,000 that Sony is now charging and that, according to publishing sources, Microsoft isn’t.

For how many people is this really an issue and sticking point?

To me, it just sounds like Valve are being silly about the whole thing. You don’t predicate a business plan on hopes that one of your partners decides to drastically change the way they do business.

Another thing you pay for with that Xbox Live Gold subscription: Subsidizing bandwidth for every publishers’ marketing materials. Classic!