During the early 2000’s a little company called Microsoft attempted to bring something to the console world that had only been really used in PC’s. Keep in mind, the technology had definitely been used in consoles before, but Microsoft set out to make it ubiquitous. This technology would eventually become the standard for gaming and ultimately shape the landscape of online play. I am, of course, talking about Xbox Live.
Before we dive into that, let’s talk about how PC gamers played games before. Dial-up was pretty much the only game in town for years. For those too young to remember, dial-up was limited to two computers with modems connecting over phone lines. Yes, phone lines. The thought of having to use such limited speed again makes me cringe. Also, imagine having to tell everyone in the house to not touch the phone while you connected with a friend (because picking up the phone would cause the connection to drop between the two computers). Want to add another friend to the mix? Sorry, it didn’t work that way.
Of course, broadband was an option, but it was expensive at the time. There was no standard dedicated infrastructure for playing games with friends online, only a few different companies trying to corner that market. LAN gaming was really the best option for PC gamers at the time. It was a glorious time, indeed. I do miss gaming with friends together in the same room and LAN parties. There’s a certain magic that is present when human contact and interaction is involved. It’s just not as satisfying when you can’t immediately high-five your friend when something amazing happens. All that aside, without the foundations of PC gaming, Microsoft would not have had the proper foundation in place to build the Xbox and Xbox Live.
To really bring Xbox Live to light, Microsoft developed the Xbox console. Microsoft also believed that broadband was the future so the Xbox skipped dial-up entirely. That was a fundamental shift in gaming mentality. The developers were LAN gamers. They knew what it was like playing with a bunch of friends all at once, in real time. It was the most amazing thing, and with broadband starting to become more easily accessible to the masses, it was the right step to take.
Today, no one even considers online gaming as anything out of the ordinary. They see it as a commodity just like TV and movies. That isn’t a bad thing, though. Xbox Live ushered in a new era of gaming and the rest of the industry followed suit. Microsoft set the standard as they intended to do. Achievement Unlocked!