When lulz-seeking hackers aren't busy reincarnating Tupac on PBS and taking down government websites worldwide, they always seem to turn their attention to videogame companies. We're not quite sure what the grudge is, but Sony, Nintendo, Minecraft, Bethesda, Sega, BioWare and scads of other gaming targets have been hacked in one way or another. Pretty much the only major player unaffected thus far has been Microsoft. In fact, the company's even profited from the rash of attacks as gamers bailed the PlayStation in droves. So what does Microsoft think of all the recent troubles from its seat on the sidelines?
If you asked Microsoft, they'd probably say their flashy keynote address at E3 signaled the day the Xbox 360 grew into its own as an entertainment center, rather than a dumb old video game console. Here at Maximum PC, we view it a little differently: we think Microsoft's keynote address at E3 signaled the day that PC gaming fell off of Microsoft's radar.
A few weeks ago, we took a not-so-fond look at the console portion of the grotesque, unruly mass (in some circles known as a “family”) that is the gaming world. As we often do with those with whom we share any sort of relation, we proceeded to list off all the ways they've wronged us. We find it to be a good ice-breaker. Now, though, we've been struck with some strange and debiltating malady that top scientists are calling “civility,” and we've realized there's plenty of good mixed in with the bad. No, seriously. Consoles, we may not always get along, but we'd be remiss if we didn't give you due praise for having our backs every once in a while. Now go! Jump past the break before we change our minds.
Jennifer Zdenek lives in Seattle and has an 11-year-old son diagnosed with autism. One of the ways he copes with his disability is by logging time on Xbox Live racking up achievements. Little Julias Jackson signed on to play last week, and to his and his mother's surprise, Xbox Live had taken away his achievements (nearly 1,500 of them) and labeled him a "cheater," Seattle's local Fox News affiliate reports.
"It is pretty much his only outlet and his only friend, because of autism," Zdenek explains. "It disgusts me that they did this to my child... if you have no friends and have no life outside of your home and this is all you do, you know because of your mental illness, then this is pretty devastating to him."
Zdenek says she called Microsoft and spoke with two people, one of which was a supervisor, but neither was any help. She was then referred to Microsoft's legal department "by address only."
Microsoft says, "The only actions that we take are to correct the player's current Gamerscore, and to label the player as a 'cheater.' This label can be observed on Xbox.com and through the player's view of their Gamercard on a console or computer that is connected to Xbox Live. The player can still legitimately gain future achievements. The player's experience does not change in any other way."
Furthermore, HardOCP reached out to Microsoft, who explained that even though it might not have been Julius or his mother who fudged with the account, they feel certain that someone did in order to boost his gaming score.
Stephen Toulouse, Director of Xbox Live Policy and Enforcement at Microsoft, apparently confirmed that somone at the home was cheating on the account in question.
One of Windows Phone 7's standout - and marketable - features is the Games Hub featuring Xbox Live integration. I've been immersed in the world of smartphones for half a decade now and I still found the concept and process of setting up my WP7/Xbox Live account a bit confusing, but now that I'm rolling I can see the potential. Then again, I'm not an Xbox gamer; the system is designed to be an extension of Microsoft's console-based Live experience, and so familiar to its legions of online gaming fans.
Whether you're a Live regular, smartphone expert, or neither of the above, there's a lot to explore and learn about in WP7's Xbox Live Xtras. Here are 7 things you might not know about how it all works:
What would be really great is if a single Microsoft Live Gold subscription covered an entire household rather than just one console and/or account. That's wishful thinking, we know, but if you own multiple accounts, Microsoft's new Live Gold Family Pack, available now, should help take some of the sting out of getting everyone online.
The Family Pack subscription costs $100 and covers four 12-month memberships. At that price, you're basically paying for two memberships and receiving two for free, so while it won't help households with 'just' two Xbox 360 Live subscriptions, it's an okay deal for those with three and a pretty good bargain for those with four.
In addition to the discounted price, the special four-pack also includes a few exclusive benefits, such as access to the new Family Center for family account and online settings management; activity monitoring reports; the ability to purchase and gift Microsoft Points Allowances to your children; and family-friendly content and discounts.
Hi there, valued Xbox Live Gold customer! Are there any sharp objects nearby? How about firearms? We're just the messenger, after all, and would rather not be shot for this one. So, are you calm? Have you followed the late, great Bruce Lee's teachings and become as water? Ok then, here it goes:
Beginning November 1, Xbox Live Gold will cost $60 per year. That's a ten dollar price hike, for those of you who don't read your credit statements. One month and three month subscriptions have also been increased accordingly.
So, why's Microsoft randomly kidnapping yet another one of your precious Alexander Hamiltons – especially after eight years of the same price point and Sony's constant “neener-neener" proclamations of free online multiplayer? Well, the long and short of it is that you're now getting a whole lot more stuff.
“As an Xbox LIVE Gold member, you can not only play blockbuster games, such as Halo: Reach with your friends online, you can also stream movies from Netflix and music from Last.fm right to your TV. You can even connect with friends near and far on Facebook and Twitter. Plus, you also enjoy exclusive discounts and early access to game demos,” said Microsoft, while also citing the upcoming additions of Hulu Plus, Video Kinect, and ESPN this holiday season.
Granted, some of those services require you to fork over additional subscription fees, but there's no doubting that Xbox Live Gold's a pretty slick service. The question, however, remains: is it pocket-change-worthy fool's gold, or is it the genuine, worth-$60 article? Also, what about people who bought their game consoles for, you know, games – and couldn't care less about Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, ESPN and the like? What's in it for them, if anything at all?
Tough questions, huh? So we'll let you do the heavy lifting on this one: Do you think Microsoft's decision to rip another rib out of your piggy bank is a fair one? Will you continue subscribing to Xbox Live Gold?
Rumors regarding Windows Mobile 7 have been rampant as Mobile World Congress approaches. Now some reputable sources have let it slip that Winows Mobile 7 is a lock to be announced at the conference. According to the Wall Street Journal, the user interface will be a dead ringer for the Zune HD portable media player. We certainly wouldn’t argue with that.
From Bloomberg we’re hearing that the new software will have heavy integration with Microsoft’s Xbox Live service and console. This certainly makes sense considering the massive success the platform has enjoyed. Expect more integration with the Zune ecosystem as well, maybe even an iPhone/iTunes style system. Noted journalist Mary-Jo Foley is also saying that she expects Microsoft to drop the Windows Mobile name altogether and go with “Windows Phone 7”.
As for all that Project Pink speculation, the WSJ says don’t bet on it. While they are claiming that it won’t be part of the announcement, the Sharp manufactured “Pink” phone could be out sometime this spring. What does Windows Mobile (or Phone) 7 need to be to get your attention? Is it just too late for Microsoft in the mobile space?
Marc Whitten, writing on Xbox 360 Press, says that the original Xbox console and games just don’t hack it on Xbox LIVE any more. It’s too much of a kludge. It’s not capable of taking advantage of the cool new whiz-bang features, like Marketplace, Netflix, or social networking. And, one might suspect, it’s become too expensive to continue to support. Therefore, on April 15, users of the original console will be dropped from Xbox LIVE.
Writes Whitten: “Your Xbox LIVE community has grown to 23 million strong. And as we look down the road, we’ll continue to evolve the service with features and experiences that harness the full power of Xbox 360. To reach our aspiration, we need to make changes to the service that are incompatible with our original Xbox v1 games.” Translation: welcome to dumpsville--population you.