The Xbox 360 was a great console generation for Microsoft. I always classify the console as a successful experiment in gaming fun. Microsoft and the team behind the Xbox 360 went out of their way to make the 360 console enjoyable. I say this knowing the console had widespread, critical issues in the form of the Red Ring of Death. Let’s look past that incredibly severe blunder and focus on the things the console did fight. The UI was a constant user experience experiment as the designers tried to make the interface as easy to navigate as possible. The Xbox Avatars introduced a sim-like meta-game within the 360, allowing people to see themselves in some games. And the greatest invention of the Xbox 360 the Xbox Live Arcade.
Xbox Live Arcade changed the game
Xbox Live Arcade gave gamers instant access to incredible indie games. Every game had a demo you could try for free, and every game was $15 US. Once the demo was complete, a prompt to buy the game appeared. You could buy and continue where the demo left off or say no, and the demo would restart. Easy Peasy. XBLA granted us gems like The Maw, Shadow Complex, Castle Crashers, Braid, ‘Splotion Man, Iron Brigade, Bionic Commando ReArmed, Trials Fusion. The list goes on. Don’t even get me started on the Summer Of Arcade.
Today, Microsoft has a very different video game strategy. It involves collecting high-profile publishers like Bethesda and Activision* to have their AAA games live in the Xbox ecosystem. The exciting days of Xbox Live Arcade are long gone, when gamers were regularly exposed to fantastic indie titles. It was a generation of fantastic games unencumbered by microtransactions, always-on internet restrictions, and hefty price tags. The XBLA changed the game (pun!) for an entire console generation, giving big game developers a place to try new things or budding new studios to get their passion out to an eager audience.
We have no XBLA equivalent today. What happened to gaming experimentation? Where is the user-first mentality? Why don’t we have a new 1 Vs 100?! Xbox Live Arcade was the crown jewel of the Xbox 360. That whole generation was fantastic, and XBLA gave gamers something we don’t get today. Xbox Live Arcade was built for video game lovers.