Original Xbox Support and Microsoft’s Bad Precedent

PhotobucketApril 15th is around the corner and that means the end of online play in original Xbox games. Plan your last minute parties accordingly, but also take a few minutes to consider whether Microsoft isn’t going about this all wrong. The reasons for the move have been made clear: features on Xbox 360 are limited in order to maintain support for older games. What isn’t clear is why other alternatives haven’t been considered.

As a consumer, I understand that video games are a business, time is money, etc. A solution that allows for both new Xbox 360 features and continued original Xbox support would require paying a team of programmers and designers. It could pull resources away from the next Xbox 360 update, taking away from the development of new and potentially profitable features. I understand this, and that is why I approach my argument against this move firstly as a consumer talking about a business.

When Xbox originals like Crimson Skies and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory are as old as they are, they’re typically only available to buy used at Gamestop. They are meant for a console that Microsoft no longer sells or supports. Under these circumstances, these games no longer provide profits for Microsoft. It is standard business practice to cut costs, to remove dead weight, and to only maintain that which is potentially profitable. In this regard, the move makes perfect sense.

PhotobucketBut what Microsoft is doing here is much different. Not only are Crimson Skies and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory examples of games that can be played on Xbox 360s, but they are also games which are sold brand new on Xbox Live’s Game Marketplace. I can go buy Splinter Cell right now, and in a week, two-thirds of the game will be permanently disabled. Not only that, but I can go buy DLC levels for these games with no way to re-download them later on.

Multiplayer games that you buy on Xbox 360, that use a service for which you probably pay a yearly fee, will no longer function. What’s worse is that none of these games need hefty servers to play online. Aside from Xbox Live specific features like friends lists and game invites, all of the actual action is hosted by the players themselves. While I’m not an expert on the technical complexities of online gaming, this set-up seems to open up several possibilities for making everyone happy.

Just a few ideas off the top of my head:

  • Create a compatibility patch for Xbox that tells it to ignore all the new Xbox 360 features without crashing.
  • Host a second version of Xbox Live specifically for original Xbox games.
  • Stop selling and profiting from games you aren’t going to support.

Brilliant minds at Microsoft have obviously thought of these things, as well as several more ideas I can’t even fathom. That said, we haven’t heard about them or why they wouldn’t work, so the only safe assumption is that alternatives were shot down due to cost, time, and effort. Killing support is the most simple, cost effective solution.

PhotobucketDamage control came in the form of freebies for the thousands of Halo 2 players (the majority of the remaining original Xbox player base). This sign of good will may have been a boo-boo-healing lollipop for Halo fans, but it was a slap in the face to anyone who plays other games.

No one really seems too upset about this – I almost didn’t even bother writing this article because I didn’t think many people cared. That said, why don’t you care? Maybe you just haven’t thought about it, or maybe you haven’t even heard about it yet. Maybe you hadn’t considered some of the facts I’ve presented, or maybe you’d really rather have a bigger friends list over an opportunity to enjoy some really amazing older games. Feel free to comment below – let’s get a dialogue going.

PhotobucketThere’s a bad precedent being set here. Microsoft is saying your older games don’t matter to them. They are dropping support without offering alternatives. But every game becomes old eventually. What happens to the hundreds of dollars worth of downloadable games you have sitting on your Xbox 360 when the next console rolls around? It’s time to start asking these questions now.

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Written by Joe D

Inspired by a love for obscure Sega Saturn games in the 90s, Joe is pretty much open to anything gaming has to offer. What he looks for in a game: creativity and strong design, or sometimes just an overwhelming sense of style.


  1. alex c /

    this just makes me feel even better about switching to sony,

    after having the original xbox for a year, before dropping it and no games coming out….

    a year!!! 1 measly year i had with that xbox. no thanks microsoft, pwn some one else for their dollars but not me.

  2. Blighty /

    That being said, Sony not having proper (yes some of the older versions support it) compatibility for PS2 games was a bit of a knee to the groin…

  3. Mikey /

    Well written piece. The reason it probably isn’t that big of a deal in the gaming media is that the numbers involved are very small. There are only 400 people playing Halo 2 online right now(http://www.bungie.net/Projects/Halo2/default.aspx) and a lot of those numbers are because it is about to go away. I agree that they should have stopped selling original XBox multi-player oriented Games on Demand the day they decided to drop Live support. The amount of people who would rather they extend features of Live for 360 owners greatly out weighs those who would rather keep original XBox support. Hopefully, they understand the issues with their service that caused the need to end support and can rectify it so that future issues such as this do not occur.

  4. logikil /

    Sorry, but this article to me seems like an argument in search of a problem. The number of people playing first gen Xbox games is significantly smaller than the number of people playing current generation games. And as you mentioned, the majority are playing Halo and will move on to Halo 3 if they haven’t already. There will be no big outcry here. It’s like if you bought a TV 6 years ago. Are you likely to be able to get replacement parts from the manufacturer today, maybe, but probably not. It’s not profitable to keep those parts around because Televisions have almost gotten to the point of being disposable commodities that people upgrade regularly. Cars don’t suffer this problem because there is a viable market for used cars. As for them selling Games On Demand, there is nothing that stops you from playing those games, but admittedly you lose some functionality. I’m in the camp that believes that XBL needs the revamp. I don’t want them to be hamstrung by an outdated product. Hell this is part of why Windows has so many issues, and why I am glad Windows 7 started to really get rid of some of those legacy components. Short term minimal pain for long term gains.

  5. Bad precedent? The ps2 support being left out of the ps3 is a way worst precedent, not even comparable to this.

  6. Brock Danger /

    Right, so the first thing to bring up is completely unrelated and ridiculous. Nice work, Alex C.

    Anyways, this is a very valid thought as I really hadn’t paid much attention to this discontinuation. Most of the originals I play are single player or don’t have a MP, but I had totally forgot about Chaos Theory. That kinda hit home, as me and friend still occasionally fire that game up from time to time to bask in its awesomeness (Hopefully the new SC MP is as fun). So what does happen in the future? The 360 has exploded in terms of games that are intrinsically related to live, for them to be discarded one day seems like a waste of money. Surely there has to be a way to upgrade the system without ending support?

  7. Daniel /

    I whole-heartedly agree with this piece. I still use my original Xbox for many of my gaming needs too. Oy. Microsoft only continues to disappoint me.

  8. WhatAboutEA /

    I too think that MS discontinuing support for these games is not a good thing. I don’t think it’s a that bad of a thing as many original Xbox titles didn’t support live, which only came along in the second half of the consoles life. However I do think that for some titles at least further support is warranted. Only a few thousand people still use original Xbox online, that means that by cutting these people off MS is trying to either get them to purchase new hardware, new games, or let their paid membership lapse and expire. It’s a win-win for them. Either you give up the brand and your paid membership, or you buy more of their product. It’s a scummy move but few people will likely even notice this.

    While we’re on the topic though, what about EA games which periodically discontinues the online availability of games. Older sports games asides I remember some of the need for speed games among others that lost online ability. No one seems to make a fuss and these games are current gen.

    Gamers have lost their brains when it comes to our power as consumers. Sadly we’re willing to shell out hard earned cash to pad the wallets of companies that will spit in your face for an extra nickel. If you bought a car that needed several patches after you drove it off the lot to make it work properly you’d be outraged, if you bought cheeseburger and they gave you meat and buns then charged you later on to add on lettuce, tomatoes and so on you’d never go back again. We are the ones with the $, we make these companies rich, but sadly too many of us just don’t care and keep paying.

  9. strawberry /

    WOW…. and there I was thinking I was about to read an article that actually had an alternate solution to this…. YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RETARDED!!! You have absolutely no clue what you are talking about… The reason Micro$oft would ever stop supporting their old games (which they do still profit from, since halo2 is still ridiculously played on xbox live) would be to add more cool features that would get them more buyers… Seriously, “Host a second version of Xbox Live specifically for original Xbox games”?????? Are you actually for real here? A console can’t just do that! Its like saying i want to buy a PC that can run a Mac OS… Yes this is possible, except you need a core 2 duo processor, Consoles do not have this, it does not make sense for them to have such technology… its like going to to movies for snacks instead of the movie itself, ITS A WASTE OF MONEY!!! Sorry and what’s this… “Create a compatibility patch for Xbox that tells it to ignore all the new Xbox 360 features without crashing”… THAT’S KIND OF THE PROBLEM!!! Such an update is not possible, THAT IS KIND OF WHY THEY ARE DOING THE UPDATE, BECAUSE THEY WANT TO EXPAND THEIR CONSOLE… I just want to let you know that you have successfully wasted 15 minutes of my time with your crying, whining and bitching… I hope you are proud 🙂

    • KrazyFace /

      Hahahahahahaha! WOW, I bet you’re the kinda person that can’t understand why a jail-broken iPhone still manages to funtion. Just listen to yourself; “a console can’t just do that”, “Consoles do not have this, it does not make sense for them to have such technology”

      You’re one of those PC gamers that are becoming extinct, but think they’re still top of the food chain aren’t you strawberry?

    • Brock Danger /

      15 minutes? Seriously?

  10. Good article! I am happy to see new features coming to the 360. It is worlds better in terms of overall gaming experience and I think anyone that moves up to the new system due to the dropping of original Xbox Live support will be more than happy. Same thing goes if they switch to PS3. Either way, they are much better off. One small correction on the DLC point. They addressed this specifically in a recent Major Nelson podcast. Once you purchase or download content, you will continue to be able to re-download it. These things are not being removed from the servers, only the catalog. Any piece of content that you wish to re-download is, and will continue to be, available through your download history button in the dashboard.

  11. Orbilator /

    I hope they didnt sell the origional xbox with live as a feature as all them people will need to sue microsoft for removing a feature they paid for.. No wait I am getting confused with the PS3 and otherOS sorry looooooooool.

  12. Brock Danger /

    Sweet. Thanks for helping make every trip to the internet a reason to believe that humanity is done for.

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