Live Anywhere bad news for gaming IM
Being able to seamlessly connect with your friends while playing games is becoming increasingly important, both to gamers and to games companies. Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony all emphasised the importance of online as well as offline play, but Microsoft's announcement of Live Anywhere must surely have struck a nerve with a few niche companies.
Niche up till now, that is. Companies like Viacom and Verizon who are heavily investing in the gaming IM space -- bringing social networking and gaming closer together -- are now in direct competition with a company that can reach multiple platforms easily. By connecting Xbox Live, Windows Vista, MSN Messenger and mobile phones together, Microsoft will make it hard for others to encroach on their territory.
Of course, there are disadvantages too. Microsoft will never reach Sony and Nintendo's platforms, and a huge number of phones don't run Windows. The environment is extremely heterogeneous, and gamers who do not restrict themselves to one manufacturer alone will find half their life connected but the other half disparate under Microsoft's Live Anywhere.
Microsoft is proud of the fact that one gamertag will identify a gamer across all their platforms. However, this isn't necessarily representative of the way we all game online. Some people prefer to have multiple identities, especially those who wish to separate work and play. Finally, we've heard no mention of cost yet. Whether this service will cost the same as Xbox Live Gold, or incur further charges, could be key to the success of other programs -- especially free ones -- in the gaming IM space.
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