Andre Vrignaud, Microsoft’s Director of Technical Strategy for Xbox Live, has fired two shots at Sony’s decision to use Xfire technology within its own online strategy. Posting on his personal, Ozymandias blog, the Microsoft man did not equivocate, using such phrases as, “broken experience” and “because Sony's online network just isn't ready”.
The pot has already been well and truly stirred with EA’s Battlefield 2142
as the main ingredient in a legal meal being chewed over by in-game messaging systems, Xfire and GameSpy.
Xfire has filed a legal matter in which it maintains that GameSpy Comrade's 'Buddy Sync' infringes its copyrights. Buddy Sync retrieves gamers’ friends lists from instant messaging services such as MSN and, of course, Xfire.
According to Vrignaud – who choses Insomniac's Resistance
as his keystone:
"So I buy my PS3, bring it home, and go online. The first thing I'm going to be asked to do is create some sort of Sony Network ID. That "Sony ID" will apparently bring basic presence and communication features via the crossbar interface. So far so good.
"Even though I already have a "Sony ID", I may have to create a new "Resistance ID" to play. And then start thinking about just how broken the experience is when you try to invite someone to a game. Do you send it via the Resistance UI? What screenname do I send it to? If I want to add you to my 'Sony ID' friends list, do I need to send you an in-game message to ask you what your real 'Sony ID' name is? What about game invites? How does that work across even just these two IDs?
"You think that's bad? Now let's open up a few more games from different publishers. Each of these publishers had to make a choice of what online interface to use - again, because Sony's online network just isn't ready. So they'll choose between writing their own (as did Insomniac for Resistance), or perhaps licensing Xfire, or GameSpy, or Quazal, or Demonware. So now we have five potential networks with different namespaces, and an inherent lack of ability to communicate (chatting, voice, invites, finding friends, etc.) between them, and even across to just the 'Sony ID' namespace. Think we're done? Nope... what happens if each publisher doesn't stick with the same online solution for all of their games? This is very likely as most publishers use different developers - so even across a single publisher, you may find fragmented communities.
"The only consistent tie all of these different community fragments has is that a user should always have their Sony ID. That gives you a lifeline to be see friends when they are online... but only in the crossbar UI. Will you even be able to see what game they're playing? What about what network that game uses, and whether that friend is logged into it? How will you get messages in a timely manner?"
SPOnG has contacted both Xfire and SCEE in order to gain comment and present a fair-and-balanced view of the in-game, online messaging battle that is all set to deflect development effort from serving the gamer. As soon as we receive both (or just one) responses to our request we will, of course, publish them in full. Come on people, time to defend your quarter! We're offering an open platform here!