Home > 1, Video Games (Main) > Microsoft Game Room: Why It Sucks and How to Save It

Microsoft Game Room: Why It Sucks and How to Save It

Okay, let’s face it:  Unless you’re a retro gamer to the Nth degree and you don’t even care for newer consoles because you just can’t get enough of nostalgia gaming, the new Xbox Live Game Room doesn’t offer very much.  That is, unless you’re also the type of person that enjoys spending $3 a pop for games like Combat, Intellivision Football, or Sub Hunt.  Not that pricey in the grand scheme of things, but come on!  The worst thing about it is that of the initial titles available, most range from bad to unplayable, and the only possibly worthy purchases for those of us that primarily play contemporary games would be ’80s hit Centipede along with surprise arcade titles Battlantis and Finalizer.  That’s out of 30 total games available.  If you haven’t downloaded Game Room on your Xbox 360 or PC yet, go ahead (it’s free to do so) and see for yourself or check this list if you don’t believe me.

Overall the available games list is borderline atrocious.  Most of these games are waaaay past their prime and have even had all their nostalgic value sucked out of them over time.  One silver lining is that Game Room does have a lot of charm.  You have your own three-story arcade, each floor containing four rooms to house game cabinets and other cool accessories.  If you’re like myself and countless others and find the game prices insulting, you can still goof around placing pool tables and change machines in the rooms as well as changing their themes.  There’s a decent amount of stuff to put in your rooms at the onset, but I’m speaking strictly in terms of just messing around to see what Game Room has to offer.  There isn’t nearly enough to placate you after the shine wears off.  To get more stuff you’ll have to “level up”, which basically consists of buying some games, attaining certain scores or achievement-like accomplishments, and therefore unlocking more decor options.  Once you’ve unlocked a few extra items, there really isn’t any other option to get more other than, you guessed it, buy more games.  Ridiculous you say?  You don’t hear me arguing.

The one cool thing I did like about the customization is that every available game has a mascot you can purchase for a mere 50 cents each.  You can have a pixellated helicopter from Super Cobra buzzing around or the stick figure cowboy from Outlaw mock shooting as he makes his way around the arcade’s floor.  It’s a goofy and trivial thing, but I found it to be pretty neat and for once on Xbox Live the cost made sense and didn’t feel egregious.

So all in all we’ve got a large group of mostly borderline unplayable games by today’s standards and a decent customization system that has a large monetary catch to get the most out of it.  That’s not much and if you peruse around the Xbox forums almost everyone is disappointed or at the very worst enraged by the money-grubbing vibe Microsoft gives off with this feature.  That being said A LOT of people are commenting, meaning that there is a discernible interest.  It all comes down to the games and if they improve, Game Room could be something special and a staple that helps define how each of us use our Xbox 360s.

Below is a list of just some of the platforms and specific games that, if some are added to the Game Room, could turn it from an expensive dud to a wildly popular feature on the Xbox 360 dashboard.  Further down you’ll also find the definitive list of improvements gamers seem to want.  As far as the games, obviously I don’t expect Microsoft to have all of these games but it’s not unreasonable to expect some of them.  In addition, it also shows how you can go pretty far back in gaming history and still find titles that are worth $3:

Arcade Games (1980-90s)

  • Rampage
  • Pole Position
  • Star Wars
  • Pac-Man
  • Burger Time
  • Tron
  • Q*Bert
  • Galaga
  • Spy Hunter
  • Robotron
  • Karate Champ
  • Arkanoid
  • Trojan
  • Bad Dudes
  • The Simpsons
  • X-Men
  • 1942
  • Operation Wolf
  • Operation Thunder
  • Elevator Action
  • Ghosts ‘n Goblins
  • Captain America & The Avengers
  • OutRun
  • After Burner
  • Space Harrier

Sega Master System

  • Phantasy Star (all iterations)
  • Golden Axe Warriors
  • Alex Kidd (all iterations)
  • Wonder Boy (all iterations)
  • Alien Syndrome
  • Time Soldiers
  • Psycho Fox
  • Kung Fu Kid
  • California Games
  • Fantasy Zone
  • Ghostbusters
  • Micro Machines
  • R-Type
  • Rampart
  • Rastan
  • Spy vs. Spy
  • Vigilante
  • Zillion

The above is a simple list I compiled in about ten minutes time and only includes platforms I’m somewhat familiar with.  There are assuredly many more arcade games that could be added.  Are they all worth exactly $3?  Probably not but I would wager they’re all at least in the ball park as opposed to the dreck that’s available now, which is most of Game Room’s current selection.  Obviously there are tons of no-brainer games from the 16-bit and Dreamcast eras, but for the sake of this argument I didn’t include them due to questions about price point.

Now on to the improvements and suggestions, all of which I find to be logical and for the most part, easy to be integrated:

  • Lower the Prices We all need to keep in mind that Microsoft is a business and they want to make money.  That being said it doesn’t give them license to simply overcharge for everything.  Consumers determine if the cost of something is reasonable or not and in the case of Game Room the people have spoken with a resounding “no”.  $3 for arcade classics like Centipede, Tempest and even Burger Time isn’t that bad, but the problem lies with trying to pawn off games like Adventure and Sub Hunt as being valued the same.  If a game amounts to a few dots on the screen and/or can easily be found on the Internet, the cost must be lowered.  I personally am in favor of a $2 price per game across the board.  That makes the great games of the ’80s no-brainers purchases for a lot of people and those same people would consider games like Outlaw, Football, and Combat just for nostalgic purposes.
  • Extend or Make Permanent the Free Mascot Offer If lowering the prices comes off as laughable to Microsoft, the point still stands that they’ve got to do something to entice gamers.  If nothing changes then Game Room will be a total failure outside of impulse buys this week since it just released.  One way to calm people down and keep profits coming in is to allow people more time to purchase a game and get the matching mascot for free.  Some suggest the offer being available for the entire week after a game’s release and some want it to be a permanent fixture.  Either way it would help a lot as it seems the mascots are a small addition people have really taken a liking to.  Even a week long opportunity to get a free mascot would allow people with busy lives, especially older gamers, to take advantage (you know, the people this whole thing is intended for).
  • Make the “per play” cost 20 MS Points (one quarter) Come on Microsoft.  You’re really not making it easy for us to warm up to Game Room.  Little price jabs like this drive consumers crazy.  Even worse, the whole point of Game Room is to take us back to the days when arcades flourished.  To play the games you’re offering for a debatable price cost one single quarter back in the day.  40 MS points for one single play contradicts the entire point of the Game Room concept, but here we are again with no choice but to conclude that MS wants to give us nice things but only if we overpay for them.  This price point makes no sense on any level unless you’re an MS exec that doesn’t care about anything except counting his money while sailing on his own private yacht.  Profits are the bottom line, we get that, but with ensuring profits comes avoiding insults to your customers let alone making them generally happy.
  • Show Avatars in the Arcade Another one of those “come on, really?” type of entries.  When you first download the Game Room itself, you’re shown a sample arcade.  This gives you another way to demo all the games but more importantly it shows you what a fully decked out arcade would look like with tons of game cabinets and full decor.  Your friends’ avatars also populate the showcase arcade, either touring the place or actually “playing” the games.  Logic tells you this would all happen in your own arcade.  For reasons unbeknownst to any sane person, this isn’t the case.  Your arcade is devoid of patrons save for yourself, and you can’t even see a friend’s avatar when they pop into your arcade either to look around or play one of your games.  So essentially your friend can be sitting at home on his Xbox 360 playing Yar’s Revenge in your arcade and even if you yourself are in that same arcade you won’t be aware of it.  That’s a real shame and seems like an oversight more than anything, but it really needs to be changed ASAP.  The point of this whole concept is to bring back the spirit of the old arcades, but an arcade with no people in it isn’t very spirited.   EDIT:  Today I purchased a game cabinet and spotted the avatar of one of my friends playing it.  He wasn’t online at all at the time so at least there’s a chance the more you fill up your arcade the more populated it will be.
  • Be Able to Watch Friends Play This relates to the avatar entry above.  You should be able to not only go into your arcade or a friend’s and see who is currently in there, but also watch them play.  It would be just like the old days if you and your friend were trading challenges on Tempest and alternating games on the same machine with the other person being able to spectate (and party chat obviously).  This is another one of those things where if MS really is serious about bringing back the old arcade feel, it needs to be done.
  • Allow Challenges and High Scores Even if You Don’t Own The Game This is in regards to situations that go like this:  Your friends owns Super Cobra.  He challenges you to a game of Super Cobra BUT you yourself must own the game as well otherwise you can’t accept the challenge.  As a result you figure you’ll just spend some tokens on his Super Cobra machine and beat his high score anyways.  Nope, can’t do it.  High scores only count if, again, you both own the game.  Your friend’s 20k high score will stay above his machine regardless of the fact that you’ve beaten it numerous times with token plays.  This to me is unacceptable.  Where is the sense of community???  MS gave us ways to obtain tokens to get free plays, and even though said ways are pretty paltry, they’re still there.  The tokens exist for a reason, let us use them!  Basically what MS is saying with all these restrictions on single plays is that you’re either going to buy a large number of games or have minimal fun at best, and that the tokens are just a carrot placed in front of you that will hopefully lead to money coming out of your pocket.  That’s not how they’re advertised, but that’s the way it is and it’s yet another example of how to some extent Microsoft thinks we’re stupid.
  • Multiplayer for 2 Player Titles I can’t believe I even have to type this, but here I am.  I realize these games are ported exactly from the original code, but give me a break.  If Outlaw was $1 I would buy it just for the nostalgia.  For $3….well I don’t expect an extensive matchmaking system but a few bleeps and bloops without being able to play another person is not worth that price.  Seriously, what in the world would be the point of buying Football for Intellivision if you’re just pressing buttons all by your lonesome?  Again, for the right price I would have bought it regardless (my dad used to own it and it might have been the first video game I ever played) but on the Xbox Live Marketplace $3 is a noticeable investment.  You better give me the full range of features the old game had and bring them up to today’s standards as well as some sweet cabinet artwork if you want me to pay more than what it’s worth.  Overcharging people is one thing, but overcharging AND giving less than what would be expected?  Sorry, that’s an investment that I cannot rationalize under any circumstances.
  • Explore Package Options and Discounts If you’ve studied the way Microsoft operates the Xbox Live Marketplace, you know this is a big no no.  Still, I’m bringing it up anyways.  It just makes sense here.  Most of these games are so old and have so little value they’re begging to be packaged together.  It would go a long way towards calming people down about prices as well.  You don’t have to do it for everything, but choose some titles that make sense.  5 Atari games that aren’t selling well for $8.  10 crappy Intellivision games for $12.  These deals at least make people think and it allows for the weekly or monthly deals that appear on the dashboard to be much more attractive (33% off Centipede, Tempest and Finalizer for example).

There’s many more and I’ll be adding more when they pop up, but these are the ones that would immediately turn Game Room into something special.  The consistent thread throughout all these entries is “Please Microsoft, give me ANY reason to embrace this concept and I will.”  That’s how I feel and I don’t think I’m alone judging by people’s initial reactions.  This is the Xbox 360’s equivalent of the iPhone if it didn’t have an app store.  It could be great and the ideas are all there, but so far they’ve only been realized enough for people to spend a few dollars and walk away.  I really hope that’s not all Microsoft hopes to accomplish with this, because it could be so much more.

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Categories: 1, Video Games (Main)
  1. ryanzero
    August 12, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Microsoft’s gaming/Xbox department lost my respect a while back with the redundancy and brainlessly slow interface of the NXE, not to mention the lack of customization a la Playstation’s XMB. So when I saw they had a Game Room arriving I thought YAY in my heart but DAMN IT’S ON XBOX in reality. I knew they’d eff it up, and go figure, they did. I hate the fact all my friends and relatives have Xbox 360’s because otherwise I’d be exclusively supporting Sony’s sleek, 21st century console.

  2. Oldschooldude
    August 18, 2011 at 12:06 am

    Upon closer examination you will see that microsoft has actually made the more popular games available. But as independent downloads and stand alone XBOX Arcade titles, which apparently then gives them the go ahead on charging a whole 800 ms points!

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