The Ups and Downs of Microsoft Game Room

By  |  Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 9:28 am

Microsoft Game Room launched yesterday for the Xbox 360 and Windows PCs. At its core, the Game Room is a fancy menu for playing classic arcade games such as Combat, Centipede and Lunar Lander, but with a few extra features that Microsoft hopes will get you to stick around and spend lots of money. After playing around in the arcade last night, I’m on the fence as to whether I’ll be an arcade junkie once again.

Here’s what I liked about Microsoft Game Room:

Free Plays: If your retro gaming urge is temporary, you can satisfy it in Microsoft Game Room without spending a quarter. Every title includes one timed demo session, and that’s usually enough to get in a game or two. You also get 20 “tokens” for downloading the free Game Room software, which lets you purchase more play sessions for the games you like, and you can get more tokens by visiting friends’ arcades.

Build Your Own: Microsoft scratches the collectable item itch with decorations and themes that become available as you play more. You can then trick out your own arcade with a different look for every room of machines.

Hustle and Bustle: It’s a minor thing, but I really like how other avatars walk around the arcade, even while you’re playing. Occasionally, you’ll see a flash of someone’s shirt go by in the border just outside of the game’s frame, and it’s sort of like being in an actual arcade, where you’re sometimes distracted by what’s happening in your peripheral vision.

And here’s what didn’t thrill me:

Be Kind, Rewind: Made a wrong turn in Crystal Castles? Just hold the left trigger button and you can rewind the game as far back as you like. Sorry, this almost ruined Game Room for me. I know the feature isn’t available in competitive modes, but it’s hard not to use rewind when it’s available, and it feels cheap when you do.

Price Per Platform: Each game costs $3 if you’re only playing on Xbox 360 or Windows, but if you want to play on both, games cost $5. That’s obnoxious, and it sets a dangerous precedent for Microsoft: When Windows Phone 7 Series comes out with compatible Xbox Live Arcade games, will users have to pay extra to play on every platform?

A Lonely Place: Most of Game Room’s allure is in playing with friends. You can invite people to your arcade and create custom challenges for friends to compete in. But if you have a small friends list, these features will go unused. That’s because Game Room has no mechanism for finding other players outside of your list. Some sort of matchmaking system would go a long way towards making Game Room more social.

 
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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Angry Gamer Says:

    Dude, I was so stoked when I finally saw the Game Room on the market place last night! I excitedly waited for it to download and started playing what I thought would be an awesome blast-from-the-past. Denied. Of course Microsoft had to take a great idea and poop all over it. It’s just another marketing scheme that they have cooked up. I mean, all I wanted to do was play asteroids! I figure I pay $50 a year for an Xbox Live subscription I should at least be able to do that for free! But no, each game is $3. That might not seem like a lot, but the way the points system is set up and as addicting as arcade games are, the price will add up. Also, the achievements require you to buy more and more games! We are the only gaming community (besides WoW) that pays for the subscription. Can we at least get games from the 70s for free?

  2. Bryan Says:

    Although i havnt actually bought any arcade machines I don’t think $3 a game is a bad price. I think charging extra to play on both platforms is a bad idea. I think having this seperate price point will cause people to completely ignore the feature. When people see the options for buying people will just buy the $3 single platform game because it is cheaper and having it also available to play on another platform would not be worth the extra money. For the $3 you can play it on your Xbox if you just want to play at home, but if you want to play it on the go on your laptop, you could pay $3 and get it for PC and play it at home and away from home.

    If they included both at one price point i think it would benefit them more by introducing people to features that they could make money from in the future.

  3. Snatch Says:

    I believe your friends’ avatars don’t walk around your arcade, only in the showcase arcade. I was in my friend’s arcade (while he was playing Tempest no less) and I didn’t see his avatar anywhere. I’m pretty sure that’s the case because I’ve been complaining about it since Tuesday.

  4. Joshua Glowzinski Says:

    Does it make you pay each time you play the game or does it just charge you to buy the game? I didn’t think of this until I got a game.

  5. R0XSTAR Says:

    I have been really enjoying Game Room and find the £1.95 (or $3) per game a very reasonable price, heck at 10p a go back in the day, I’ve easily racked up more than £1.95 per game.. for bringing back my childhood I’m hooked!

    If you fiddle with the options a little you can really customise the sounds to just how you remember them, and it is fun to decorate your arcade whilst your friends Avatars wander about (Yup, they do.. but it’s not linked to their actual online behaviour, literally if they’re online, they’re in there playing games – even if in reality they’re playing MW2 or something).

    The price per platform – or “play anywhere” – is poorly thought out by M$ in my opinion but then I’m sure their sales figures will probably prove me wrong once the structure is more in place.

    With regards to the achievements, you get something like 70-80 Gamer Points worth of chievies for free, just kit out your arcade, change a few themes and you’re golden.. spend a few M$ points and you get a bunch more without trying to do much but then the rest will really take some serious work and serious cash… I’m sure someone can do the math but reaching level 30 or so would mean having so many games and playing well on all of them that it does feel a little bit of a con (humm.. most expensive achievement??). I guess when you balance that off against the fact you get some for free it isn’t all that bad.

    Overall the real deal clincher for people will be the games they release, how often and how many.. I remember when games started coming out for XBLA people were putting forward the exact same complaints.. (Rightly so? There were just a few junk games in a badly organised menu system) but look at it now, its thriving, well organised (ish :) and something I’m happy to pump cash into.

    Give it time, get your free achievements and wait for something to come out that sparks your interest.

    :)

  6. R0XSTAR Says:

    If I’ve done the math right, and guessing you’re not going to complete every medal for every game, I think it’ll cost about £20 for every achievement to be obtainable.. which means its about half the price of a normal paid for game..

    …not that bad afterall.

    Joshua, you can demo a game (only once, it would appear) after that you must buy the game. If you buy a game you can play away as much as you like for free…

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