This should probably be tied to my Games for Windows post but I feel that it really deserves it's own post. Microsoft is fully integrating their Live service into Vista. We saw screenshots of the Live service within Vista at E3 but with the OS only a few weeks away from release we got to see a near finished version of the service.
It works almost exactly like you would expect it to. You log in to the service using the Microsoft Live you’ve associated with your Live Account (if you’ve logged into Xbox.com this is that account). You’ll get notifications, such as friends logging in just like you would if you were on the Xbox. These notifications are the standard “toaster style” notifications you’ve seen if you’ve MSN Messenger before. The notifications are not limited to Vista though as you will get them while you are in a Live Anywhere game. The only difference from Xbox Live is that the messages pop up at the bottom of the screen instead of the middle of the screen.
While playing the game you’ll also be able to bring up the Live Anywhere menu that allows you to see your friends list, send and receive messages, and check out your gamerscore info. On the 360 you hit the Xbox 360 button in the middle of the controller to bring it up and on your PC you’ll hit the Home key (this may change by launch date though). Another cool item is that Vista will support the Xbox 360 controller and accessories. Which means you’ll be able to use everything from the new Microsoft Wireless wheel to your Xbox Headset in your games. It’s worth noting that you’ll need to plunk out $20 for the new Vista Wireless 360 adapter if you want to use your wireless gear with your games. Your buddies list will appear a little different as well as there will be an indicator to show which platform they are logged in under (I’m guessing we’ll see a 360 dashboard update to allow 360 owners this same capability).
As you would expect gamers will finally be able to earn achievement points in PC games, this shouldn’t be a shock to anyone as it’s something MS said at E3. To prevent achievement point whoring you will only be allowed one Xbox Live connection. This means that you can be logged into Xbox Live through your Xbox 360 or your PC but not both at the same time. That’s not to say that somebody couldn’t have two login ID’s to whore achievement points but they are going to have to plunk down another $50 to do so.
From a developer perspective Live Anywhere is a nice tool even if a game is only going to be PC as Live Anywhere instantly gives you voice chat, matchmaking, leader boards, and a host of other services. MS didn’t comment on their pricing for Live Anywhere but you’d have to think that a lot of developers are going to use Microsoft’s toolset unless it costs them an arm and a leg.
One thing that has changed since E3 was the promise that once you bought a game on Xbox Live Arcade, you were going the rights to play it on any Live Anywhere platform, something Microsoft calls Buy Once, Play Anywhere (BOPA). While pricing hasn’t been worked out yet, our MS rep indicated that is probably not the case any more. Instead you will buy a game on one platform for X points but for a few more points you will get to play the game on another platform. This is a little disappointing but not unexpected as publishers are realizing they can get people to double dip on some games. There is a chance that we’ll see a few BOPA Xbox Live Arcade games but I’m not holding my breath.
There's a lot of potential with Live Anywhere and it will be interesting to see what companies do with the service in the coming year.