How Xtival is like Mr.Bumble In Oliver Twist

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(This article going up recently is purely coincidence) – Gibbo :)

Every year in Europe, Microsoft host their annual Xtival “festival”. For one weekend, Xbox Live Gold is free to anyone. Not only that but there are game competitions for some of the biggest titles around right now as well deals on films to watch and music videos from some of the “biggest” bands in the world. What could possibly be wrong with Xtival? Well, it’s not as great as it sounds.

For starters, it’s absolutely pointless, especially for people such as myself, who already have a gold account. But instead of just hypothesising, I’ll go through each area of the “festival”. First up we have the game competitions. Now, I looked at all of the games listed on the Xtival page and not one had any kind of legitimate prize, other than who has the biggest e-penis. I ask you, what makes these competitions any different from just playing on Xbox Live regularly? I don’t need a “competition” to goad me into playing some more The Beatles: Rock Band thank you. Not only that, but these competitions will only bring out the people who are really dedicated to these games. This means they’re probably going to be a lot better at the competition games than you (but more emotionally scared in life). It’s always fun to have a close game but it’s never fun to be constantly outmatched by someone else and you’ll end up just feeling miserable and worthless. You could say that you’re playing against serious people instead of your typical Xbox Live degenerates but in my opinion, there is no lesser of two evils in this situation. It’s either get annoyed at people just being dicks or get annoyed at people taking the game way too seriously.


Next up are the films. The first listing on the Xtival “line-up” is an “exclusive” 4 minute clip from James Cameron’s upcoming epiphany, Avatar. Only, this mustn’t have been a very long exclusive deal, because most of the clip (and the only interesting part) showed up on IGN literally an hour or two after it was on Xbox Live. Now although Xtival has offered it in 1080p, it’s a streaming clip only so unless you’ve got a beefy connection, it’s going to be in SD anyway. Moving on, the Zune service is offering HD rents for SD prices. Well if I really wanted to watch a particular film in HD, I’d just rent it in disc form via the likes of Lovefilm or Blockbuster or I’d just buy it, where it is then mine permanently. This is more of a general criticism against the Zune marketplace but to the likes of me and many others, at least in the UK, renting via disc is a lot more convenient than having to download a large film file. Sure I could stream it, but then that goes back to my previous point about needing a beefy connection. What amused me as well was the 3 for 2 offer on HD films, which you wouldn’t get unless it was Xtival. It’s as if we should be grateful to Microsoft that they’re giving us poor peasants a good deal every now and again. Finally, it lists how all of the newest films, that will be out on DVD and Blu-Ray, are on Zune Marketplace now. Star Trek is out now? Cool, I’ll just go buy it on DVD or Blu-Ray then.

Last to note would be the “exclusive” music videos, which has all of the hottest bands including your favourites like Sugababes, Frankmusik and The Maccabees. Ok, so sarcasm aside, it does have some bands that you’ll have probably have heard of (or actually like), such as Prodigy, Metallica and ZZ Top. But wait a minute, couldn’t I just watch all of these videos on Youtube? Well for an example, I searched for the ZZ Top Live From Texas 2007 performance, which is what you can buy at Xtival right now. Lo and behold, look what I found. My point is that all of these features at Xtival might appear to be good but in the end they’re just pointless.

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But perhaps the biggest insult is the idea of Xtival itself. It is offfering free Xbox Live Gold to silver members, but only for one weekend a year. This is where the title comes in. Imagine Oliver Twist represents silver members and Mr.Bumble is Microsoft. Oliver get his tiny bit of grub once in a bluemoon. This is the equivalent of the features of a gold account. Then Oliver draws the shortest lot and has to walk up to Mr.Bumble and ask if he can have some more grub. Of course, Mr.Bumble reacts angrily and ends up selling Oliver to Mr.Sowerberry. Now instead of Mr.Sowerberry, it’s Xbox Live Gold, which costs £40 a year. My point is that it’s not fair to shove all of the gold features in silver members’ noses and then expect them to cough up £40 if they don’t want to wait another year for the chance to use gold features. We’re all to blame when it comes to Microsoft’s policy with playing online and whatnot but that doesn’t make them right to make gold a cocktease to silver members for one weekend a year.Finally, a personal annoyance to me is how they treat Xtival likes it’s a real festival and that people actually care about it. It’s like viral marketing gone horribly wrong. Get your sleeping bag ready? Yes, of course I’m going to camp out in my living room during Xtival. Just to make it more authentic, I’ll cover myself in mud in the process. I’m sure if I was to ask a person on the street if they knew what Xtival was, they’d probably just mug and stab me.

In conclusion, this rant might have come off as anti-Microsoft. Now while I do have my criticisms, I don’t hate Microsoft and I think Xbox Live is a great service (for gold members) when it works. However, it just annoys me how each year they butter up Xtival as this great event when it is nothing more than a pointless, marketing drive to get more people to subscribe to Xbox Live Gold. It’s time more Xbox Live members realised that.

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