Today, Xbox LIVE celebrates its 10th anniversary. It’s hard to believe that the service which changed gaming and entertainment is already ten years old. It seems like just yesterday that Microsoft was celebrating “Xbox LIVE is 5.” While the service started out as a way to play console games with friends over the internet – long before broadband was widely available – it has since evolved into something that encompasses entertainment as a whole, from games to music, movies, TV shows, and much more. Here’s a brief retrospective of Xbox LIVE on mobile devices.
For years, Microsoft executives talked about what seemed like a pie-in-the-sky vision of “Xbox LIVE Anywhere,” allowing you to access the best aspects of the service from any device and at any time. During the company’s E3 2006 media briefing – a year before the iPhone was released – Microsoft showed off an early prototype of “Live Anywhere” (as it was originally called), a service which would bring Xbox LIVE features and casual games to PC, Windows Mobile, Java-based smartphones, and potentially even Palm devices. But it would take years before this vision finally came to fruition.
In May 2007, Microsoft launched Games for Windows LIVE, a segment of Xbox LIVE designed specifically for PC. For the first time, you could unlock achievements, work your way up the leaderboards, view friends lists, and read/respond to messages without an Xbox console. Some games, like Shadowrun, even featured cross-platform play. The critical reception of GFW LIVE, however, was somewhat mixed.
It wasn’t until the release of Windows Phone 7 in November 2010 that the vision of “Xbox LIVE Anywhere” began to coalesce, thanks to the platform’s relatively deep integration with the Xbox LIVE service. It offered many of the same features as GFW LIVE, as well as other features from Xbox LIVE proper like an Avatar editor. While achievements and leaderboards have remained excusive to Windows Phone, Microsoft brought almost everything else to Android and iOS via special apps the following year. The Xbox Companion app was also released at the end of 2011, allowing you to control your console and search for content with your smartphone.
This year, however, has actually been the biggest one yet for “Xbox LIVE Anywhere.” With the launch of Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and numerous other products and services this fall, Xbox LIVE has expanded to even more platforms with still further capabilities. Windows 8, of course, features much of the same Xbox LIVE integration that Windows Phone has, with the notable – and curious – exception of messages. In fact, some games will even sync your save game between platforms for true cross-platform pick-up-and-play gaming. The new Xbox SmartGlass app transforms your smartphone or tablet – running Windows 8, Windows Phone, Android, or iOS – into a full-fledged context-sensitive companion device with nearly limitless possibilities. Then there’s Xbox Music and Video, the next generation of Zune, which is already available on Microsoft’s platforms and will make its way to Android, iOS, and web browsers next year.
While Xbox 360, Windows 8, and Windows Phone are the only devices on which you can unlock achievements and utilize leaderboards, the rest of the Xbox LIVE experience is rapidly spreading to other platforms, fulfilling the goal of “Xbox LIVE Anywhere.” Happy Birthday Xbox LIVE. The last ten years have been fantastic, and the future looks even better.