Suggestions For Using Xbox Live Beacons
When it was announced this past year that the new Xbox Live dashboard was going to include a new feature called “beacons”, they were touted as something to make gaming sessions with friends much easier to organize. In theory, it seems simple…just set your beacons to tell friends which game you’re wanting to play, and everyone would start joining your session (if you create one). However, like so many things game-related, once in the hands of humans, they never seem to work the way they’re supposed to.
Take last night for instance, when I was playing a game of NHL 12 with a friend. As soon as we put our game discs in the tray, a beacon popped up saying “So-and-So Wants Friends To Play NHL 12”. So far, so good, right? Except So-and-So wasn’t even playing NHL 12 at the time. The problem with these beacons is that if they don’t get removed when you aren’t actually playing the game, your console will spam friends with messages saying you want to play, even when you’re busy doing something else.
For these beacons to actually work, and not end up being just some annoyance that everyone eventually ignores, they need to be used with discretion. If you come online before your friends, and really want to get people organized for a game of, say, Modern Warfare 3, then set the beacon at that point and create a party for your game. But at the end of the night, don’t forget to kill the beacon. Otherwise, it’s like leaving a text message telling everyone to meet you at the rink for some pick-up hockey, then going out for a beer instead.
Don’t get me wrong, beacons are one of many reasons that Xbox is burying the PS3 when it comes to the online and social elements of gaming. Microsoft knows what it’s doing. They understand that the convergence of social media and gaming is the hottest area of growth in entertainment, and they’ve dedicated time and money to giving people features they want. Not to say there aren’t problems with the Xbox format; they certainly have a few kinks to work out yet (account security is one). But catering to social gamers is clearly a priority. In the end, though, the success of these features will depend on the people using them.