Ever since the Xbox LIVE Arcade release Battlefield 1943, XBLA mutliplayer games have been riddled with server problems. Today, the same has happened with Hybrid, a third-person shooter released by 5th Cell (the studio behind Scribblenauts and Drawn to Life). Due to severe server issues, Hybrid has been pulled from Xbox LIVE Arcade less than 24 hours after release. For many, this does not come as news. With many multiplayer XBLA releases arriving on the service each year, players have become accustomed to not being able to play their new game on the first day. Some players have become fed up with this consistent issues and either wait until days after the game has launched to buy it or simply don’t buy it at all. This causes an instant problem in the game itself. Multiplayer games rely on one thing: players. If players don’t buy the game until days after its release or don’t buy it at all, the amount of players and the amount of playable matches lessen (especially when a game has a minimum number of players needed in a match).
This issue affects two things: the fun of the game and the community that keeps the game going past the first few days and weeks of its launch. A match with one or two players isn’t fun. Although most XBLA multiplayer games hover around 8 people in a match, that number is still much greater than the one or two possible in games without an active community. In order for the true chaos of Nexuiz’s combat or the vehicle madness of Battlefield 1943 to truly take effect, more than a handful of players must be present in a game. If this isn’t the case, you instead spend your time hunting for other players in a deserted wasteland or battle bots that aren’t nearly as fun to fight as other humans are.
This lack of a continuous community in XBLA multiplayer games are the biggest issue in their sustainability. If there is no community on launch day, it is safe to assume there will be no community as the days, weeks, and months pass. Since this server problem has been around since the beginning of multiplayer XBLA games, people have become aware of the issue and have simply stayed away from buying them. This sets up any multiplayer XBLA release to instantly fail or to have a lackluster community that slowly peters off into nothing, causing the game itself to be worthless unless it has some sort of bot option or singleplayer content (which many don’t have).
Without an update to the Microsoft servers, studios will see multiplayer XBLA games as unprofitable and stop making them. Then, the Xbox Live Arcade will lose an entire genre of games and be surpassed by other online services such as PSN, the eventual Wii-U store, and Steam. People pay money for Xbox Live and therefore they expect a certain amount of reliability. The fact that we, as a paying customer, no longer expect that when it comes to these multiplayer games is a shame and should be addressed.
As of this posting, 5th Cell has announced on its website that it is working closely with Microsoft to fix the issue.