I recently decided to drink the Kool-Aid and convert to the Xbox Live Gold Family Pack. We had three existing Gold memberships due to expire in a few months as well as an unused Gold membership card. Since members get credit for remaining time on existing Gold accounts, the entire upgrade only cost $15 US – and then as I added my family members with time left on their accounts, the family membership was extended generously. Now we are set until Spring of 2012. Even for new family plan members, the pricing for this package at $99 is a really good deal.
The new family features are very nice but fall short of what my family needs to make our Xbox Family Experience (XFE?) frustration free. Here are the features we found helpful as well as how we feel they fell short of what is needed.
Account Management – Being able to manage everything from a single account is very helpful. Restricting or allowing content and features is as simple as setting them in my family center and they work – even if my children are signing into a different console.
Time Management – Allowing the family to set a maximum allowed console time per day or per week is nice, but it would be far more helpful to manage this per profile – allowing it to be tracked no matter which console they are logged into.
Allowance – Including a system by which to distribute points to family members is a step in the right direction, but to limit the transactions to Microsoft point denominations of 400 points seems unnecessarily limiting. For example, if my four year old wants to put an 80 point t-shirt on his avatar – I need to transfer 400 points to his account because that is the lowest amount allowed to transfer. Also – the transfers are one way only. so if one of the kids looses interest – there is no way to transfer the points back to the family.
Now here is the biggest shortcoming of the whole family package. Families who have, or want four gold accounts probably have more than one Xbox console. Having the ability to connect up to four consoles in my home as part of my console Family could allow features like these:
We Need Roaming Profiles – Let all my family members login to any console in my family of consoles without needing to transfer the profile on a memory card. This would of course complicate saved game storage – but what an opportunity to sell subscriptions to store saved games out at Microsoft in a cloud solution – making profiles and saved games truly portable for those willing to pay for it. A simpler solution would be having a “master” console that all saved games are written or synced to and from.
What About Family Owned Games – Why is it that if I purchase a downloaded game, and all of my family’s profiles are on the same console, we can all play the game – no matter which profile is logged in. BUT – if my son takes his profile 30 feet into his room he can’t play the downloaded game unless he takes my profile (the one that downloads all our content) along with him. This is a very un-elegant solution. There has to be a better way. If the game was one purchased on DVD he could just take the disk to his room and play away. Even then – DLC for the game on DVD will not work. I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here – I just want my family to be able to use the entertainment that we have purchased for the family.
Microsoft, you say you are after the family market, and with the new Kinect – it’s appears you are serious about getting more hardware into homes. How did the concept of having multiple Xbox 360s not become part of the plan. Why not one on every TV? We use ours for radio (Last.fm), movies (Netflix), streaming home movies and pictures from PC (Media Center) and social networking (Twitter). Adding a second console just complicated things – when what is expected of Microsoft is to make it easy to use,
So, from my family, and from me, and from the growing number of families with more than one Xbox 360, please look at including these additional family features in a future NXE update,
A sincere Xbox family man,
Chris Forbis (MensaDad)