As we've seen, Xbox Live has been a large part of the Xbox console's success. The Xbox 360 continues to fight with the Sony PlayStation 3 for the top spot in the gaming console market. Both receive high ratings from console users and experts alike, and both keep the Nintendo Wii down in the third position. In contrast, as of this writing, the Xbox Live network is still significantly larger than the PlayStation Network (PSN), and it will likely maintain its size advantage while Sony rebuilds its console's reputation following the PSN outage of 2011.
From the gamers' perspective, Xbox Live has some of the same challenges as other multiuser online environments. One of the most prevalent problems is the presence of griefers -- people who seem to derive pleasure from ruining other people's fun. A griefer's behavior can vary, sometimes consisting of constant foul language, racist taunts and playing the game in an annoying, disruptive way. For example, in a racing game, a griefer might intentionally crash into other players' cars instead of racing. Swearing can be a serious problem in games when players are using voice chat. You can mute your voice chat, but that means muting all participants, not just the griefers. Some games allow you to mute individual players, though, to help cut down on the problem.
Xbox Live gives users the tools to cut down on their exposure to griefers. Each Gamertag is associated with a feedback system that allows users to rate each other based on their in-game behavior. Microsoft reports that they review the feedback and punish players who receive a significant number of complaints. Punishments range from warnings to suspensions that can last up to two weeks. Players who abuse voice chat can also be banned from using that added online service by Microsoft.
Another way to fight griefers is to form a trusted friends list and look for those people when you're playing online. Microsoft Research developed the TrueSkill ranking system for Xbox Live to help optimize random matches, based on selections you make about yourself when setting up your console. If you find a good match, consider adding that person to your friends list so you can find each other for future games.
Some of Xbox's other challenges include security and pirating. Though content from the Xbox Live Marketplace is screened to ensure it's virus-free, Xbox users can still fall victim to phishing scams and other security breaches that use social engineering. Players are encouraged to be very cautious of whom you befriend and what information you share about yourself with people you only know online.
In 2009, Microsoft bared its teeth against the Xbox pirating problem. The company banned about one million Xbox Live members from the network because they had downloaded pirated copies of Activision's "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" and modified their Xbox consoles to play them. Though the ban sounded severe, it was only a targeted ban on that particular game. Bans varied in length of time, based on how severe Microsoft judged the individual gamer's situation [source: Terdiman].
Though there are inherent risks in any online social space or financial transaction, many players feel very comfortable logging on to the Xbox Live Network. Have you decided you haven't lived until you've gone Live? Connect over to see lots more information about Xbox Live.