Microsoft’s Live Brand

Lot’s of action on Microsoft’s Live brand lately. All of this activity reminded me of my own rather strong feelings about Microsoft’s handling of Live and how everytime I hear “Live” I cringe a little.

You see, I’ve always thought that attaching the Live brand to so many properties was a greedy attempt to capitalize on the only hip branding Microsoft has, XBox’s Live.

As far as I remember and know “Live” first started with the XBox and became synonymous with “social gaming with a set of friends” and it was strictly limited to the XBox. With the 360 it moved to the web with your gamertag and contact list available from Live was doing well, it was often cited as the one thing Microsoft did right, a younger demographic plugged into it.

Then Microsoft got desperate. They really have nothing that’s iconic anymore, except maybe lawsuits, while Google has this “mega startup” feeling and Apple has the iPod and the silhouette commercials. Microsoft also lacks cohesion, seems every product looks a little different, has a different installer, acts differently, integrates differently, has a different look to the website, etc.

Microsoft tried to *capitalize* on the Live brand but instead they just *cannibalized* it. Putting 5 random people into a room and calling them all “Smith” doesn’t make them a family yet that’s what Microsoft tried to do with Live.

Any service that doesn’t use your Live gamertag or have seamless integration with the “real” Live service’s contacts and assets (such as Points, Account Management, items purchased via the Marketplace) doesn’t belong in the Live brand. They watered-down and squandered a lot of the Live cred where they could have extended it in logical ways.

Instead of just smearing Live on top of everything they should have kept on the path it was going. First XBox Live, then interacting with you Live contacts, then merging in the Zune to the Live, then merging XBox Marketplace and Zune Marketplace into simply the “Live Marketplace” where any content bought under your gamertag is available to anything that plugs into the Live framework. Next Live Points that work across XBox, Zune and future properties along with a micro transaction framework API, again under Live. Through all of this though the same contact list and assets.

They must have had to tranquilize J Allard when he found out they had co opted the Live brand.