We can agree that nobody “gets” community the way that Microsoft gets it, right? PS2’s online venture was a failure and Nintendo didn’t even try. Microsoft had a good idea for its online gaming network, ran with it, made it significantly better for 360, and now Xbox Live membership is automatic if you’re an Xbox gamer; you get it just by plugging your console into an Internet connection. “What’s your Gamertag?” is a common question to new people I meet. So allow me to squeal with girlish glee at the fact that my Gamertag is on a physical membership card.
Microsoft quietly launched the Xbox Live Diamond card this past year as a weird but logical extension of that concept of community. Sign up for free and, as a card-carrying member of Xbox Live, get discounts at places both obvious ($10 off a $75 order at Gamestop.com; $10 arcade credit at Dave & Busters; buy-a-dozen-get-a-dozen-free at Krispy Kreme) and head-scratching (free wine glasses with the purchase of a wine subscription at Cellars; 50% off your Golden Gate Yacht Club membership). And I’m shameless, I’ll use the card and get bargains. But really, I am unabashedly, stupidly happy that my virtual life now comes with physical evidence. There’s something about seeing my Gamertag embossed in a plastic card that I find…thrilling.
Look, they’ve already got all my demographic information and they are going to sell it to the highest bidder; why not get something back?