Microsoft announced tonight that online play for original Xbox consoles and titles - including those played on an Xbox 360 - over its Xbox Live service will soon be discontinued.
The axe will fall on April 15, and will bring an end to years of online play for games like Halo 2 and...whatever other original Xbox games people still play these days.
With this being 2010, it's not really that big a surprise, but Microsoft's explanation for the move certainly raises an eyebrow or two. Xbox Live's Larry Hryb writes:
I wanted to let you know that on April 15, 2010 Microsoft will discontinue Xbox LIVE service for original Xbox consoles and games, including Xbox 1 games playable on Xbox 360. Our first step in this process will be to turn off auto-renewals for those members who only use Xbox LIVE on a v1 Xbox. While I can't comment on the specifics, this change will allow us to continue evolving the LIVE service with new features and experiences that fully harness the power of Xbox 360 and the Xbox LIVE community. We did not make this decision lightly, but after careful consideration and review we realize that this decision will allow us unprecedented flexibility for future features.
Wonder what it is they're adding to Live that made them boot original Xbox support? A bigger friends list, perhaps?
UPDATE: Xbox Live's Marc Whitten has provided a little more background, writing:
Dear Xbox LIVE Members,
On April 15 we will discontinue the Xbox LIVE service for original Xbox consoles and games, including Xbox v1 games playable on Xbox 360 and Xbox Originals. I want to start by saying this isn't a decision we made lightly, but after careful consideration, it is clear this will provide the greatest benefit to the Xbox LIVE community.
Seven years ago we laid out our vision for the connected console when we launched Xbox LIVE. We believed then that the power of the Internet to connect people would revolutionize living room entertainment. It started with amazing multiplayer games, and we've since seen that bet pay off again and again with the launches of Xbox 360, Marketplace, Netflix and powerful social features like Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm. None of this would have been possible without the success of LIVE as a multiplayer gaming network.
There's no greater example of the power of the Xbox LIVE community than the "Halo" franchise. "Halo 2" has had an amazing run on LIVE, with a dedicated community more than five years after launch and well into the next generation of consoles. It has fundamentally changed the way we play video games. And while it's difficult to see that run come to an end, the "Halo" franchise continues to act as the benchmark for multiplayer gaming in this generation, with "Halo 3," "Halo 3: ODST" and soon "Halo: Reach" on Xbox 360.
Your Xbox LIVE community has grown to 23 million strong. And as we look down the road, we'll continue to evolve the service with features and experiences that harness the full power of Xbox 360. To reach our aspiration, we need to make changes to the service that are incompatible with our original Xbox v1 games. We will contact the Xbox LIVE members directly impacted by this change and if this includes you, I encourage you to check your LIVE messages and associated e-mail account over the coming weeks for more details and opportunities. We view you as a partner in this process.
We'll share more details soon, but in the meantime I want to assure you that the best is yet to come for Xbox LIVE. I believe we'll look back on 2010 as a landmark year in gaming and home entertainment, and I couldn't be more excited about what we have in store with "Project Natal" and LIVE. The LIVE community is the driving force behind everything we do, and it's because of the community that ground-breaking experiences on Xbox continue to be possible.
See you on LIVE,