XBAND

XBAND

XBAND was an early online console gaming network for SNES and Sega Genesis systems. It was produced by the Cupertino, California software company Catapult Entertainment, and made its debut in late 1994 and 1995 in various areas of the United States. It is the precursor to modern online gaming social networks seen in the seventh generation of video games, most notably, that of the Xbox Live service.

History

Initially, Catapult Entertainment had a very limited staff and virtually no advertising. Many avid gamers first learned of it via small news articles that were published in the popular console gaming magazines and strategy guides of the day. By January 1996, XBAND network playability had reached practically every metropolitan area in the country, and several rural areas, but there had only been a handful of advertisements published: the most well known of these such advertisements had appeared in gaming magazines, and were directed towards people wanting to be able to play their favorite videogames against anyone, anywhere, at anytime. The actual XBAND modems were carried by a handful of software and video rental chains across the United States. Internationally, the XBAND saw some limited expansion in the Japanese market, and Catapult was working on PC and Saturn based versions of the platform before the company ceased operations. The spelling XB∀ND, was used in the logo.

ervice

[
frame|XBAND_for_the_Sega_Genesis and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System] The concept of playing online was, at the time, fairly new. Arcades were still quite popular, and the concept of online gaming was not yet a household term.

The modem itself was useless until an account was purchased and set up, which required a monthly fee of $4.95 that was based on an amount of 50 "connects" a player was allowed to make without an additional fee of .15 per connect. Another option allowed players an unlimited number of "connects" for $9.95 per month. A "connect" was made whenever you dialed into the XBAND server to play, or to download mail (called "XMAIL"), or to get the daily edition of the two XBAND newsletters, one which had generic news, and the other was network specific, such as: weekly rankings, tournaments, and contests. Nationwide play was available for $3.95 per hour for the duration of the long distance call, whereas playing against somebody in your local calling area was free.

Up to 4 different codenames could be saved on one modem, and on each of the codenames there could be up to 10 people saved on a friends list for those who wanted to keep track of other players, and the Xmailbox was also limited to 10 incoming and 10 sent messages per each of 4 possible codenames created. There was also an on-screen keyboard that required painstakingly using your controller to type letters, or for a bit of money, an XBAND keyboard could be purchased from the company. Statistics were also kept on each player's rank and how many matches they had won or lost, and how many points they had accumulated in these games. Players could also add information about themselves in their personal info section, along with choosing 1 of 40 pre-set avatars.

XBAND also had an official website where a member could check the statistics of anyone, along with other information and updates that were not available to view on your console.

Gaming

Due to the limits of dial-up, many of the games were high in latency, and the company only improved this based on the demand of the games. For example, in January 1996, Mortal Kombat 3 for the SNES version was nearly unplayable, but in the following months this improved a bit, though because of the complexity and speed of the game, it retained a large number of exploitable glitches. To this day, many XBANDers remember the SNES MK3 as being cumbersome due to lag, whereas simpler games such as Super Mario Kart, or NBA Jam, rarely experienced such trouble. The Sega Genesis counterpart, being much simpler, had nowhere near the same synchronization problems with its games.Fact|date=June 2008

When one connected to play, unless you specified someone in particular from your player list, you would be paired up with a random person somewhere in the country (or your local area code depending on your preference settings), who was also connecting to play in the same game. When the network matched two people up, their telephone would ring once, and the big XBAND "X" would slide together on your screen. Moments later they would see the matchup screen, which would display their codenames, city and state, a "taunt" that one could have typed and ready, along with one's avatar.

Demise

By March 16, 1997, people could only play within their local area code. On April 30, 1997, the entire network was removed.

XBAND published in their newsletter a month prior that they were shutting down, with the newsletter writers citing the service's lack of popularity. During XBAND's existence, only a handful of advertisements were ever made, and only one game, Weaponlord, had the XBAND logo on its box. XBAND stated in their newsletter that players were their best form of advertising, and offered the "XBAND 6 pack", where members could discount order six modems in exchange for a month of free gaming if they signed up a certain number of people to the service.

Heavy contributors to XBAND's demise was lack of support from game developers and limited internal resources. With the exception of Weaponlord, Catapult had to individually reverse engineer each game's code, then develop a hack to intercept two-player activity so the game could be shared over a hi-latency (slow-response time) 2400 baud modem connection.

Catapult's next-gen attempts were blocked by the hardware manufacturers. The XBAND was tested in Japan (14,400 baud modem) for a short time for the Sega Saturn, but met competition from Sega's own Sega NetLink service, which used XBAND technology. An expansion into the PC market also didn't pan out as developers frequently opted to include their own TCP/IP network linking rather than deal with Catapult's subscription based service.

Publishing statistics

Despite poor marketing the XBAND team took another attempt to attract the mainstream of gamers who were left in the dark about the modem by joining forces with a number of gaming magazines, starting on the web with Game Zero magazine and then later in the print magazine Tips and Tricks Magazine. Daily stats were accessible via 'XBAND News' on the modem although they were not visible to the general public. Publishing stats added a 'cool' factor to brag about in the early forefronts of online gaming. The top ranked gamers of the previous months were published first in January 1996 in Game Zero (see external link below) and then later on in Tips and Tricks starting in early 1996.

upported XBAND games

Genesis:
*Madden NFL 95
*Madden NFL 96
*Mortal Kombat
*Mortal Kombat II
*Mortal Kombat 3
*NBA Jam
*NBA Live 95
*NBA Live 96
*NHL '95
*NHL '96
*Primal Rage
*Super Street Fighter II
*WeaponLord

SNES:
*DOOM
*Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball
*Kirby's Avalanche
*Killer Instinct
*Madden NFL 95
*Madden NFL 96
*Mortal Kombat II
*Mortal Kombat 3
*NBA Jam TE
*NHL 95
*NHL 96
*Super Mario Kart
*Super Street Fighter II
*WeaponLord
* (secret maze game)

Saturn (Japan XBAND branded releases only)
*Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition
*Decathlete
*Dragon's Dream
*Puyo Puyo Sun
*Puzzle Bobble 3
*Saturn Bomberman
*Sega Rally Championship Plus
*Sega Worldwide Soccer '98
*Virtua Fighter Remix
*Virtual On
*World Series Baseball

ee also

*Sega Meganet - Sega's own online gaming service for the Mega Drive
*Satellaview - A satellite modem for the Super Famicom with no online play facility

External links

* Some archived pages of Catapult's " [http://www.gamezero.com/team-0/previews/catapult/ XBAND XClusive] " on GameZero.com
* [http://www.sega-16.com/Xband-%20Online%20Gamings%20First%20Big%20Try.php a writeup of the service] from [www.sega-16.com]
* [http://www.gamersgraveyard.com/repository/snes/peripherals/xband.html Gamer's Graveyard Article]
* [http://216.120.247.64/ XBand Forums]
* Popular " [http://my.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=5981113&publicUserId=5552496 Blog of the Day] " entry on 1up.com about one gamer's look back on his XBand obsession
* [http://www.xband411.com Screenshots of Xband content (News, Bandwidth, Player Records)]


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