Microsoft's General Manager for Xbox Live, Marc "Notwen" Whitten, has announced that as of April 15th, 2010 Microsoft will be shutting down its Xbox Live service for the original Xbox and its games. This includes original Xbox games being played via the Xbox 360. No reason was offered beyond a vague "this will provide the greatest benefit to the Xbox LIVE community." Cold comfort for those of you who still enjoy playing Xbox titles like Halo 2 with your friends. The announcement does hint at some form of restitution for those affected, saying "I encourage you to check your LIVE messages and associated e-mail account over the coming weeks for more details and opportunities." Discounts on upgrade, perhaps?
Xbox's Larry "Major Nelso" Hyrb provides a little bit more detail on his blog:
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.
What these new features and experiences are is anyone's guess for now, but Microsoft's X10 event starts next Thursday, February 11th, 2010. Perhaps all will be revealed then. Xbox Live for the original Xbox launched in 2002, a year after the launch of the Xbox hardware. When Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 in 2005 it immediately stopped offering the original Xbox. Cutting off service to a device last sold in 2005 is reasonable, but Microsoft continues to sell "Xbox Originals" via direct download; shutting down service for these games seems controversial. Microsoft takes customer loyalty pretty seriously, so maybe they'll issue some kind of refund offer to recent purchasers of games that are impacted? We should find out more soon.