I love online gaming.

I don’t get enough time to participate these days, nor do I own any of the “next gen” consoles, which is where I am led to believe the most enjoyable online experience can be found, particularly if you are like me and use your PC for work and your consoles for fun.

Earlier this week Sony opened up a service that allowed you to pre-book your online username/gamertag/persona (call it what you will) if the Playstation 3 hasn’t reached your country yet or you just don’t fancy paying the eBay prices for their latest toy.
I’m all for these services and decided to see if such a service was offered by Xbox Live. Apparently it is, so I duly entered my details only to find that my gamertag was already taken…

I’ve been using the online persona gothi since the 90’s, I’m pretty fortunate in that it’s an usual word (although at the time I was not aware of it’s religious connotations). I’ve made a name for myself by posting, and administrating, on many forums, creating websites, I’ve released hundreds of Xbox & PS2 saves, played in online tournaments, beta tested online PS2 games, written several widely used software programs and it’s even got to the point where some people think entering my username into a game makes you invincible. It doesn’t by the way, however using the cheat save I made for the Xbox version of XIII, which features my profile name, does.

I like to think I made myself known, I even own gothi.co.uk and the fact I cannot use my username, the one I have used for about a decade, on Xbox Live frustrates me.
I like how Xbox Live operates, one username for all games, but what do you do when your username is taken? Do I have any right to ask that the user of this name gives it up? I appear twice in the top 10 google results for gothi (not bad considering my username is a religous term), does all that give me enough leverage to say that “this is my online persona”?

As it stands both Microsoft’s and now Sony’s approach is reasonable but limited. You choose one name, but it is only unique to that system, and when a new system is released it can be mad scramble to get your name registered. In this case I clearly lost out on Xbox Live. To make matters worse, some games companies, seeing that users want one name across the systems, have created their own private database of usernames that allow you to have one name across their collection of games. Rather than improving matters this makes them worse as now there are even more private areas to register for and more chances to lose possession of your name. Without your name, and the reputation that follows it, who are you?

What I propose is a universal system where users can choose one name for all systems and games, regardless of publisher, designer or manufacturer.
By use of an open API games designers can verify ownership of a gamertag and other information, such as game specific data, can be stored on their own databases.

Is it too late for such a system? Maybe. I truly hope it isn’t and that some order can be brought to the chaos that is forming.

I’d like to know what others think of the fragmentation issue we’re in and how you see it in 5 years time…