While the progression issue is a concern, the single greatest flaw in Game Room is the complete failure of the multiplayer component. Very little player interaction is provided. Yes, you can challenge your friends to top your high score, and you can visit their arcade space, but that's not true interaction. Back in the arcade heyday, we players would huddle over glowing screens, watching as a friend took his turn, hoping we could top his score; we'd talk trash as Dragon Punches flew in Street Fighter. Best of all, we would exchanged high fives as we beat Shredder, Magneto, or any of the other countless bosses at the end of all manner of co-op games. You can' t really do any of these things online in Game Room, and the service suffers greatly because of it. As I understand it, what few multiplayer games are available in Game Room support only local multiplayer, which is flat out ludicrous in this day and age. The fact that you cannot play a game as simple as, say, Outlaw online against a friend is an obvious, mind-numbing flaw.
Incredibly disappointing to fans of this site, there are no co-op games available in Game Room at the time of this writing. Five game packs have been released so far, and yet no title featuring cooperative gameplay is included in any of them. Literally hundreds of classic co-op games were available in the arcades, and yet none can be found in Game Room. It appears that the early to mid 80s time frame is the one Microsoft is aiming for, and there were, arguably, very few co-op games available then. But starting in the late 80s, co-op became a major trend, and seeing this entire style of gameplay ignored in Game Room is inexplicable. Licensing could be a factor here, as many of the earliest co-op games like Joust and Gauntlet are in legal limbo at the moment. Other co-op greats like X-Men and Dungeons and Dragons might face similar difficulties. Still, there are plenty of other solid co-op gems, ready and waiting for a day in the sun. Co-Op was a defining force in arcades for years, and it should not be ignored in what is arguably the premiere classic gaming service available to fans right now.
What games would we recommend for inclusion in Game Room? Let's keep the focus on games from the early to mid 1980s, as that seems to be Microsoft's intent, and we'll try to avoid obvious inclusions like Double Dragon that are long shots due to legal issues. Here's a short list of co-op titles that meet these criteria: Rampage, Twin Cobra, Exed Exes, Bubble Bobble, Legendary Wings, Life Force, Xenophobe, and Heavy Barrel. There are plenty more, I am certain, especially if one goes a bit later into the early 1990s. Microsoft seems to use the better side scrolling co-op brawlers of that era for full XBLA releases, like those of Contra and Altered Beast. But now that there is a platform for classic arcade titles, why not release these awesome brawlers as Game Room downloads? It seems counterproductive to add in a few filters, a fancy HD frame, and a few achievements, and call it a full Arcade title, but that's what has been done in the past. If Microsoft is serious about Game Room (and given the hype machine behind it, it would appear they are) then some blockbuster, AAA arcade classics must be released soon. Co-op titles would be among the most fiscally shrewd to release, especially if online multiplayer is added to Game Room, since all players would need a copy of the game in their arcade.
As we look to the future of Game Room, it is clear that the service has many advantages. It is impressive, visually, and it's an easy, legal way to enjoy classic games of old. But gamers expect more these days, even for a product that relies so heavily on nostalgia. Social features, online play, and an improved slection of multiplayer titles, especially those with co-op gameplay, would add greatly to the Game Room experience. Unless these things are added soon, I fear Xbox gamers will abandon Game Room entirely. That would be most unfortunate, since the concept has the potential to revolutionize how we enjoy classic games.