Microsoft has never issued a fully satisfying answer about why Xbox Live, almost four years after the launch of Xbox 360, cannot support more than 100 friends. The company has blamed it on technical obstacles related to the original Xbox Live architecture. It's simpler than that. The real reason you can't have more than 100 friends on Xbox Live is because of Bungie. Specifically, Halo 2.
The continued community support behind Halo 2 is the only reason Microsoft hasn't ditched the lingering ancient Xbox Live architecture, a high-level Microsoft source confirmed to me late last week.
The original Xbox Live was not designed to support more than 100 friends. That's no problem for the Xbox 360 incarnation. Allowing players to add more than 100 friends on Xbox 360 is not a real technical challenge for Microsoft, but it requires ending support for the still-popular shooter. It's not as simple as issuing a patch for Halo 2, or else Microsoft would have released one ages ago.
Looking at Major Nelson's weekly Xbox Live activity lists, the Halo 2 connection should have been obvious a long time ago. Halo 2 is always the most played original Xbox title, suggesting a healthy community still enjoying Master Chief's second adventure online, despite the existence of Halo 3 on Xbox 360. What's keeping them playing? It doesn't matter, it only matters that they are.
My source said Microsoft still does not know when it will disable support for the original Xbox Live, thus ending Halo 2's reign on the charts. It could happen after the release of Halo 3: ODST, since that would give Halo players two new Halo games to move over to on the new Xbox Live. If you want Microsoft to move in that direction, however, it requires your voiced opinion.
Microsoft will be reading this and comments elsewhere. If there's real vocal support for finally moving on from Halo 2, it could very well happen in the near future, I'm told.
But at least we know the hold up. It's a technical issue, but it's really not. It's about a community doing nothing more than enjoying their favorite game, while the rest of the world is prevented a seemingly simple interface feature. When to call it quits is a challenging issue for online games, but really, it's almost out of Microsoft's hands. Gamers have to make the decision.
I've contacted Microsoft for official comment. I'll update you if I hear anything.
What do you want Microsoft to do?