Allowing users to host dedicated multiplayer servers was once a staple of the PC gaming scene. Such freedom is rare these days, which is a real shame. As Bruno highlighted in his 10 commandments of PC gaming post, dedicated servers are desirable because they allow for user customization, private parties, and swift justice when it comes to administration and moderation.
There’s one more reason why user-hosted dedicated servers are important for multiplayer games on any platform. If servers aren’t hosted by the players themselves, publishers are free to pull the plug as they see fit. That just happened with GRID, whose online component has been shuttered for the PC and PlayStation 3. As an official post in the GRID forums reveals, the end of online multiplayer for those platforms was prompted by a "third-party provider" declining to extend its contract with Codemasters. Xbox 360 versions of GRID are unaffected, although it’s unclear whether server hosting for Microsoft’s console was handled by the same provider.
As the forum post points out, GRID was released just three years ago. The game might not be the freshest one out there, but it’s hardly stale enough to excuse gutting the online component. Codemasters isn’t as apologetic as one might expect given the circumstances, either. If publishers remain intent on preventing users from running dedicated servers, they should be more forthcoming about how long official multiplayer support will last before it can be yanked by a third-party provider.