On June 1, 2009, Microsoft announced several entertainment focused add-ons to its Xbox Live Service during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California. Following the keynote, one thing seemed clear, the Redmond Software giant is poised to push its Xbox 360 platform as the media-centric device for your living room.
“Our goal has been to make the Xbox 360 console your one-stop place for all your entertainment needs,” explained Glenn Purkis, Project Manager at Xbox Live Canada, during a recent phone conversation.
“Our focus has been bringing entertainment to the Xbox console. It’s a one-stop entertainment console for all your games, music and movies. Xbox 360 is all your entertainment in one box.”
Looking through the announcements, it is clear that most interesting add-on to Xbox Live will be the introduction of the new 1080p instant on demand streaming service released under the new Zune Video Marketplace guise. Which, speaking of the Zune Video Marketplace, will be replacing the current Xbox 360 Video Marketplace.
Many HD enthusiasts have been wondering how a such a service can be possible under today’s current broadband infrastructure. Purkis revealed that this is all possible due to a proprietary adaptive technology developed by the Zune team which scales itself in accordance to the user’s broadband connection.
“You will be able to enjoy content directly from your console. No disk, no download and no delay.”
So, how will the Zune Video Marketplace actually differ from the current Video Marketplace? Purkis indicated that the main difference will be the way the content will be delivered. He noted that the current offering is more or less download-based, while the Zune Video Marketplace will offer an instant on demand stream.
Like the current video selection, the content on the Zune Video Marketplace will be on a rental basis. He added that they hope to eventually be able to add TV content to the service. Puriks added that they are constantly working on getting new studios on board.
For the time being, the Zune Video Marketplace will launch as a service on the Xbox 360 and won’t offer interactivity with Zune portable media players.
Last fall, Microsoft launched the Photo Party application which enabled you to share photos with your friends through Xbox Live. Purkis indicated that they will be expanding on that idea with the introduction of the Xbox Movie Party application.
“You will now be able to view a movie with up to eight of your Xbox Live friends. Your avatar will be displayed on screen giving you the opportunity to interact with your friends as if they were in the same room with you.”
Purkis added that Microsoft will be the first to bring the world’s top two social media networks, both Twitter and Facebook, to your TV through the Xbox.
“We’re adding the two biggest social networks to Xbox Live, which is the world’s biggest television social network. We’re bringing it all in one place so that you can stay connected with all of your friends,” explained Purkis.
Purkis also revealed that developers will be able to add Facebook Connect to their titles, giving gamers the opportunity to upload screenshots or movies from their gameplay sessions.
Canadian Xbox Live subscribers will also be treated to the Last.fm music streaming service at no extra charge. According to Purkis, Xbox Live Gold members will be able to stream all of the music they want without any limitations, while Silver account holders will have timed playback sessions on a monthly basis. It is currently unknown how long these timed sessions will be.
Another interesting addition to the Xbox Live Marketplace will be the ability for console owners to purchase Xbox 360 titles directly from their unit.
“In August, gamers will be able to purchase titles such as Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed and Bioshock directly from the Marketplace,” explained Purkis. “The nice thing about the way the marketplace works is that all transactions are tied in with your gamertag. If, for some reason, you need to delete a game you’ve purchased, you will be able to download it again later on.”
All Xbox 360 titles available for purchase through the marketplace will have a monetary value (instead of using the Microsoft Points system), and gamers will be able to purchase these games using a credit card. Purkis indicated that the games will be comparatively priced to their retail counterparts.
Purkis added that there are currently no plans to forgo the Microsoft Points system as consumers will still be required to use the said currency for Zune Marketplace transactions.
The new Xbox Live Entertainment features are expected to launch on the platform this Fall.