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The Lowdown on the Canadian Xbox Live Marketplace Video Store

On Dec.‭ ‬11,‭ ‬Microsoft opened-up the eagerly anticipated Xbox Live Marketplace Video Store for Canadian Xbox‭ ‬360‭ ‬owners.‭ ‬With‭ ‬31‭ ‬videos available at launch,‭ ‬Canadians got their first taste of what to expect from a digital movie download service.‭ ‬But does the Xbox Live Marketplace video store live up to the hype‭?

Lets start by analyzing the cost,‭ ‬Xbox Live subscribers‭ (‬available for both Silver and Gold memberships‭) ‬can download older titles (also known as Library titles) in SD‭ (‬standard definition‭) ‬and HD‭ (‬high definition‭) ‬formats for‭ ‬300‭ (‬$4.80‭) ‬and‭ ‬440‭ (‬$7.04‭) ‬MS Points respectively.‭ ‬Current (recent movies) SD releases go for‭ ‬440‭ ‬MS Points‭ (‬$7.04‭)‬,‭ ‬while HD movies will set subscribers back‭ ‬580‭ ‬MS Points‭ (‬$9.27‭)‬.‭

Prices are higher in comparison to your traditional brick and mortar rental chain.‭ ‬For example,‭ ‬one of the major Canadian rental chains currently gives their patrons the opportunity to rent a new release‭ (‬either DVD,‭ ‬HD-DVD or Blu-Ray‭) ‬for a flat‭ ‬$5.00‭ ‬fee.‭ ‬With that in mind,‭ ‬you could say that Marketplace Video Store users pay a little extra for the convenience of getting movies from the comfort of their living room.

And those expecting a true HD experience out of the Xbox Live Marketplace Video Store might be disappointed as the HD content is only available in‭ ‬720p‭ (‬in comparison to HD-DVD and Blu-Ray’s‭ ‬1080p resolution‭)‬.‭

After the initial download,‭ ‬consumers have‭ ‬14‭ ‬days to view their content before it expires,‭ ‬or they have‭ ‬24‭ ‬hours to complete their viewing after they’ve‭ ‬pressed the start button,‭ ‬whichever comes first.‭ ‬The media can then be viewed indefinitely within that‭ ‬24-hour window.‭ ‬If by chance you weren’t able to complete your viewing within the first‭ ‬24‭ ‬hours,‭ ‬you will need to re-purchase the content.

At the moment, standard definition movies range in size from‭ ‬819MB to‭ ‬2.1GB,‭ ‬while high definition content go from‭ ‬3.2GB to‭ ‬5.6GB.‭ ‬Depending on your Internet speed,‭ ‬it might take a few hours to download your rental.‭ ‬The service does offers a‭ “‬Ready to Play‭” ‬feature that lets you start watching your movie as it downloads.‭ ‬A basic‭ ‬20GB Xbox‭ ‬360‭ ‬hard drive should suffice for SD movies,‭ ‬but HD enthusiasts should consider purchasing a‭ ‬120GB hard drive.

New movies will be released on a monthly basis.‭ ‬The store currently offers movies from three distributors‭; ‬Warner Bros.,‭ ‬Maple Pictures and MPI.‭ ‬More distributors are expected to jump on board as the Marketplace Video Store matures.

Currently,‭ ‬the Marketplace Video Store only offers video rentals.‭ ‬No word yet on when the service will offer TV shows,‭ ‬but the content should be available shortly as the Canadian iTunes Store recently‭ ‬started selling shows for‭ ‬$1.99‭ ‬an episode.

With digital media downloads expected to become the chosen format for entertainment consumption,‭ ‬the Xbox Live Marketplace Video Store is an excellent start.‭ ‬But,‭ ‬hopefully Microsoft will lower the price of the content as the service expands.‭ ‬With Apple and its iTunes Store creeping in,‭ ‬things should start to get interesting on the digital download front.

The Xbox Live Marketplace Video Store first launched in Nov.‭ ‬2006‭ ‬in the‭ ‬US and currently features over 300 movies.‭

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Beats: A New Way to Experience your MP3 Collection

Sony Computer Entertainment Studios London recently unleashed their new rhythm based title “Beats“. What differentiates Beats from other rhythm titles such as Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) and Guitar Hero is its ability to play tracks from your personal MP3 music collection.

The game uses a beat tracking technology that maps button combos thus creating a unique gaming experience that revolves around your song selection. Each beat corresponds to a face button on your hand held, your goal is to successfully match the on-screen symbols with your PSP’s face buttons. The game also spreads out the symbols into three different directional sections (left, right and center) on the screen, which gamers must counter with the appropriate directional pad and face button sequences.

As you consecutively rack-up combos, your points multiplier meter, which is situated on the right hand side of the screen, goes up (x8 being your highest multiplier). The game will eventually give you glowing orbs that boost up your “Overdrive” meter (located on the left hand side of the screen). Once the meter has been filled up you can tap your left shoulder button and jump into Overdrive mode, which doubles the default points scheme (x16 being your highest multiplier).

The gameplay varies from song to song. It’s interesting to see how various musical genres are interpreted by the beat tracking technology. In other words, the more music you throw at the game the more fun you will have with it. It’s a unique and challenging way to experience your music.

Beats also offers a music creation game type called “Jamming.” In Jamming, you are given the opportunity to mix your own tracks using various predefined instruments. The game comes bundled with 11 tracks that each have their own sets of instruments. You jam along creating your own beats as you go while taping on the right shoulder button to switch through instruments. The tracks can then be recorded and shared with friends. Beats also includes a wireless multiplayer ad hoc mode which lets you create your own jam session with friends locally.

Beats also lets you customize your game to appeal to your tastes. The game offers over 70 background visualizations that interact with your gameplay. It would have been nice if you would have been able to switch through visualizations on the fly while playing the game, but the game offers enough variety to spruce things up when things get a little monotonous. You can also choose one of nine menu themes that match your song/artistic style. Hopefully Sony will offer up some extra visualizations and themes as downloadable content on the PlayStation Network.

Beats will change the way you listen to your music collection. Perhaps one day we’ll see the same type of beat tracking technology in other rhythm based games, thus giving users the ability to interact with their favorite tunes with ease. Beats can be downloaded either through the PlayStation Store on a Windows based PC ( or on the PlayStation 3. Oh, and don’t let the mere $5 price tag fool you as Beats will definitely be one of those titles that you’ll keep coming back to. Dare I say Beats is one of the year’s most impressive PSP titles?

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