Tag Archives: Xbox Live

Xbox LIVE turns 10

On November 15, 2002 Microsoft turned on Xbox LIVE and over the past ten years what began as a multiplayer service for video gamers has evolved into an entertainment service that provides not only live multiplayer gameplay around the world but also a hub for the latest in movies, TV, music, and sports. Microsoft took a gamble when they charged gamers to pay a yearly fee for an online subscription; after ten years of supporting blockbuster games and other entertainment outlets it turns out that the price of admission was well worth it.

Here are some fun facts about LIVE Microsoft is sharing today:

  • Initially available to U.S. and Canadian Xbox players, the service is now available in 41 countries and territories around the world.
  • In the 10 years of LIVE, nearly 14.5 billion Achievements have been unlocked worldwide, accumulating a total combined Gamerscore of more than 270 billion.
  • This year we had an average of 9.4 million people a week using multi-player gaming on Xbox LIVE.
  • During the week of Nov. 6 through Nov. 13, our members spent more time on Xbox LIVE (gaming and watching entertainment) than any other week in the history of our service: a total of 442 million hours.
  • Halo 4, which broke entertainment industry numbers, resulted in the LIVE community unlocking 43 million achievements in just the first five days of gameplay.

In an open letter to Xbox LIVE members, Microsoft’s Marc Witten shared his enthusiasm about the service and how far it’s come. “Over the last 10 years you’ve helped us define LIVE as the best place to play online and the definitive online gaming experience for two generations of Xbox consoles, and you’ve helped us evolve LIVE into a full entertainment service, delivering amazing games, sports, movies, TV and music,” he said. “If the last 10 years is any indication of what’s possible in the next 10 years, imagine the innovation yet to come,” he continued. “One thing is for sure – we will continue to offer some of the best entertainment, from premium games, sports, TV, movies, web to music. To the members who’ve been with us since the beginning – I sincerely thank you, both for your support and your feedback. And for those of you that have just become members, a very warm welcome.”

To celebrate Xbox LIVE’s 10 year anniversary, Microsoft is offering special deals on Xbox LIVE Arcade games and you can win a custom-designed Xbox 360 console. Head over to the anniversary portal for more.

Xbox.com undergoes cosmetic changes, promotes a “Social” landscape

Before the fall dashboard updates arrives to Internet-connected Xbox 360s, Microsoft flipped the switch on updating its Xbox website. The homepage has been revamped to feature content in the “Metro”-style layout that is coming to Xbox and with Windows 8. The “My Xbox” section of the website has been renamed “Social” and this is the new destination where gamers will go to login to their Xbox Live profiles away from the their consoles. The updated Xbox Live portal is organized in four categories. Home gives gamers a quick glimpse at their recent activity, their friends’ recent activity, online friends, messages, Xbox Live events and related news. Friends provides a list of all your Xbox Live friends, online and off. In Messages you can read and send messages to your friends. And in the Activity section you can view your recent activity, out of your friends who recently played the games you did, and you can view all of your played games, achievements, and gamerscore information. Also in this section you can set Beacons, a marker that notifies your friends that you want to play a certain game with them. You can have up to three Beacons active at a time, and you can add custom descriptions. For example, you can set a Beacon for Halo 3 and add a description like “Let’s play from 7-10 PM.” No matter where you navigate in Social, your avatar will follow you, as will links to view your account, redeem codes, add Microsoft Points, view your Download Queue, and visit your profile. In addition to updating the My Xbox section of the site, Xbox Live members can now browse, preview, and download media such as movies and TV shows in a browser and this content will be attached to your Live account; this means that all downloaded media can be viewed on any PC, Xbox 360, and Windows Phone that your Live account is connected to. Check out the new Social portal at Xbox.com right now!

[Via Xbox Forums]

ESPN on Xbox LIVE gets a makeover

The ESPN app on Xbox Live is getting its first major update since it launched last summer. The dashboard can be customized to feature your favorite sports teams so fans can see a daily feed of news and highlights from those specific teams; the addition of the ESPN BottomLine keeps fans in the know with breaking news and score updates; a Mini Guide can be called up from the bottom of the screen to give fans a preview and quick access to personalized sports content; and Reminders and Live Alerts can be set. Two new features that stand out are Split Screen and Voice Control with Kinect. Fans can watch two events at once (i.e. watch ESPN3.com live events on both screens or a live event on one while catching up on ESPN.com news and highlights on the other) and they can navigate through the Content Guide, skip to the next highlight, or play, pause, and rewind plays through voice control.

Remember that access to ESPN3.com live events is only available to customers of an affiliated service provider; if you’ve got that and you’re an Xbox LIVE Gold Member you’re set! Screenshots below, demo videos and full PR after the break.

[Via Engadget; ESPN]

READ MORE ESPN on Xbox LIVE gets a makeover

Games Hub gets spruced up in Windows Phone Mango

The next release of Windows Phone is coming this fall. Windows Phone Mango includes deeper social network integration, Internet Explorer 9, and the ability to multitask. Among the 500 new features coming to the mobile OS is also an updated Xbox portal. Here’s a quick rundown of the new Games Hub:

  • A cleaner and lighter design that emphasizes your game collection and Xbox LIVE info
  • Improved overall performance and speed
  • An improved Collection view will organize and list all the games you download from the Marketplace
  • Interactive, 3D avatars
  • Improved Xbox LIVE messaging: read and reply to Xbox LIVE messages sent from another Windows Phone, a PC, or an Xbox console
  • Xbox LIVE friends are more accessible: You can search, browse, initiate, and respond to friend requests right from your Windows Phone.
  • Integrated achievements and new comparison views: See the recent games your friends have been playing, and compare gamerscores and achievements for all Xbox LIVE games played on the phone, console, or PC.
  • You can edit your Xbox LIVE profile on the go
  • Improved Spotlight content will now be complemented with rich and vibrant images
  • Improved game request notifications: You’ll receive notifications for multiplayer game or turn requests and can track them in the Requests section of the Games Hub.

In sum with Mango the Xbox on-the-go experience is going to be a helleva lot more streamlined and easier to use. Look in the gallery below to tour the updated UI.

[Via WindowsPhoneBlog]

Xbox getting cloud saves, beacons, wheel controller & Gears of War console

Though none of these items were announced during Microsoft’s E3 keynote, there are certainly worthy of mention here. According to a recently outed Microsoft press release (in full after the break), cloud saves and beacons are coming to Xbox Live.

“Cloud Storage for Game Saves and LIVE Profile” — Here at Xbox LIVE we listen to your feedback. We are making it easier for you to sign into your Xbox LIVE account from any console at any time to access your game saves and full profile, including items such as Microsoft Points to make purchases, Achievements and friends. Cloud storage will allow you to enjoy the same great Xbox LIVE gaming experience even when you’re not in your own living room by giving you the option to store your “game saves” securely in the Xbox LIVE cloud instead of on a portable memory unit or your console’s hard drive. Gone are the days of “gamertag recovery.” Now all you need to do is sign in, no matter where you are!

“Beacons” — We want to make it easy for you to connect with friends over your favorite games on Xbox LIVE, so we are introducing Beacons to the service. Beacons are a way to tell your Xbox LIVE and Facebook friends that you want to play a game on Xbox LIVE. By setting a Beacon, you tell Xbox LIVE what you want to play. Then, Xbox LIVE lets you know when friends are playing or want to play the same game. With Beacons, no matter what you’re currently doing on Xbox LIVE your friends know that it’s ok to ask you to play your Beaconed games. Imagine sending out a Beacon to let your friends know you’re interested in playing “Halo,” while watching a movie on Netflix. It’s about making it easier for you to share and discover games and multiplayer opportunities with friends on Xbox LIVE.

In addition to these new software enhancements, a new accessory and limited edition console are coming out of Redmond, too. First up is the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel. It’s “completely wireless and controlled intuitively with precise steering, standard controller buttons/triggers, and haptic feedback with rumble.” It even includes “green bands of lights on each handle to provide visual cues when necessary.” And according to Microsoft it is compatible with all racing games right out of the box. But you know gamers will likely pair it with their new copy of Forza Motorsport 4. The wheel releases in early October for a cool $59.99.

Next and last is the Gears of War 3 limited edition console. For $400 Gears fans will get the exclusive red and black console design with two matching wireless controllers, a 320GB hard drive built-in, a wired headset, some DLC, and a copy of the game. And get this–“the power and eject buttons have been customized with unique sounds from the Gears of War universe. Drops September 20. Dig the controller design but don’t need a new Xbox? Come August 11 gamers can purchase it separately for $59.99. Check out images courtesy of Joystiq in the gallery below.

[Via Engadget 1, 2; MajorNelson]

READ MORE Xbox getting cloud saves, beacons, wheel controller & Gears of War console

E3 2011: Microsoft Press Conference

Today Microsoft kicked off E3 2011 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. So many game trailers, demos, and Xbox Live and Dashboard updates to talk about. Ready, set, bullet points!

  • The press conference got started with a demo of Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It is described as being “the biggest, most exciting and epic Call of Duty ever.” I can confidently back that statement up. MW3 downloadable content will be available first on Xbox 360. Due out November 8, 2011.
  • Crystal Dynamics showed off the Tomb Raider reboot. Lara Croft is getting down and dirty in this game that shares style and gameplay with Uncharted. The developers explained that the game reveals “how an ambitious 21-year-old Lara Croft becomes a hardened survivor.” Due out Fall 2012.
  • EA Sports president (and former Xbox honcho) Peter Moore announced that four sports games will support Kinect this year and they are Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden NFL, FIFA, and Mass Effect 3. ME3 utilizes Kinect with voice control. Kinect’s built-in mic will pick up your commands. RPG decisions and tactical team controls can be carried out by your voice. Due out March 6, 2012.
  • Next up was Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. This title will also feature Kinect support, but this time it’s hand and arm gestures in addition to voice control. You can create various weapons by exploding them into their small parts using Minority Report-style gestures. This demo really wowed the crowed. Voice commands like “optimize for long range” will also piece together a weapon for you. The weapon customization process with Kinect looks very fluid, fast, and super cool. Ubisoft announced that all future titles in the Tom Clancy franchise will support Kinect in some way or other.
  • The Dashboard is getting yet another facelift. Somehow Microsoft has made it cleaner and more streamlined. It was built from the ground up specifically with Kinect voice in mind. For example, saying “Xbox, music” will bring you directly to the Music section. The new UI contains the following sections: Home, Social, Live TV, Video, Games, Music, Apps, and Settings. That’s right–I said live TV. Microsoft is forging new partnerships to bring live television to Xbox LIVE in the US and around the world, adding to their current partnerships with Sky TV in the UK, Canal Plus in France, and FOXTEL in Australia. TV listings and a DVR manager will be accessible from the Dashboard. Also coming to Xbox is YouTube, UFC, and Bing search. UFC president Dana White came out to show off the interactive UFC content. You can call fights and compare results with your friends. “You say it, Xbox finds it” is the new Bing motto when it comes to searching for and discovering content on the console. “Xbox, Bing, X-Men” will prompt the console to bring up all games and videos (including movies and TV shows) related to your query.
  • The following upcoming games are Xbox 360 exclusives: Ice-T joined Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski for a demo of Gears of War 3 (due out September 20, 2011); Crytek’s Ryse will take advantage of Kinect as you violently slash your way past enemies in Rome; To celebrate Halo’s 10 year anniversary a remastered version of the original game will release November 15, 2011 and it’s called Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (co-op over Xbox Live and classic multiplayer maps included); Turn 10 Studio’s Forza Motorsport 4 releases October 11, 2011 with Top Gear content and Kinect support for voice and headtracking; Head of Lionhead Studios Peter Molyneux hopped on stage to reveal the next Fable subtitled The Journey (this game too will come packed with heavy support for Kinect, due out in 2012); Minecraft is coming to support Kinect this winter; other exclusives include Kinect-based kids games Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, and Kinect Star Wars.
  • Microsoft’s bearded man with designer shades Kudo Tsunoda came out to show off the latest updates of his pet project the Kinect. He announced that Kinect Fun Labs is a permanent addition to the Xbox Live Dashboard and it will serve as a portal for the developer community to share their latest Kinect innovations. Three Labs games were shown off. Kinect Me will capture your face and clothing to create an avatar that looks just like you; in Kinect Sparkler you make poses for the camera, it captures them, and then you can use your fingers to draw sparkling lines of light in the image in three dimensions (you can manipulate the image to make it appear as if it contains two layers); Kinect Googly Eyes allows you to scan real-life tangible objects using Kinect and them manipulate their actions on-screen (at the conference a plush toy was scanned without issue). Kinect Fun Labs is accessible today to all Xbox Live members.
  • More Kinect games coming to Xbox include: Kinect Sports Season 2 (baseball, skiing, golf, darts, tennis, football); Dance Central 2 (which now features a campaign mode, voice controls, and a revamped Break it Down mode, and simultaneous multiplayer dancing…plus all songs from the original an be imported into the sequel).
  • And then came the “dawn of a new trilogy for Xbox 360″…it’s Halo 4! A brief teaser trailer was played. Master Chief returns Holiday 2012.

And that was the Microsoft press conference. Though most of the game trailer and demos were stimulating, the overall presentation was lacking in explosive, heart-stopping content. The Dashboard update is nice, the Xbox exclusives are impressive, and the push for Kinect is full speed ahead. It will certainly be interesting to see developers make new and exciting uses of the Kinect peripheral; Microsoft seems to be goading developers into incorporating it into their games somehow. Voice control seems overly gimmicking, but at least new approaches are being made to interactivity. And I gotta say, ending the event with a tease at the birth of a new Halo trilogy was a nice touch.

I attended the press conference this morning, so make sure you check out the pictures I snapped in the gallery below!

Xbox Live Rewards program gives you Microsoft Points for things you do already

Now this is what I can a steal!  Today Microsoft pushed out the Xbox Live Rewards program and essentially it doles out Microsoft Points to Xbox Live users (in the US and UK only for now) to reward them for actions they periodically perform.  Once you sign up for the free program at this website you will become eligible to receive MSP for renewing Gold memberships, Gold Family Packs, purchasing select Marketplace content, taking quick monthly surveys, and participating in promotions.  You’ll even get 20 MSP for activating Netflix on your Xbox.  Prizes range from 10 to 400 MSP depending on the performed action (again, many of which you do anyway). There really is no reason to ignore this opportunity to receive some Points.

[Via Joystiq]

Xbox Live pricing scheme sees a slight jump in US, Canada, UK & Mexico this November

For the first time since its inception back in 2002, the cost to become an Xbox Live Gold member is about to become a bit steeper.  In the US, Canada, UK & Mexico only the Xbox Live pricing scheme will jump on November 1.  See the chart above to see how the change will affect you.  In the U.S., the yearly subscription will increase from $59.99 to $49.99; the three month sunscription from $19.99 to $24.99; and the one month subscription from $7.99 to $9.99.  Super lame, I know.  Industry analyst Jesse Divnich tries to cushion the news of the price increase: “When originally launched in 2002, a Gold subscription cost the same as an AAA video game, $49.99. When taking into account for inflation ($50 in 2002 is roughly $60 in 2010) and the additional services available to Gold subscribers in 2010, such as ESPN, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Last.fm and Video Kinect, a $10 price increase still represents an incredible value to consumers.”  Alright, I guess that makes sense.  But for those of you who may still be fuming over this news Xbox’s Major Nelson has a special incentive for you.  Microsoft is offering a limited-time savings deal to “lock in” Xbox Live gamers before the price increase becomes effective.  You can upgrade or renew your account today for an additional year for $39.99.  That’s $10 cheaper than the current one year subscription, and $20 cheaper than the new price coming in November.  Head over to the Xbox price lock site to secure an addional year of Live Gold membership at the cheaper before before it’s too late.

[Via MajorNelson; Engadget]

Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7 detailed

With the launch of Windows Phone 7 just around the corner (Microsoft says Holidays 2010, other sources hint as early as October), it is about time Microsoft further detailed its Xbox Live gaming initiative on the forthcoming mobile platform.  If you own an Xbox 360 and have an Xbox Live account, navigating the Xbox Live gaming hub on a Window Phone 7 device will be a very familiar experience.  The first “tab” within the hub is named Profile and it stores your Xbox Live avatar, gamerscore, and message notifications.  Your avatar can be interacted with by tapping on it, shaking the phone, and spinning the phone in various orientations.  If you select the message notifications icon, you will be brought to the Messages tab where you’ll find a list of text and voice messages left by your Xbox Live friends.  You can send and receive messages on your device in real time just as you would on the console.  There’s also an Achievements tab that shows you all of your collected acheivements, categorized by game, on the phone and console.  You can tap a game title to view the specific achievements awarded within each game to see when you received them; you can then select a specific achievement to see how you received it.  The Friends tab congregates a bunch of your Friends’ avatars; tap anywhere on this screen to bring up your friends list.  You can see who is on and offline, what games your friends are currently playing, view friends’ acheivements, and compare your achievements to a specific friend’s achievement list.  If you click a friends’ gamertag from the list his (or her) avatar will fly on screen and you can view personal information like gamerscore, location, and bio.  It all works exactly in line with what you’re used to on the console; there are no surprises here.

Microsoft went all out on Avatar interaction and customization on the phone.  In the Profile tab you can select a button to enter the Avatar Closet.  Here you can customize your avatar with clothes, hats, and all kinds of gear.  You can use your finger to spin the avatar around to view its new style from various angles.  What you do with your avatar on the phone is reflected on the console, and vice versa.  At launch time, only free items will be available to download in the Avatar Closet.  However if you purchase a new look on the console, that will be reflected on the phone.  In addtion to customizing your avatar you can make them utilize Avatar Gadgets.  These are simple productivity tools that feature your avatar on-screen.  They include a flashlight, ruler, level, and coin toss.  Sure this is all a bit gimmicky, but it looks fun!

Now let’s talk about what’s most important here: the games.  Microsoft has announced the first wave of Windows Phone 7 games, and they include a list of over 60 titles from Microsoft Game Studios and popular third party developers like Gameloft, THQ, and Namco Bandai.  Microsoft promises that new titles will be added to the collection on a weekly basis once the platform is officially up and running.  Of the limited number of games previewed, it was  Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst (from MGS) that really impressed.  The tower defense game will use Bing Maps to present a bunch of baddies marching down real streets in your neighborhood.  You can use pinch-to-zoom, screen rotation, and finger tracking to guide the game.  Gameloft will bring Splinter Cell: Conviction, Let’s Golf 2, Earthworm Jim, Assassin’s Creed, and The Oregon Trail; Glu Mobile is working on Guitar Hero 5; Konami’s got Frogger and Castlevania; and Microsoft Game Studios will lead the way with Halo: Waypoint and The Harvest.  The launch lineup is exciting to say the least.

A couple side notes concerning the games.  (1) The full multiplayer experience you’ve come to know and love on the console will not be playable on phones at launch.  Only turn-based multiplayer games like Uno will be available to play over the Internet with friends.  (2) Every game will have a try-before-you-buy demo.  If you download a demo and decide you want to purchase a game, you’re only one click away from unlocking the game’s license to play to your hearts content.  (3) All WP7 Xbox Live games have a 200 gamerscore.  And remember, if you unlock an achievement on the phone this will be reflected on your gamerscore on the phone and the console.

Fellow gamers, Xbox Live on a mobile phone is coming soon.  Friends, messaging, achievements, avatars, exciting first and third party games.  Microsoft has all the ingredients to make Windows Phone 7 not only a competing but dominant force in mobile gaming.  Execution is key here.  If Microsoft can really pull off the Xbox Live experience on their new mobile platform with heavy developer support, an evolution of the mobile gaming landscape is on its way.  Apple be afraid, very afraid.

Look after the break for the full PR, which includes the list of launch titles, and an intro video.

[Via Xbox; Engadget; Gizmodo] READ MORE Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7 detailed

Xbox LIVE Gold Family Pack is four Gold memberships for the price of two

 

In November, Microsoft will offer a new Xbox LIVE Gold Family Pack.  It’ll be priced at $99 and offer up to four individual Xbox LIVE Gold memberships.  That’s four memberships for the price of two!  What a steal!  In addition, the Xbox dashboard will feature a new menu called Family Center; it’s being described as “a single, easy to use, destination for Family Settings and account management, accessible on the Xbox dashboard and on Xbox.com.”  In addition to the primary account member having the ability to purchase and dispense Microsoft Points to other Xbox LIVE Gold Family Pack members, the new subscription pack brings “activity monitoring reports” to encourage balanced gaming habits, simplified billing, and “exclusive family content and discounts.”  Read all about it in the official PR that’s waiting right after the break.

[Via Engadget] READ MORE Xbox LIVE Gold Family Pack is four Gold memberships for the price of two

First-gen gamers losing Xbox Live will receive consolation prizes

You all knew it was coming: On April 15 access to Xbox Live on all original Xbox consoles and games will shut down.  That’s right, means no more Halo 2 online multiplayer.  Instead of just pulling the plug and sitting there idly, Microsoft has decided to reward all gamers who will lose their Live service.  They will get a free three month Xbox Live Gold membership card, 400 MS points, and an invite to the Halo: Reach beta.  Not too shabby if you ask me.  Those of you who stand by your original Xbox console and Live-enabled games listen here: Take the three month membership and the MS points and the beta invitation, buy yourself an Xbox 360 Arcade ($199), and bask in the world of next-gen gaming.  Halo: Reach will surely fill in the hole its extremely aged predecessor once ruled.

[Via Xbox]

Xbox Live for first gen consoles & games is shutting down

On April 15, 2010 access to Xbox Live on all original Xbox consoles and games will come to a grinding halt.  Microsoft is flipping the switch to the off position, so to speak, so if you own an original Xbox console and/or play Xbox Originals games on the 360 you will no longer be able to access Xbox Live features, ie. multiplayer and achievements.  Why is Microsoft doing this, you ask?  Xbox Live GM Marc Whitten: “…we need to make changes to the service that are incompatible with our original Xbox v1 games.”  In other words, original Xbox content is becoming stale and simply cannot forge its way into the new generation of gaming.  If you happen to be living in the past (or still can’t afford an Xbox 360, oh come on!) Microsoft has plans for you: “We will contact the Xbox LIVE members directly impacted by this change and if this includes you, I encourage you to check your LIVE messages and associated e-mail account over the coming weeks for more details and opportunities. We view you as a partner in this process.”  All you Halo 2 fanboys better get your multiplayer gaming on before it’s too late!  Soon you’ll be stuck with playing Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST; what a shame!

[Via Engadget; Microsoft Gamerscore Blog]