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.
Last week Microsoft began rolling out a dashboard update for Xbox 360. In addition to Internet Explorer and Xbox Music, the update also prepped the console for Xbox SmartGlass. Unveiled at this year’s E3 press conference, SmartGlass enables users to interact with their Xboxes via smartphones and tablets. The most basic feature of SmartGlass allows you to control the Xbox dashboard, media playback, and the browser using your mobile wireless devices. The technology’s real potential lies in its second screen experiences. For example, after queuing up a movie on your tablet, you can resume its playback on your HDTV. When the movie is playing on your TV, your tablet will provide related content including the actors starring in the film and this gives you the opportunity to discover other movies they are in. In addition to providing related content for movies and TV shows, a second screen experience can also keep you up to date on the latest sports stats, player bios, and breaking news in real-time while you’re watching ESPN, NBA GameTime, or UFC through your Xbox. Beyond entertainment, developers will start to integrate SmartGlass into their games. For example, in Harmonix’s Dance Central 3 you can queue up the next track on your phone or tablet while a current song is being played. Expect the selection of second screen experiences to grow as time goes on.
Currently the Xbox SmartGlass mobile app is only available for Windows 8 and its coming to Windows Phone 8 after that launches next week. Microsoft promises to release the app (it will update the existing “My Xbox Live” app) for iOS and Android users in the coming weeks. Jump after the break to watch a walkthrough.
Update: Xbox SmartGlass for Android is now available in the Google Play store. Have at it!
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.
Xbox’s Major Nelson announced that Xbox.com will be undergoing a “massive facelift” tomorrow evening. Besides the UI overhaul, the redesign promises to include support avatar customization and Windows Phone 7 games support. Straight from the source:
- Browser based Avatar editor: Edit your avatar and preview avatar items before purchase
- Combined views for messages, friend and game requests
- Improved notification of your account subscription
- Leverage Family Reports to understand what your family is doing and how they are using LIVE
- Play web games with your Xbox LIVE friends on the web or on Windows Phone 7
- Marketplace: More powerful search and more intuitive ways to browse and filter
The website will be down for maintenance tomorrow, October 20 at 5PM ET and when it comes back you can expect to explore all these exciting new features. For now, look in the gallery below for a sneek peek.
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.
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.
College Humor finds out what it would be like if Xbox achievements were implemented in real life. In a war zone location straight out of Call of Duty, going for “The Trifecta” would likely result in…well, just watch.
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.
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!
Need I say more?
This is the anticipated update that will include Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm, and Zune Video Marketplace integration. No release date has been issued yet.
For a more detailed look into the hands-on, check out Joystiq’s in-depth coverage.
Though the Xbox 360 Elite recently saw a dramatic price drop (from $399 to $299), it seems like Microsoft was not fully content with this sweet spot. Starting today, the Xbox 360 Elite console will be sold for $299 with a $50 mail-in rebate. So that’s $249 for the best next-gen console on the market; what a deal! This mail-in rebate offer runs through October 5; Microsoft has not specified what will happen to the standard price of the console after that date. Looks like Christmas may be coming early for some folks; get on this!
Microsoft is ready to go head-to-head with their arch-rival Sony in the video games business. The Xbox 360 Elite console will match the PS3 Slim costing $299.99 (from $399.99) this Friday. The Xbox 360 Pro console (now $249.99) will phase out after inventory gets flushed, making the Elite and Arcade ($199.99) the only Xbox 360 SKUs on the market. In somewhat related news, Microsoft has stated that the upcoming Project Natal accessory “will work with every Xbox 360 sold today and tomorrow.” Neat-0.
It’s official–Netflix’s streaming capabilities will only live and breath on Xbox 360’s. Microsoft struck a very smart deal with Netflix (and squashed previous rumors) when they announced that their Xbox gaming system will be the sole game console provider to allow Netflix streaming with the Netflix Watch Instantly feature. This is big news on the streaming movies/TV shows front. If people are looking to stream Netflix contentto their TVs, they only have one option when it comes to buying a game console. Another point for Xbox, cha-ching! See the full press release after the break.
A bundle of details have emerged concerning the new Xbox Dashboard update.
(1) The first ‘Games on Demand’ game titles have been revealed
The initial 24 games to be made available for download over the Internet via Xbox Live have been announced today. Some include: Assasin’s Creed, Bioshock, Mass Effect, Call of Duty 2, Fight Night Round 3, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Look after the break for the entire list of games and a quick video glipse of the ‘Games on Demand’ dashboard in action.
(2) The Netflix update is…disappointing
It was previously announced that the Netflix update will allow Xbox Live Gold members and Netflix subscribers to edit their personal Netflix queues right on the Xbox, without the need for a PC. While that is nice and dandy, Microsoft has lowered the notch of functionality. Users are restricted to browsing only the Top 50 videos for each video category, so there is no searching by title and no browsing alphabetically. Microsoft’s Ben Smith, Director of Program Management for Xbox Live, on the matter: “I think when people come to Xbox they’re not really looking so much for functional, they really want to have fun, they want to be wowed.” Uhh..I don’t think so. People want to be able to browse the ENTIRE Netflix database, with capable search features built-in. It is worthy to mention that Microsoft says it will listen to their user-base, and if the people call for a true Netflix experience on their Xbox, they will provide it in a future update. *Cue a sigh of relief.
Look out for the new Xbox Dashboard update coming next Tuesday, August 11th.
The Halo universe is about to be expaned in two major ways, first by way of Halo Legends. Microsoft has teamed up with a bunch of renowned anime studios to create a collection of original short films that will bring the exciting story of Master Chief and the discovery of the mysterious Halo rings to life on the small screen. The short anime-style films will be produced by Microsoft’s 343 Industries and creative direction will come from anime pioneer Shinji Aramaki. Aramaki: “Halo and its characters are a very natural fit for anime.” If you are at all interested in the back story of the world of Halo and its characters, this will be a must see. All seven short films will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2010. However, a preview of select episodes debut on Xbox Live this fall.
Also announced is Halo Waypoint, a one-stop destination for all things Halo on Xbox Live. According to Microsoft, “It will inform fans of the latest Halo news and activities, and grant access to content ranging from podcasts, trailers and screenshots, to exclusive video footage you won’t find anywhere else. It also will provide a new challenge for Halo gamers with a career system and player rankings tied to both in-game and out-of-game accomplishments related to Halo.” Look out for this new portal on Xbox Live this fall. Halo fans, rejoice!
Microsoft has announced a slew of exciting updates coming to the Xbox 360 (granted you are connected to Xbox Live). Some of the new features include: Netflix updates, including movie parties (a Netflix Gold member can invite up to seven friends (represented by their avatars) to watch a movie in a virtual theatre); managing your queue (Netflix members can now browse the entire Netflix Instant Stream queue from their console, no PC required); avatar marketplace (there will be a store where clothes and props can be purchased for your personal and customizable avatar); games on demand (full Xbox 360 games can now be purchased right on the console, along with their game manuals (no need to purchase a physical game in a store), and it’s yours to keep (the games are attached to your Xbox Live account, so you can move games from different consoles or delete them if you so choose); and more! Check after the break to see the entire breakdown of updates, and see below for screenshots of the new menus. These updates will only be available as a preview release at first. All updates should be released later in the summer (think late August). Also, keep in mind that these updates DO NOT include the recently announced Facebook and Twitter integration, Zune video store, 1080p Instant On, and Last.fm updates; these will be released at a later date (probably Fall 2009).
Update: The Xbox Live Dashboard update will be available to download on August 11th.