Xbox Live: Great for gamers, but unnecessary for everyone else

xbox liveFor the gamers out there, the thought of one of their most beloved gaming systems being unnecessary (gasp) is a virtual slap in the face. It’s easily accessible, relatively inexpensive, and opens our TVs up to the world of the internet.

But when not playing video games, how much does Xbox Live’s capabilities really have to offer us? Despite the constant access to play your friends at weapon-toting games or “party” watch movies – that’s when you and others watch the same movie at the same time, despite being in different locations – it’s a program that’s surprisingly limited.

Sure there’s ESPN channels, including live event streaming (not to mention watching the same game the next day without the need of a DVR), but that’s only if your internet provider also subscribes. So, despite the fact that you’re paid up, if say, Joe’s Internet Shop or Sally’s Cable Access isn’t, you don’t get any ESPN benefits … at all. It’s likely that larger companies will offer the program, but there are no guarantees, and nothing contractually obligating each provider to maintain Xbox Live access. For many, it’s luck of the draw.

Xbox Programs Plus

Next, look at other programs that are offered, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, or movie rental – all require a paid or per-use membership. Sure that $50/year fee may not have sounded bad at first, but that’s on top of any additional subscriptions; Xbox live only allows you to access these outside programs, not to use their services.

Now back to video games. For avid gamers, it’s likely a worthy service. But for the rest of the population, we may just be better off using an internet capable DVD player, or a one-time payment box that doesn’t require additional fees. While I can’t speak for the gaming community (there’s obviously something there; the program continues to thrive year after year, despite the same consul being in production for nearly eight years), I can speak for the non-gaming community, and we say we want more – or rather, less. No more double subscribing to ESPN to get the same service everyone is paying for. No more gouged fees. And no more constant updates during the middle of shows; it’s just another unnecessary interruption.

But until a better option exists, one where gamers and non-players alike can intermingle and benefit from the same programs, it’s likely the service will continue to stay in place.

It’s Official: Television comes to Xbox

A new panel on Xbox Live Spotlight confirms rumors of a cable-esque service for Xbox Live. According to the video “nearly 40” providers are being added including. HBO Go, SyFy, Bravo, Comcast, and Verizon FiOS and more this holiday. When exactly is this holiday? Let’s hope they’re talking Halloween, but I’m going to go ahead and guess they’re talking about the more significant winter ones.

What’s also exciting is the utilization of the Kinect and voice-activated Bing search to browse through content. Examples on the video include searches such as “Xbox Bing, Fast and the Furious” and “Play.”

Check out the trailer below.

Xbox Live to get Cable-Esque Service?

You may soon be able to watch cable television on Microsoft’s Xbox Live gaming service. Microsoft is rumored to be joining Comcast and Verizon to provide a cable-esque service on Xbox Live. No details are out as of yet, so allow me to speculate and dream like a wee lad looking at the wrapped boxes under a pine tree in December.

A cable service on Xbox Live would be incredibly convenient to people who hate having 16 set-top boxes and remotes hanging out all over the living room. It also would allow you to have cable television service without a physical cable line. At this very minute I’m watching non-cable TV only because the TV I have does not fit well on the wall where the cable outlet is. I don’t want to run cords all over the place, so cable isn’t hooked up. I do however, have an Xbox with a wireless adapter – that means I could watch ESPN3 on my TV through my Xbox. This could prove to be incredibly convenient, and would make having to route cable through walls and ceilings a thing of the past.

Something else I would love to see would be a little more customization on what you can choose to watch/pay for. I would love to be able to pay for a few different groups of channels. If I could grab just some ESPN channels and a few premium channels (I’m hoping those come to Xbox as well), I would be set. I have always wanted to be able to just watch HBO or Showtime without purchasing a full cable subscription.

Overall, Microsoft’s decision to join Comcast in the cable biz was a pretty smart one. Gaming consoles have become significantly more that just video-game-playing machines. I would say I use my Xbox for non-game uses more frequently than for playing games. Allowing the ability to watch cable television will only add to the uses of the console. All of a sudden it might not be such a waste to own more than one Xbox! The new feature could definitely help sell some more consoles for Microsoft as well as keep them relevant after a new console comes out in the future.