How the Xbox 360 Can Reinvented Itself
The entertainment industry is shifting. Video games dominate all forms of media as an estimated 46 billion dollar industry. Your local video chain likely carries as many video games as it does DVDs. Blueray has beaten HD-DVD as the new media for watching movies at home, but it has the potential to be squashed by digital downloads. Not watching movies on your computer, but rather watching them on a box that is already hooked up to your entertainment system: your gaming console.
Netflix has existed for several years as a DVD-by-snail-mail service. This year they released the Roku box in the US that lets you subscribe to your Netflix service as digital downloads rather than DVDs. 10,000s of movies for $9 a month plus the cost of a $100 box.
I’ve been using my Xbox 360 with a media server for watching movies and TV shows for a few months now and it is so much more convient than having to deal with DVDs. On Monday Microsoft announced that they’d be partnering with Netflix for the Xbox 360. This is huge because Netflix is already a proven movie subscription model that works, and now they’re working with a gaming console that millions of people already own instead of yet another standalone box.
It sounds like the update next fall will fix quite a few other issues that have been bugging me as an Xbox 360 owner. Some of the planned updates:
Netflix subscribers who are also Xbox Live Gold subscribers can stream movies from their Netflix queue for free. Unfortunately Netflix still isn’t available to Canadians.
Trying to navigate through your Xbox Live arcade games / demos is painful. It can take up to a minute for games to load. Navigating your music library is equally as painful. They should cache the data to the local hard drive.
Xbox Marketplace on the Web
Trying to find something on the Xbox Marketplace is next to impossible. A web interface would be much simpler and would allow for easy searching.
Rip to Hard Drive
Games can be copied to hard drive to play faster (and quieter).
I’m hoping this will let you set up the equivalent to a “chat channel” amongst your friends. One of my biggest pet peeves with using the 360 for voice communication is that I can’t set up a private group of just my friends when playing a multiplayer game unless that game itself supports that.
I don’t want to talk with people I don’t know online.
What I’d Like To See
There are some big improvements, but there’s still room for more. Here are a few things I’d like to see for my 360 to earn it’s spot in my TV room.
The current Xbox 360 interface already offers a few advertisement locations. These are horribly used. Microsoft knows my play history for all of my games. They should be data mining that information and targetting advertisement for games I’m likely to want to play based on the games I usually play.
They don’t even do a good job of highlighting that there’s downloadable content available for the games I am currently playing.
I’m absolutely flabbergasted that we can’t zoom into pictures on the 360. It seems like it would be a very trivial application to support. Zooming would offer up some interesting 3rd party hacks like reading web comics / downloaded CBZ/CBR files as image files or converting e-books to images.
There has already been a homebrew Nintendo DS web surfer program that works by converting web pages to images on the DS.
There’s no reason why the Xbox 360 can support more video codecs. I’d really like to be able to play anything I download on the 360 without having to re-convert it.
Video Meta Data
We need something like ID3 tags for video files. I’d love to be able to tag my digitized video collection with director, main actors, and Rotten Tomatoes scores as well as being able to navigate by cover art like I can with my music collection.
The Xbox 360 already has a homegrew gaming development community, but they’ve starved it by charging a yearly fee to access it. I got to play some of the games when they had a free trial offer a few months ago, and while there were some gems there was nothing to compell me to pay the fee.
This is a huge shortsightedness, by making the games freely available to Xbox 360 gold members they would be giving hobby developers a huge reason to develop games on the play form. Sure, charge developers to have their games listed as that will weed out the utter crap, but at least let them have an audience.
There’s no reason why the Xbox 360 couldn’t be used as a web browser. There’s even a neat little keyboard attachment you can buy that fits in with the controller. I’d be pretty happy if I could pause a game, check my email, and write a quick response.
I’m surprised Opera hasn’t teamed up with the 360 team to develop a pay browser like they did with the Nintendo DS.