Microsoft has rolled out an update to its Xbox Live online service that integrates the gaming platform with widely-use social networking platforms, and rolls in more music and video options to expand the appeal of the service beyond merely logging in and fragging enemies. Beginning today, Xbox 360 owners with Xbox Live memberships can tap into social networking service Facebook, microblogging service Twitter, plus tap into music from Last.fm and instant-on HD videos from Zune.
“We’re delivering some truly exciting social entertainment experiences to our members,” said Xbox Live general manager Marc Whitten, in a statement. “Xbox Live’s differentiator has always been our community. It’s the community that drives us forward and allows us to pioneer new ways of connecting people through the entertainment they love.”
Xbox Live’s Facebook capabilities will enable users ot automatically generate status updates about what games, movies, or other entertainment they’re pumping through their Xbox, plus other common Facebook actions like viewing their Facebook stream, viewing online photo albums, scanning status updates, and matching up Facebook and Xbox Live friends list. Xbox Live’s Twitter integration enables users to view profiles and conversations, post and reply to tweets, and and follow Twitter trends.
The Last.fm integration enables users to create personalized radio stations by indicating whether they like or dislike music tracks; the service keeps an eye on users’ likes and dislikes and creates a custom music stream matching those preferences. Microsoft has also created some predefined “Gamer Stations” for U.S. and UK users. Finally, the new Zune video option offers instant-on HD video at 1080p resolution with 5.1 surround sound audio—and users can share the content with real time voice chat and onscreen avatar integration for Xbox Live “movie nights.” Of course, the “instant-on” functionality relies upon users having enough Internet bandwidth to their Xbox 360 to make the service viable.
The new capabilities are available to Xbox Live Gold members—although Xbox Live Silver member can use the new services for free from November 20 to until November 23, just to see what they might be missing. Xbox Live Gold memberships start at $50 per year, which works out to a little over $4 per month; other pricing plans include $7.99 for one month and $19.99 for three months.
Integrating popular social networking services gives the already-successful Xbox Live service another edge on its competitors…however, don’t expect Sony to rest on its laurels: all indications are that rudimentary Facebook support is coming to the PlayStation 3 any day now.