One day, the diehard gamer that still has their original Xbox Live account name from when they downloaded the broken Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic DLC onto their 2001 launch Xbox is going to wake up and ask, “When did my Xbox 360 turn into this weird cross between a PC and a cable box?” The answer: Slowly but surely since 2008.
Wednesday’s Xbox update brought with it a selection of non-gaming apps that further broadened the Xbox 360’s entertainment purview. Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb announced that News Corp. strengthened its ties with Microsoft via the WSJ Live app. WSJ Live is the Wall Street Journal equivalent of Fox News’ Fox Broadcast app that hit Xbox Live back in September, with “live and on-demand original programming from over 2,000 journalists.” It will have 4 hours of original programming per day and full access to the WSJ’ video archive.
Of less immediate interest to readers in the US is the addition of the Gol Stadium app to Xbox Live in Spain. It’s a streaming version of the Spanish television channel Gol Television, a subscription-based premium channel streaming soccer matches. While US fans still carrying a torch for Spanish soccer after its World Cup and Euro championships in 2010 and 2012 respectively might feel left out, take heart. This new partnership is just one more entry in Microsoft’s expanding line up of sporting network partnerships.
Neither Gol Stadium or WSJ Live are particularly noteworthy on their own. Microsoft has plenty of sporting network partnerships, like its one with Disney subsidiary ESPN and the MLB. It also has a longstanding relationship with News Corp. and has been increasing its news magazine content on Xbox Live for two years. Together, though, these apps highlight how Microsoft is subtly transforming its video game console business.
Companies like Google and Apple have struggled to get “web TV” products off the ground. Google TV and Apple TV set top boxes have sold, but they’ve never been a force in the market. Microsoft has taken a different tack in its bid for living room entertainment supremacy, starting with a popular gaming machine and then transforming it into an Internet television box.
Xbox Music, Xbox Video, non-gaming apps like WSJ Live—They’re all part of the tapestry of Microsoft’s future as a broad entertainment provider. It’s already developing more original television content on its own.
Xbox 360 isn’t a game console any more. It’s an Internet television set top box with an install base of 70 million consoles around the world.