Tag Archives | Xbox 360

Hulu Plus is Great on Xbox Live; With Kinect, Not So Much

Hulu Plus comes to Xbox Live on Friday, and Microsoft let me have an early look along with a Kinect loaner unit to check out voice and motion controls.

If you’re not familiar with Hulu Plus, it’s an $8 per month streaming movie service focused mainly on current television shows. The selection isn’t as broad as Hulu’s free website, but it’s the only way to get Hulu on set-top boxes, iPhones and iPads (without workarounds like PlayOn). It also lets you watch archived back seasons of many television shows, instead of just the most recent episodes.

The most striking thing about Hulu Plus on the Xbox 360 is how closely it resembles Netflix’s console app, and for that matter the entire Xbox 360 interface. Microsoft has imposed a nearly identical design, with a list of sections on the top left and tile-shaped movies and TV selections in a sliding horizontal strip down the middle. Even Hulu Plus’ search function works exactly the same way as Netflix, with a row of letters on top and a strip of results that narrows down as you type. Microsoft’s made some big strides in user interface lately, borrowing much of Windows Phone 7’s uniformity and design flourishes, and it shows here.

Kinect support, however, needs a lot of work.

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Bungie-Free, Microsoft May Regurgitate Halo 1

Halo’s been at a crossroads ever since Halo: Reach launched in September. With developer Bungie now locked in a 10-year, multi-console deal with Activision, Microsoft alone must decide what to do with its golden Xbox franchise.

But don’t expect anything rash in the near future. Over at Joystiq, Alexander Sliwinski’s sources say Microsoft will release a remake of the original game, Halo: Combat Evolved, in time for the holidays. Alexander has a solid record with Microsoft rumors — last year he broke the news that the Xbox 360 would support storage on USB sticks — and this report has a bunch of specifics.

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Slowly, Windows Phone 7 Games Start Talking to the Xbox 360

One of Windows Phone 7’s most tantalizing hooks is Xbox Live, an offshoot of Microsoft’s online video game service, but so far the interaction between mobile and console games has been limited.

Slowly, that’s starting to change. At a CES press event, Microsoft was showing off Full House Poker, an upcoming Texas Hold ‘Em game for Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7. Although the games differ on each platform, and you’ll have to buy each one separately, your performance in one game affects the other.

Microsoft has done some tie-ins before — Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst, for instance, unlocks an achievement in Crackdown 2 for Xbox 360 — but Full House Poker is the most closely linked game I’ve seen yet.

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With Red Dead Redemption, Xbox 360 Downloads Creep Up On Retail

When Microsoft launched Xbox 360 Games on Demand in August 2009, it had the air of a clothing store with nothing but last year’s inventory. All the game downloads were at least a year older than their retail counterparts, and some dated back to the console’s launch.

But slowly, the digital download service has crept up on retail, and the announcement of Red Dead Redemption for Games on Demand seems like a major milestone. The game is only seven months old, it’s on a lot of lists for game of the year, and it’s priced at $60 — same as retail. Continue Reading →


Your Next Pay TV Provider: Microsoft?

Reuters reports a rumor that Microsoft wants to offer a subscription television service, and has at least talked to media companies about the possibility.

Microsoft would act as a “virtual cable operator” and deliver content over the Xbox 360 or other devices for a monthly fee. But right now, it’s all early-stage scuttlebutt, as the service isn’t likely to arrive for 12 months, if at all, and no specific media companies are mentioned.

Microsoft already dabbles in Web TV on the Xbox 360, and is locked in battle with Sony to create the best array of options. The console has Netflix, ESPN3 and on demand video, and Hulu Plus is coming next year.

This sounds like something different. It seems like Microsoft wants to line up a lot of content providers to offer a bundled service similar to cable, but over its own set-top box via the Internet.

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Is Kinect for Xbox 360 Sold Out? Don’t Buy That

Sold out products make a company look good, so it’s no surprise that Microsoft is boasting about Kinect for Xbox 360’s supposedly limited availability.

In a press release announcing Kinect’s launch titles, Microsoft says pre-orders for the motion-sensing camera are “rapidly selling out.” Larry Hryb, director of programming for Xbox Live, wrote on his blog that “if you have not placed your order yet you may want to take care of that.”

I wouldn’t bother heeding his advice, at least if you live in the United States. Come November 4, I have a feeling you’ll be able to walk into a games retailer, see Kinect for yourself and make an informed decision on whether to buy. No need to rush.

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AT&T U-Verse Incoming for Xbox 360

After years of promises, it looks like the Xbox 360 will finally be able to act as a television set-top box for AT&T U-Verse subscribers, starting next month.

The news isn’t official, but Engadget got some leaked documents that spell out the deal. AT&T will release a U-Verse update on October 17, and will switch on the Xbox 360 compatibility on November 7. Just a couple gotchas: U-Verse subscribers will still need at least one AT&T set-top box or DVR in the home, and the Xbox 360 needs to have a hard drive.

The main benefit to using an Xbox 360 is cost savings. One of the documents says “No MRC for Xbox receiver,” which I think refers to monthly rental cost. Additional U-Verse receivers cost $7 per month, so subscribers could save $84 per year by using an Xbox 360 instead. Juggling fewer set-top boxes and remote controls is also a plus.

Microsoft first touted the Xbox 360’s IPTV capabilities in 2007, at the Consumer Electronics Show. Microsoft’s Mediaroom television software, which is used by more than two dozen television providers worldwide, can technically run on the Xbox 360, but until now, few providers have actually done it. In the United Kingdom, BT started supporting the Xbox 360 in 2008, but could not actually send live television to the console. In Canada, Telus switched on Xbox 360 support in August, becoming the first provider in North America to do so.

U-Verse’s arrival will be better late than never. But if the IPTV feature was available three years ago, Xbox 360s acting as second receivers would’ve almost paid for themselves by now.

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Xbox 360’s New Software: An Incomplete Review

Microsoft is making a yearly tradition of updating the Xbox 360, once again bringing new features to the console.

This time around, the main attractions are ESPN, Zune Pass (if you have a subscription) and a better version of Netflix. The Xbox 360 software also gets a minor face lift. Microsoft let me try the new Xbox 360 software before its public release, and while I can’t take full advantage of ESPN (more on that later), the other changes are still enough to solidify the Xbox 360’s standing as the best software experience on a game console — provided you’re willing to pay for Xbox Live.

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All of Kinect’s Gotchas in One Video From Microsoft

With almost a month to go until Microsoft launches Kinect for Xbox 360, the company released a video showing how to set up the motion sensing camera, and it’s a doozy.

The rundown is almost four minutes long (watch it at Kotaku) and runs through a list of ideal conditions you must achieve to get the best performance from Kinect. To wit:

  • The camera should be in line with the television, and as close to the top or bottom as possible.
  • You need at least 6 feet between you and the camera, preferably more, and three to four feet on each side.
  • You’ll want to clean up clutter on the floor, so Kinect can get a good reading of the room.
  • Try to have even lighting throughout the room, because dark spots can affect how the camera sees you.
  • Background noise confuses Kinect’s microphones, so you must keep the camera away from speakers and subwoofers, and don’t put it on the Xbox itself.

I’m definitely feeling disqualified after going through these requirements. The coffee table in my living room would definitely have to go, and even then, space is tight. And with no overhead lights (I have high ceilings and use a tall lamp), achieving even lighting could be a problem. At least my floor is tidy.

That said, I’m glad Microsoft released this video. Being honest ahead of time about what Kinect requires is far better than pretending the camera will work anywhere. (For what it’s worth, Sony says the Playstation Move performs fine in poor lighting, but it reportedly works best when you’re eight feet from the camera. The Wii’s instruction manual says to stay at least three feet away from the TV for safety’s sake.)


On Xbox 360, Super Meat Boy Finds Free Level Loophole

Free downloadable content has become somewhat of a rarity for console video games. The fees for getting extra levels and multiplayer maps approved by the console maker, and the need to cover increasingly high development costs with post-release content, means you just don’t get a lot of freebies anymore.

Team Meat, developers of the upcoming Super Meat Boy, have discovered a workaround, at least on the Xbox 360. The game — a two-dimensional throwback platformer, like Super Mario Bros. with twisted humor — will store new level data under “Title Managed Storage,” a section of Microsoft’s servers usually used for non-essential data like weather, sports game rosters and other settings. By storing level data instead, Team Meat can offer new Super Meat Boy levels at no extra charge, and at no cost to them.

To boot, what a quote from Super Meat Boy co-developer Tommy Refenes (asterisks mine): “In a world where it costs $2 to unlock content in a game that you’ve already purchased it is nice to have the power to totally say ‘f*** you’ to that system and go our own way.”

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