Alright Xbox 360 owners, with the launch of the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii around the corner, Microsoft is doing what they can to make the Xbox 360 look just a tad more impressive this holiday season. Tomorrow the Xbox team is releasing the second major dashboard upgrade since the release of the Xbox 360 last year, in the Fall System Update. Some of the more impressive additions are 1080p output for both movies and games, and the ability to stream video (WMV only, though) from any PC running Windows Media Player 11 or Windows Media Connect. Here is a list of all the new goods:
Expanded HD Display and Video Playback Options:
- With 1080p resolution, gamers now have the ability to enjoy both game and video content in the best HD resolution currently available.
- Expanded video playback options increase the ways gamers can enjoy video content on Xbox 360. It is now possible to stream WMV video from a Windows PC running Windows Media Player 11 or Windows Media Connect.
- Gamers can now play video files from data CDs and DVDs, as well as from storage devices like USB 2.0 flash drives and Xbox 360 Memory Units.
- Xbox 360 will support 50hz HDTV display modes, providing viewers greater choice in how they watch DVD and HD DVD content.
Xbox Live Arcade Enhancements:
- Keeping up to date on Xbox Live Arcade games is now even more convenient with the ability to automatically download newly released Xbox Live Arcade trial games. This eliminates the need to manually search for new downloads on Xbox Live Marketplace each time a new game trial is released.
- Fast enumeration of games: you’ll see the games in your Xbox Live Arcade collection appear almost instantly. Get in and play right away.
- With so many games to choose from, Xbox Live Arcade added new sorting options such as “Recently Played” and “By Category.” These enhancements make managing Xbox Live Arcade collections faster and easier than ever.
- A new expanded Friends Leaderboard within Xbox Live Arcade allows gamers to compare themselves directly against their friends and view leaderboard details of their top 10 friends.
- A new expanded Achievements View within Xbox Live Arcade lets gamers view their full Achievement details for their Xbox Live Arcade games including descriptions, icons, allotted Gamerscore and more, right from the Xbox Live Arcade dashboard interface.
- The “Play Now” launch feature has been streamlined. Selecting “Play Now” after downloading a game in Xbox Live Marketplace now bypasses Xbox Live Arcade and takes you directly to the game.
- Xbox Live Arcade now offers a “Tell a Friend” feature. Select this option from the game info screen to send any friend on your friends list a message telling them about the Xbox Live Arcade game.
- Amateur game designers will be able to test and play the games they create using XNA Game Studio Express on their Xbox 360 systems when it launches later this year (separate download and subscription required).
The release of Lumines Live on the Xbox Live Marketplace last week stirred up a storm of negative reaction regarding the content available in the game, the pricing, and the need for additional content packs for full enjoyment of the software. This disappointment was echoed by Playfeed’s own experiences with the game. 1up follows up on the controversy, and talks with Microsoft’s Greg Canessa, the group manager for Xbox Live Arcade, to try and sort through the issues with the title, Xbox Live Arcade, and microtransactions in general. The short version of the interview: Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketplace is a great service, and all the problems are the fault of game developers.
Canessa states that Microsoft issues guidance on the three pricing points for Xbox Live Arcade titles, whether that is 400, 800, or 1200 points. While Canessa didn’t want to specifically discuss EA’s penchant to charge from everything from tutorials to cheat codes, he did claim that providing microtransactions were all about providing choice; Canessa believes that charging for additional content means that gamers that don’t want the content will essentially be paying less for their software. While it is true that gamer’s no longer have to pay for content they don’t want, gamers are already paying a premium for Xbox 360 titles over their previous generation counterparts, and are now being forced to pay extra for content that was formerly free.
Regarding Lumines Live, Canessa basically throws Q Entertainment under the bus. At first he claims that there is nothing wrong with the presentation of Lumines Live on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Then, when confronted with the messaging in the game, he claims this is solely the responsibility of Q Entertainment. Microsoft at this point claims to only be the platform provider, and holds no other responsibility.
As gatekeepers for the platform, the company needs to own up to the user experience that they and their partners provide. Microsoft’s approval process for boxed games at retail already seems to be broken, given the number of basic issues that have required patches to the consumer. Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade should be even more controlled, but apparently is not. From poor user experiences with Xbox Live gameplay in titles to the latest Lumines debacle, Microsoft needs to step up and act as an advocate for the gamer.
Read More | 1up
Sega’s beta program for Phantasy Star Universe on the Xbox 360 was initially supposed to end yesterday, October 18th. However, with Sega’s delays in getting the beta into the waiting public, and then the scheduled maintenance for Xbox Live running longer than intended, the beta has been extended through October 21st. While the download is no longer available, gamers that have the beta will be able to play until the end of the week.
Read More | PSO World
Microsoft today announced that Lumines Live will hit the Xbox Live Marketplace on Wednesday, October 18th when the service becomes available after the scheduled maintenance. The game will be made available in two parts; the main Lumines Live game will sell for 1200 Microsoft Points ($15) and an “Advanced Pack” with 22 additional skins for 600 Microsoft Points ($7.50). If gamers pony up for the full Lumines package, this would be one of the most expensive Xbox Live Arcade games available to date. Microsoft does not sell a Marketplace Points card that has enough points to buy the complete game; the largest denomination that Microsoft makes available in stores is 1600 points. $22.50 is also more money than the PSP version of the game, which sells for $19.99. Of course, the Xbox 360 version offers features like online multiplayer over Xbox Live and a Skin Edit mode in the basic version; this package may be enough for the casual user as long as the title isn’t nagware.
Update: The “Advanced Pack” is not available right now, and will show up at a later date. Presumably so that gamers don’t look like dorks when they have to buy two 1600 points cards to pay for the game.
The full press release continues below.
The networking features of the Xbox 360 apparently helped police track down a stolen Xbox 360, according to a news report from KCCI in Des Moines, Iowa. The victim, James Gardner, had his Xbox 360 stolen; fortunately, he had an Xbox Live subscription. Eventually, the Xbox 360 was connected to the Internet and police were able to track the IP address for the user. From there, they traced the system back to the store where it was purchased; the store had an address for the person that traded in the system, and that address was apparently accurate. This let the police track down the alleged thief and recover Gardner’s Xbox 360. West Des Moines police are currently pursuing charges.
Read More | KCCI
One of Sony’s goals for the Playstation 3 is to manage online gaming with a unified service on par with Microsoft’s Xbox Live offering. Few details have emerged for the service, other than Sony’s desire to make their online matching component free. 1up has started investigating Sony’s online service, and has uncovered a few interesting details, and they believe that when online gaming comes to the Playstation 3, it will be based around the Xfire gaming service.
First, Viacom announced that a deal has been signed between Sony and Xfire, for a version of the platform for the PS3. According to 1up, neither company has denied the statement. If true, this is basically the smoking gun that would point to this partnership. Further, according to 1up’s report, Sony’s launch title, Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom is now appearing in the PC client’s configuration files. Looking at the capabilities of the Xfire service on the PC, it appears that much of the functionality of Xbox Live is matched by Xfire’s offering, and would make a good launch point for the service. In addition, this could theoretically open the door for PC and Playstation 3 online gaming. Certainly, with the details available, it seems that some form of the Xfire service will be hitting the Playstation 3, but how the service will integrate with Sony’s overall offerings is still unclear.
Update: GameDaily talked with David Karraker at SCEA, and he clarified that the deal was currently limited to Sony Online Entertainment, and not the Playstation 3 platform as a whole.
Read More | 1up
European Gamers will get a free week of Xbox Live Gold action from September 20th through the 29th. Similar to the promotion that US gamers got earlier this summer, Xbox 360 owners in Europe with a broadband connection will be able to experience Gold membership status, thanks to a sponsorship from Windows Live Spaces. Like the previous US free week, Microsoft plans on hosting several special events for gamers signed into Live during the nine days of the offering, including contests, newcomer nights, and the opportunity to face off against special guests.
Read More | Xbox.com
Microsoft today reported that their Xbox Live Marketplace service has served over 50 million downloads to consumers since Marketplace launched. In three months since Microsoft last reported download statistics, the number of total files downloaded has doubled. In addition, according to reports on Gamasutra, Xbox Live users have logged 2 billion hours online since the original Xbox Live service launched on the Xbox. Microsoft’s recent Texas Hold ‘Em offering also averaged 100 downloads per minute during the first 24 hours of its initial free period. 65% of Xbox 360 users have downloaded Xbox Live Arcade titles, and over 2 billion Marketplace points have been purchased; this translates to roughly $25 million US spent on the service. Microsoft did not clarify how many of these downloads were re-purchases of content when a gamer’s Xbox 360 died and had to be replaced.
Read More | Gamasutra
Daryl Welsh from the Xbox development team today released a list of the updated and new games in the latest backwards compatibility update for the Xbox 360. The update should be available on Xbox Live now, and updates 39 games. According to Welsh, this is the largest update to the backwards compatibility list to date. Those gamers desperate to play Aquaman: Battle of Atlantis on their Xbox 360 can finally make that dream come true. It’s also nice to see Kabuki Warrior get an update. Other game titles that people might actually want to play that are new to the list include: Dead to Rights, Fatal Frame 2, Burnout 3: Takedown, and Links 2004.
The full list continues after the jump.
Read More | Xbox Team Blog
It looks like the saga of downloadable content on Xbox Live will continue with the release of Lumines Live on the system. Gaming Bits reports on a couple of irksome tidbits mentioned in a review of the game in OXM, the Official Xbox Magazine. According to the review, gamers that advance far enough in either Mission Mode or VS CPU mode will see messaging telling the gamer to buy additional content to continue. The review states that the new “Puzzle/Mission Pack” will cost gamers an additional 400 Marketplace points, and the “VS CPU Pack” will run 300 points. This cost comes in addition to the 1200 Marketplace points that consumers will already have paid out for what they thought was the “full” game. Now, additional levels and paid content for games has been a staple of the Xbox Live Marketplace for a long time now, but this is the first instance where gameplay in the unlocked game is interrupted to shill for additional content. Normally, add-ons wouldn’t be a problem, but this implementation seems horribly poor and would be a slap in the face to the gamer that just dropped $15 for the game download.
Read More | Gaming Bits
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