Game consoles are no longer simply for video games, as evidenced by last week’s announcement that the PlayStation 3 is the top Netflix (NFLX) streaming device of the year. Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s (MSFT) chief marketing officer for its Interactive Entertainment Division, said this past March that Xbox 360 owners were spending more hours watching online entertainment than playing online games. And now, in a bid to bolster its efforts to conquer the living room, Microsoft Director of Programming for Xbox Live Larry “Major Nelson” Hyrb announced in a blog post that 43 new entertainment apps (mostly video) will launch between now and spring of 2013 in various regions. Ten new apps including ARTE, CinemaNow, CNET, Karaoke, Maxim, Napster, SkyDrive, SPORT1, VEVO and Zattoo will arrive this week. Microsoft’s full list of upcoming apps follows below.
Big-budget games such as Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II might brag about how they rule the Xbox 360 in terms of sales, but indie games can also compete – if they’re addictive enough and offer enough value. Take Minecraft, an indie game developed by Markus “Notch” Persson’s company Mojang. According to Mojang, Minecraft, an indie game originally made for PC and ported to the Xbox 360 seven months ago has sold 4,476,904 copies as of the end of November with 40,000 to 60,000 copies sold every week. Minecraft is an anomaly because it doesn’t boast high-definition graphics that ooze of detailed lighting effects and didn’t cost millions of dollars to make, and yet it is the third-most played game on Xbox LIVE. More →
With 40 million users on Xbox Live, Microsoft (MSFT) is reportedly preparing to create original video programming to be distributed on the Xbox 360, according to a report from The New York Times. The report states that Microsoft has hired ex-CBS TV executive Nancy Tellem to “oversee a Microsoft production studio based in Los Angeles that will create both traditional ‘linear’ programming and interactive programming that fuses video and gamelike content.” It’s not immediately clear what the latter would be like, but something along 1 vs. 100 comes to mind. It’s also possible “video and gamelike content” could be referring to the company’s upcoming SmartGlass initiative that will use tablets and smartphones as secondary screens alongside TV content. As it stands now, Xbox Live only delivers videos from standard content providers.
Microsoft has begun to roll out an update for its Xbox Live service that includes new on-demand content from Comcast, along with apps from HBO and MLB, GigaOM reported on Monday. The launch these services will give users the ability to search through a wide range of content directly from their game console. In October, Microsoft announced a number of new content partners that would deliver movies, television shows and other content to its popular Xbox 360 game console. The system had already received updates that included apps from Verizon, Epix, Vevo, Vudu and YouTube. The launch of HBO Go comes as little surprise. In February, the company’s co-president Eric Kessler told reporters that the Xbox HBO Go app would go live on April 1st, in time for the season premiere of “Game of Thrones.” Microsoft fans noted that the company always releases updates on Tuesdays, however, and it was unlikely for HBO to roll out an update the day of the premiere to avoid download complications. More →
A Microsoft spokesperson recently suggested that the Redmond-based firm is working to bring its Xbox Live games to other platforms. Microsoft’s Xbox Live titles are currently limited to the Xbox and the company’s Windows Phone mobile platform. “While the Xbox Live experiences and games always work best on the Windows platform, we understand that some Xbox fans may be using other types of devices,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Forbes. “To satisfy that need, we are working to extend a few of our Xbox experiences and titles to other platforms.” Microsoft didn’t come out and say specifically that it’s going to target Android and iOS, but it would make sense for Microsoft to target the two largest mobile platforms. More →
Microsoft may be preparing to discontinue its virtual currency system by the end of the year, according to Inside Mobile Apps. The software giant is reportedly looking to phase out Microsoft Points in favor of real money transactions. After the switch, customers with existing Microsoft Points balances will have them converted into their local currency. Microsoft is said to have already warned mobile developers to plan their upcoming downloadable content and in-app purchases in accordance with the change. The move isn’t all that surprising; Microsoft has been gradually introducing cash purchases for its full Xbox Live games instead of using the points system, which many have seen as confusing and unnecessary. Microsoft Points are currently used to purchase games and media content on Xbox Live, the Zune Marketplace and Windows Phone, however the system isn’t used universally, with certain features using real money transactions and others using points. Microsoft declined to comment on the story. More →
Microsoft recently unveiled an official Xbox LIVE application for iOS devices, including the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The application allows users to view and change Xbox avatars, send Xbox LIVE friends messages or compare achievements, learn about new games and more. Prior to Wednesday, Microsoft had only offered an official Xbox LIVE application to its Windows Phone users, so we’re a bit surprised (and pleased) to see the company spread the love to iOS. There’s no word if an Android application is in the works. Xbox LIVE for iPhone is available now in the iTunes App Store for free. More →
On Tuesday, Microsoft noted several of the Games Hub changes that will go into effect when Windows Phone Mango launches this fall. Mango’s Games Hub will include new “Avatar Awardables” which, much like on the Xbox 360, will allow you to dress your avatar up with a number of unique clothing items. The first title to support Avatar Awardables will be the game “Chickens Can’t Fly.” Games Hub will also feature new game add-ons. For example, in the game “Beards & Beaks,” users will be able to purchase additional in-game add-ons using Microsoft Points. Microsoft will also provide deeper parental controls and will offer a new “Fast Async” technology that will improve turn-by-turn and multiplayer games. Read on for a link to Microsoft’s official Windows Team Blog where the company has also listed the next 14 Xbox LIVE titles that will be available for Windows Phone devices. More →
Microsoft released its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday and noted that its revenue of $17.73 billion was greater than any other fourth quarter in the company’s history. The Redmond-based firm also reported $69.94 billion in revenue for the fiscal year — also a record — up 12% from 2010. The company’s Entertainment & Devices division was particularly successful, reporting 30% growth in revenue for the fiscal fourth quarter and 45% for the entire year thanks to Xbox Live, the Xbox 360 game console, and the Kinect controller. “Throughout fiscal 2011, we delivered to market a strong lineup of products and services which translated into double-digit revenue growth, and operating margin expansion,” said Peter Klein, chief financial officer at Microsoft. “Our platform and cloud investments position us for long-term growth.” Read on for Microsoft’s full press release. More →
Will Microsoft enter the portable gaming market to compete with Nintendo, Sony, and Apple? According to its chief operating officer, Dennis Durkin, not yet. In an interview with Industry Gamers, Durkin explained that the portable gaming market is too crowded right now and that there’s too much change happening. “I’m not sure I would want to be launching a dedicated portable device right now into that market,” Durkin said. “I think the DS – if you look at the 3DS, certainly versus people’s expectation’s it’s not been as successful as people would have thought. So that’s a very crowded market and a very, very red ocean right now with a lot of change happening. So I’m not sure it’s [a good idea] … You only have a certain number of bets you can make as a company and you have to decide what you want to put your wood behind and I’m just not sure that that’s a place that I would put mine.” Durkin said he sees strength in Microsoft’s Xbox 360 system and is excited about the future of the firm’s future plans for Kinect and Xbox Live. We also imagine Microsoft has its hands full right now with the company’s next-generation Xbox console, which is set to debut at E3 next year. More →
As Research In Motion continues on its quest to recapture consumers’ hearts, minds and wallets, the Canadian BlackBerry maker on Tuesday announced its acquisition of Scoreloop. California-based Scoreloop is a self-professed pioneer in mobile social gaming. According to a post on RIM’s Inside BlackBerry developer blog, the team at Scoreloop is “bringing their expertise in creating social and collaborative gaming toolkits for mobile developers to the BlackBerry platform.” Scoreloop had previously developed tools that supported cross-platform social gaming, and the company says it will continue to support cross-platform solutions following the its transition to RIM, though it will focus mainly on RIM’s QNX-based operating system. More →
During Microsoft’s keynote at the E3 2011 tradeshow in Los Angeles on Monday, Microsoft confirmed that it will launch a special edition of Halo, titled “Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary” edition on November 15th — the 10 year anniversary of the franchise’s launch. The game will offer the same seven amazingly addictive multiplayer maps like the original, but will also now include enhanced support for Xbox LIVE features and a “fully remastered” campaign mode with support for co-op play over Xbox LIVE. We’re here in Los Angeles for E3 2011 so hopefully we’ll be able to get some hands-on time soon.
Microsoft’s own Xbox Live homepage recently leaked some new details that we should be hearing about shortly at its annual E3 press conference in Los Angeles. According to the website, which appears to have been pulled, Microsoft will introduce Voice Search within a newly redesigned Xbox Live user interface and preview the ever-popular Halo francise’s new release, Halo 4. The website also mentioned a possible Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary edition and new titles such as Kinect Sports Season 2 and Dance Central 2. We won’t have long to wait — Microsoft’s press conference is set to kick off at 9:00 a.m. Pacific / 12:00 p.m. Eastern. More →