Netflix and Microsoft confirmed that the rental giant’s online video streaming service will be coming to Xbox Live, offering up something like 10,000 movies and TV shows. Netflix recently rolled out the instant movies service for a black box made by Roku.
You’ll have to be a Netflix subscriber and a paid-up subscriber to the Xbox LIVE Gold service, which is arguably worthwhile for gamers, anyway.
(Update 7/16: Sony also confirmed its PlayStation Network movie plans, offering PlayStation device owners to ability to move downloaded content between their PS3 and PSP.)
Microsoft, meanwhile, plastered a discontinued-item tag on its $350 Xbox 360 Pro, which now comes with a measley 20 GB of hard-drive space. The fire-sale price is $300. Replacing the Pro will be a 60 GB version, going for $350 as well. If your interest is in playing games off discs and not much more, that’s a decent $50 price break, especially since you get the HDMI output for HD TVs.There’s also the Arcade version at $280, but screw that waste of 256 megabites.
The economics of the Pro vs. Elite Xbox consoles remain basically the same, however.
If you want HDMI output and 5.1 digital audio, you have to get the Xbox HDMI accessory package, which has an OK 6-foot HDMI cable and an audio adapter. Microsoft, in character, designed the Pro console so you can’t fit a standard HDMI cable and the old Xbox 360 digital audio adapter. Unless you start cutting serious plastic. This is the rude surprise you’ll get unless the sales kid knows his stuff.
If you want the best picture and sound, that means $350 plus $50 or so for the Pro with HDMI and 5.1 digital audio.
The Elite, which has a 120 GB hard drive, includes the proper HDMI cable and audio adapter, so you’re looking at a $50 price difference for a lot more storage. People with an interest in storing games, music and downloading movies as keepers should make sure they understand that dynamic.
Does the HDMI and digital audio make all that much of a difference? The jury is out about the HDMI, but to me it looks better on, say, the new “Grand Theft Auto.” The audio, definitely, but some games are slack on the mixes. It’s like anything in video/audio — if you can afford to ensure you’re getting the best connection, do that. (Let’s skip the Monster debate today.)
The Xbox LIVE Marketplace Video Store has a well-stocked selection of films and TV shows, quite a few in high definition. The count is something like 6,000 hours of content.
If you’re buying, my advice is to suck it up and go with the Elite, the place to be if your interests include streaming and downloading video.
(Update 7/16: Sony is cutting the price of its 80GB PlayStation 3 by $100, to $400. The 40GB PS3 is hitting the showers.)
The Netflix deal, rumored and blogged since the beginning of the year, is exclusive in the games universe, at least for now. The service begins next month.
The new “Xbox experience” push toward interactivity and community, coming in the fall, allows viewers to watch, say, “Blade Runner” with their pals cross-country and comment back and forth, Microsoft says.
Here’s how the Netflix stream works, the companies said:
“From the Netflix Web site, members simply add movies and TV episodes to their individual instant Queues. Those choices will be automatically displayed on the TV screen via Xbox 360 and available to watch instantly. Once selected, movies will begin playing in as little as 30 seconds. In addition to instantly streaming movies to the TV, Xbox LIVE Gold members can fast-forward, pause and rewind, all using either their Xbox 360 Controller or Media Remote. In all, the user interface creates a highly personalized experience that puts viewers in control.”