The next update to the Xbox Live network will be coming Tuesday, November 17 according to Live’s General Manager, Marc Whitten (left). The new features are contributing to “turning Xbox and Live into this rich media portal that continuously surfaces the most engaging things to do in the living room.” he said.
As previously revealed, this update brings social networking to the Xbox 360 with Twitter and Facebook support–in an interface that has been tailored for the console. Whitten said, “We look at things like Facebook and Twitter as amazing social experiences, but also entertainment. We didn’t want to copy and paste from the PC.”
Craig Davison, Director of Global Marketing for Xbox, pointed to Facebook as an important new feature, “People are going to gravitate to looking at photos on the TV.” Though over 300 million friend connections have happened on Live, that may just be the beginning–users will be able to convert Facebook friends to Xbox Live contacts. Whitten said, “It’s going to be great for current users, but it’s also great for new users who can see who is on Facebook and get their first 30 friends on Live.”
With the PS3 finally getting Netflix, Microsoft has stepped up its game with additional media. The Last.fm music streaming service has been added to Live and the service’s old video marketplace had been upgrade to a Zune marketplace with 1080p HD content that instantly streams. “If it takes longer to download a film, than to leave my house, rent a film, and watch it, then the promise of digital isn’t there,” Whitten said.
Each year there are new upgrades to the service, growing it from basic multi-player gaming to a media destination. Whitten said, “We run the business as three- and five-year plans mapped out, but we are constantly taking a look at what our users are doing or what is in the world to make it a more compelling experience.” And with each upgrade the service hits new milestones. Since the launch of the Avatars in last year’s update, members have switched their Avatar’s clothes nearly 150 million times, for more than 10 million hours in the Avatar editor. With the launch of 1 vs 100 this year, the live game show has had half a million contestants compete each week.
All in all, Xbox Live now has over 20 million active members, with 114% growth in the number of new members joining in 2009. Live users have made more than one billion downloads. “It’s about how we continue to push the definition of what living room entertainment is about,” Whitten said.