Tag Archives: Xbox 360

Subsidized Xbox Bundle vs. Outright Purchase, The Math

Earlier today news broke that Microsoft is planning to come up with a subsidized model for the Xbox 360. If Tom Warren reporting for The Verge is right, you will be able to pick up a 4GB Xbox 360 and Kinect just for priced it at $99 in a 2 year contract. A genius strategy since It’s the price of a Roku box and of an Apple TV.

The Xbox 360 is the leading gaming console in the market. It has been consistently selling more units than Sony’s PlayStation 3. There is no reason for anyone to buy an Apple TV. The device from Apple has failed miserably for the company despite being in the business for a while. Xbox 360 on the other hand has lined up several services including a deal with Comcast. Here’s what Microsoft’s plans are:

  • $99 Xbox 360 & Kinect
  • 2 year contract for $15 a month
  • Xbox LIVE Gold subscription & some other services included in the $15

It is the last part that will turn out to be the factor why this deal will be worth it and why this model will succeed. However here’s some Math:

The subsidized Xbox 360 bundle: 99+(15*24)=$450

Standalone: 199+149+(59*2)=$466 (Xbox 360, Kinect, Xbox LIVE Gold for 2 years)

4GB Xbox 360 & Kinect bundle: 300+(59*2)=$418

On Amazon: 280+(49*2)=$378 (bundle for $280 & Xbox LIVE Gold 1 year subscription for $48)

So the Math says buying the bundle with Xbox LIVE subscription on Amazon you get a better value. However, as @karelj and @theromit point out, the subsidized model with a small monthly payment will attract a lot of people, the $99 upfront cost will be very enticing to many. A while back I suggested that Microsoft’s motto of a desktop on every desk has now evolved into an Xbox in every living room. At $99, it’ll happen.

Microsoft Might Launch A Subsidized $99 Xbox 360 + Kinect + LIVE Gold Bundle

According to The Verge, Microsoft will be offering a subsidized Xbox bundle that includes a $99 4GB Xbox, an Xbox LIVE Gold subscription, and a Kinect sensor, on top of additional streaming content from cable providers. Users will be able to purchase this entire bundle at the low cost of $15 a month, for two years. This is actually a pretty smart move; it’s clear that Microsoft wants to give itself an edge against the PS3 and Apple TV as an entertainment device in the living room, and a payment plan like this makes it a more affordable option for many.

As you can see, it’s definitely an interesting deal, and the difference in cost between buying at a subsidized price vs. buying outright at a local store is only slightly less or more  (a total of around $420 for the duration of the two years.) So, you do not need to get ointment for your rear; Microsoft is not screwing you with this offer.

Now of course, this also doesn’t take into account price drops that may occur as we inch closer towards the release date of the next Xbox, but it’s still a pretty good deal. Those who take advantage of it will also be covered under a two-year warranty as well.

Microsoft Seeking Skype For Xbox Software Engineer

Ever since Microsoft acquired Skype last year, there has been speculation that the company was going to bring Skype to the Xbox. And a new job posting on Microsoft Careers that Enconnected spotted pretty much confirms that this is the case. The listing is seeking a Software Engineer to join a dedicated Skype Xbox Engineering team in London, particularly one who has a great startup mentality:

Skype is seeking a motivated Software Engineer with an unrelenting drive for working on and solving customer-based issues. As a member of the Skype Xbox Engineering Team in London, you will have a strong technical background developing client and/or embedded software. Success in this role will likely be driven by your technical understanding, passion for shipping product, a user focus and an Agile approach to software development. The ideal candidate loves software and has a passion for writing code that addresses real customer issues and needs.

We didn’t exactly need confirmation that Skype was headed to the Xbox; ever since the acquisition, it was kind of a given that Microsoft would try to bring Skype to all of its products for the most part. Microsoft has already brought Skype to the Windows Phone in the form of a beta, but it could use quite a fair bit of work. For example, you cannot leave a call running in the background while performing actions on the device.

Xbox Continues Sales Reign Despite Fledging Console Sales

Even though video game hardware sales figures have been diminishing quite considerably as of late– sales of video game hardware hit $323.5 million this month, a staggering 35% drop from March 2011 — the Xbox is continuing to maintain the top console sales spot for a 15th consecutive month. Last month, 371,000 Xboxes were sold, making the console account for 42% of console sales. Spending on Xbox hardware AND software also hot $430 million, which is greater than both PS3 and Wii sales put together.

“Hardware really slowed down this month and all systems saw a unit sales decline versus last March, and on an average sales per week basis, versus February 2012,” NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in a statement. “That said, the high definition console systems fared better than many other hardware platforms.”

It’s interesting how gaming sales are slowing down; are the casual gamers out there — the bulk of the population — getting their gaming fix from a new breed of device? Are mobile phones and tablets beginning to take a bite out of the console pie? While I still don’t think that gaming on iOS and Android has evolved to a point where it can serve as a replacement for console gaming just yet, it is nevertheless an interesting thing to keep an eye on.

 

Epic Cancels Gears of War: Exile

Epic Games has cancelled Gears of War: Exile, Epic’s rumoured upcoming game for the Xbox 360. Speaking to Gamespot, Epic Games Design Director Cliff Bleszinski mentioned that the studio has ceased working on the game.

Quoting Cliff

Let’s just bury the hatchet now. Gears of War: Exile was an unannounced game that I can’t give any details about that has since been cancelled.

Gears of War:Exile was rumoured to be unveiled at E3 2011, with Epic Games having even gone to the extent of trademarking “Gears of War: Exile”. However, since then, very little has been known about the game, apart from rumours of it being a Kinect-supported rails shooter.

Cliff’s statement indicates a certain amount of frustration about it being canned, and we can only wonder what was the real reason for it being shelved.

[Video] A Look Inside Microsoft’s Mustang

Back in September 2011 at Microsoft’s BUILD conference, Ryan Friedlinghaus of West Coast Customs joined Microsoft’s Jeff Sandquist to talk about a collaboration. Not a lot was said and many had forgotten about it till a few days ago. The secret project Microsoft and West Coast Customs were working on was packing Microsoft’s consumer products into a Ford Mustang.

The car was called Project Detroit and has 10 functions working on Microsoft technologies:

  • Windows Phone locate, unlock and start the car with an app on the phone. Also, watch live streams from the Kinect cameras fitted in the car to view the surroundings
  • Xbox 360 for gaming using the rear wind shield as a screen
  • Kinect to see what’s happening around
  • Windows 8 tablets to be used as a tablet and another to offer customized HUDs
  • Customizable car horns
  • Windows Azure to store real-time telemetry data such as speed

On the MSDN page, Microsoft has an interactive image to explain what’s inside the car. The information so far did not show us a lot about what’s inside the car unless you were able to watch the WWC episode on Discovery. Fortunately for those who couldn’t, Los Angeles Channel 5 (KTLA) caught up with Jeff Sandquist to show them what’s inside the car. Here’s the video showing the MicroStang’s features:

Microsoft Preparing Kinect for Windows 1.5 Update

According to a blog post earlier this week, Microsoft are readying the Kinect for Windows 1.5 update for release by late May. What’s new? Here’s what they touched on in the post:

Kinect Studio, which is an application that lets developers record, playback, and debug clips of users engaging with their applications. Interesting, yet oddly creepy at the same time. However, it could add an element of entertainment for developing with the Xbox; watching people use stuff like the Kinect is always hilarious, after all.

Skeletal tracking, referred to by Microsoft as “seated” or “10-joint” tracking, which allows you to track the head, neck and arms of either a seated or standing users. This will work in both default and near mode.

French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese are now available for speech recognition. New language packs will also be released to “enable speech recognition for the way a language is spoken in different regions”. A pack will be released for the following regions: English/Great Britain, English/Ireland, English/Australia, English/New Zealand, English/Canada, French/France, French/Canada, Italian/Italy, Japanese/Japan, Spanish/Spain and Spanish/Mexico.

In conclusion, the team also announced that Kinect for Windows will be available in nineteen additional countries shortly. It will hit Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan in late May, and in late June, Kinect for Windows will also hit Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, India, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

Xfinity, HBO GO And MLB.TV Hit The Xbox

Microsoft announced on Tuesday that three major sources of entertainment content — Xfinity, HBO GO, and MLB.TV — have all been made available on the Xbox 360 to Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers, with Kinect integration to boot. In the Xfinity TV app, you will be able to control it with either your voice or by waving your hands around, in the HBO GO app, you can voice search the HBO catalogue for shows, and in the MLB.TV app, you will be able to pause and rewind live games using your voice and arms.

Microsoft also revealed that gamers in the US spend more time using Xbox LIVE entertainment apps than they do playing games through the service, so this is great news for the many folks out there who use their Xboxes for entertainment purposes beyond gaming. The average Xbox 360 Gold user also uses the service for 84 hours each month, since we’re dishing out stats.

However, hold off on calling the time of death for cable, though. You will still need proper cable subscriptions to access these services, however. And, bizarrely, subscribers to either Comcast or Time Warner Cable will not be able to access HBO GO on the Xbox. If I owned one, this would be a huge bummer; I would have loved to use it to watch Boardwalk Empire episodes.

But still, if you do have a Comcast subscription, or an appropriate subscription to enjoy the other two services, then you can now indulge in a far wider variety of content on your Xbox.

Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition Launching May 9

Earlier this week, we reported that Microsoft was going to announce the release date for the much-anticipated release of Minecraft on the Xbox 360. Aptly dubbed Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition, the game will debut on May 9th as part of a promotion called Arcade NEXT, during which a new downloadable Xbox LIVE Arcade title will launch every Wednesday from April 18th through May 9th.

Trials Evolution, Bloodforge, and Fable Heroes are the other three titles launching as part of the promotion. Each game will be available for 1200 Microsoft Points, 1200 Microsoft Points, and 800 Microsoft points, respectively. Minecraft will be the most expensive of the four, priced at 1600 Microsoft Points (which is actually relatively cheap in the gaming world; in dollars, 1600 Microsoft Points is $20).

Adapted to the console, Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition will feature split-screen multiplayer support, a new crafting interface that’s tailored for console/controller gameplay, a Tutorial mode, and Xbox LIVE multiplayer support. We were hearing earlier that Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition will be featuring some sort of cross-platform functionality, allowing Xbox players to play with PC players; this functionality is yet to be detailed, but it should be exciting to see how it is implemented.

Here’s a promotional trailer showing off the games that will launch as part of this promo:

Microsoft To Announce Minecraft For Xbox 360 Release Date Tomorrow

While we’ve known for some time that Minecraft for Xbox will be launching sometime this year, no official release date has been released by either Mojang or Microsoft. That will all change tomorrow, however, as Microsoft will be announcing the release date of Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition. Aptly named to differentiate it from the PC version, we know little about it apart from what was announced at E3 last year: There will be some Kinect functionality, and there would be some sort of cross-functionality between the Xbox 360 console version and the PC.

It will be interesting to see how this cross-platform functionality will be implemented. Will there be a specific server setting, or server type that is open to both Xbox 360 and PC players? How will communication work? Surely they’d have to implement voice chat as most Xbox gamers won’t have a keyboard. I’m sure that these concerns will be resolved with the release though; if they’re selling the game on the Xbox with any kind of multiplayer functionality, I don’t think people would be too happy if they can’t play with friends on the PC.

PlayXBLA, the Microsoft blog that’s tailored towards Xbox Live Arcade games will be publishing the release date first. And to celebrate the launch, they will also be giving away two custom Minecraft-styled Xboxes.

If the Xbox version of the game really is fully-functional with cross-functionality, perhaps I may bring my Minecraft escapades to the big screen.

Implications Of No Disc Drive In The Next Xbox

Earlier today news of Microsoft dropping the disc drive in their next version of Xbox started spreading. The news first reported by UK publication—MCVUK—is intriguing. Microsoft backed HD DVD over Bluray (supported by Sony PlayStation) and the move in many ways bombed since Bluray won the format wars. The DVD drive in the Xbox 360 makes the console a complete living room TV accessory, and that is why Microsoft’s decision is interesting. In quote to MCVUK, the source says Microsoft is replacing the optical drive with games on solid state cards.

Here’s what I believe will happen:

  • Bluray drive as an accessory for the Xbox, whenever announced, will support older Xbox consoles
  • Games offered to be downloaded, a process like Steam (if this happens, the 4GB Xbox makes no sense, @keithdsouza agrees)
  • An industry shift within the gaming industry from disc drives to memory cards (like the PlayStation Vita card, as @fishfacemcgee says on twitter, we might be going back to the “cartridge”era.)

The current Xbox supports both USB hard drives and pen drives, at the same time the system offers cloud based game state backup. I wrote recently that the post-PC PC is the TV and the Xbox is of prime importance to Microsoft in this consumer market shift. If Microsoft drops the optical drive, my 4GB console becomes obsolete since, well, it will be interesting to see game publishers offer games on disc drives and Microsoft’s newly supported solid-state cards. It’ll be fun to watch Microsoft in this space, the company has sold more Xbox devices than Apple TVs and has strong Xbox integration in Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Xbox Goes Black, Successfully Goes Back

Microsoft’s Steve Clayton is right; there certainly is something alluring about white technology. The color is clean, sleek, pure, and, when executed in an industrial design correctly, it can look stunning. That being said, for those of you who are fans of white gadgetry, Microsoft have announced the Xbox 360 Special Edition 4GB Kinect Bundle.

Priced at $299, here’s what you get: A white Xbox 360 4GB console, a glossy white Kinect sensor, a white Xbox 360 wireless controller, two popular Kinect titles — Kinect Sports and Kinect Adventures — and finally a three month subscription to Xbox LIVE Gold. This special edition console is available in the US and in some parts of the world starting today, and it will be hitting the shelves in Europe and Brazil sometime in the next few months.

Should you require a few additional controllers to play with friends, a special edition white controller will be available as well.

Microsoft has sold a over 65.8 million Xbox 360s and 18 million Kinect units worldwide since their respective launch dates. Recent data also suggests that the Xbox 360 was the best-selling console in 2011. With the console’s additional entertainment capabilities beyond gaming in mind, it’s no wonder that the Xbox 360 has been heralded as the king of the living room.

Major Nelson has posted up a gallery of photos on Flickr showcasing the bundle.

HBO Go Headed To The Xbox 360 On April 1st

At an HBO press conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, HBO announced that it will be bringing its popular HBO GO streaming service to the Xbox 360 on April 1st, right on time for the season two premier of Game of Thrones.

Now, before we begin to prepare a funeral for cable, it is worth noting that HBO is not a standalone service — you will still need a cable subscription with AT&T, Brighthouse, Charter, Comcast, COX, DIRECTV, Dish, RCN, Suddenlink, Time Warner, Verizon, or WOW! — but there are still many practical uses of this. For example, in a household with a cable subscription where a bedroom has an Xbox 360, that lucky Xbox owner would be able to watch HBO’s assortment of quality shows.

It would also be useful if, should some HBO “on-demand” content becomes unavailable, you will still be able to stream it to your TV easily through the Xbox. HBO GO is currently available on iOS, Android, ROKU, and Samsung Internet TVs, on top of the website (which is quite painless to use; when I needed to catch up on Boardwalk Empire, I did use HBO GO quite extensively for a while.)

Microsoft India Indulges in a Bollywood Chase

Yes, Techie-Buzz is still a technology blog. We still couldn’t help having Shahrukh Khan feature twice here in the last couple of months. In October, I wrote about Shahrukh Khan’s aggressive digital marketing for his film RA.One. Now, for his upcoming release, Don 2, Microsoft India in partnership with Excel Entertainment, the producers of the film, has launched a unique contest which gives winners a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet SRK and travel to Berlin.

image

To enter the Meet the Don2: Mission Berlin contest, you need to buy one of the Microsoft products Windows 7 PC, Windows Phone, Microsoft Office 2010, or Xbox 360 from a retail store in the contest period and then answer five simple questions and write a catchy slogan at www.MissionBerlin.in. The contest runs from November 25th to December 20th, 2011. If your entry is shortlisted, you will be asked to send a copy of the invoice as a proof of purchase.

The first 1000 correct and complete entries will win 4 tickets to the first day first show of Don 2 to watch it with family and friends. Top five winning families with best slogan will get a chance to meet Shahrukh Khan in person. And one of the luckiest family amongst these will win an all-expenses-paid trip to the beautiful, historic city of Berlin. Don 2 is shot in Berlin and the sightseeing arrangements include trips to shooting spots!

Well, Microsoft India just made the futile chase to Don possible!

Happy 10th Birthday Xbox!

When Sony announced the PS 2 In March, 1999, Microsoft had no presence in consoles, and only a small piece in the game business with niche titles for PCs like Microsoft Flight Simulator. The long standing vision of Bill Gates: a PC on every desk’ was near, but Microsoft had no presence in the living rooms. Sony had 47 percent of the game console market with PlayStation and had left erstwhile leaders, Sega and Nintendo, behind.

Launch

This was to change as announced on September 20, 2000. J. Allard, then general manager of Xbox, and John O’Rourke, director of Xbox marketing, unveiled the logo for the upcoming game console at a news conference in San Francisco.

November 14, 2001 was a special night. Bill Gates and his men were at the New York’s Times Square waiting for the midnight for the official launch. The excitement was mixed with fear. It wasn’t a software program this time. Shortly after midnight, Bill Gates handed over the first Xbox video game system ever to Edward Glucksman at the Toys “R” Us store.

Bill Gates with Xbox NYC 2001

Microsoft sold 1.5 million Xbox units in the US between the launch and the end of calendar year 2001, making Xbox the best-selling video game console launch. On March 14, 2002, several midnight events throughout Europe marked the launch of Xbox in 16 European countries and Australia. Microsoft’s second console, the Xbox 360, and the associated game business rake in more than $1 billion in profits every year now.

Xbox LIVE

Xbox Live Poster 2002

Microsoft introduced Xbox LIVE in November 2002 and sold 150,000 Xbox LIVE Starter Kits in the service’s first week. Xbox LIVE currently has 35 million members worldwide who spend 2.1 billion hours a month on the service. It is one of the earliest successes in the social market, and also made online console gaming a reality.

Kinect

June 14, 2010 marked the Microsoft’s next bet in the gaming and entertainment business. However, this time it wasn’t a business diversification, but a technological progression. Microsoft demonstrated a controller-free experience that allows players to jump, dodge and kick their way through exciting adventures, at E3 2010 in Los Angeles. It was called Project Natal.

Times Square

The night of November 3, 2010 was different than the one 9 years ago. Bill Gates wasn’t there at the Times Square. The square, however, was draped in purple and Microsoft hosted a dance party with thousands to celebrate the launch of Project Natal, now branded as Kinect for Xbox 360. The crowd lined up to be among the first to buy Kinect at midnight at the Toys “R” Us store in Times Square. Kinect for Xbox 360 set a Guinness World Record as the fastest-selling consumer electronic device, selling 8 million units in 60 days.