Xbox Movies On-Demand Coming to NZ
The next front in the games console wars is video on-demand, with both Microsoft and Sony announcing plans to sell high-definition movies via the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in New Zealand and Australia before Christmas.
Following Sony’s announcement last month that it was aiming to deliver movies and TV shows over the PlayStation Network this year, Microsoft has confirmed it will follow suit, but will initially offer only movies.
Separately, Google today unveiled YouTube XL, a version of YouTube optimised for viewing on a television set via laptops or games consoles including the Xbox 360, PS3 or Nintendo Wii.
Jeremy Hinton, Xbox category manager at Microsoft Australia, said full 1080p high-definition movie rentals would be offered through Xbox Live with 5.1 surround sound and the ability to start a movie instantly instead of having to wait for the entire file to download.
This means even the low-end Xbox Arcade version, which does not have a built-in hard drive, will be able to access the movies, which will initially be offered only for rental.
“We’ve not got an exact launch date locked in yet but it’s very safe to say it’ll be in the [Australian] market by Christmas,” Hinton said.
New Zealand should see the service at about the same time.
Rental prices have also yet to be confirmed, but a feature called “party play” allows up to eight Xbox users around the world to watch a movie simultaneously and chat together while watching. Each individual will have to pay the rental fee.
Movie download stores have long been hampered by the complexity in moving downloaded content from the PC to the TV, but this niggle is finally evaporating thanks to new services that deliver video directly to the TV via games consoles and set-top boxes such as TiVo and Apple TV.
Earlier this year, Blockbuster and TiVo opened their joint movie and TV download service, allowing users of the TiVo set-top box to rent more than 100 movies and several TV shows directly from the device.
Another hurdle, Australia’s comparatively slow broadband speeds, is set to disappear with the upcoming National Broadband Network promising speeds of at least 100Mbps to 90 per cent of the population.
But Hinton conceded that movie downloads would still be hampered by the relatively small download quotas offered by most Australian ISPs, which greatly limit the number of movies that can be rented in a month.
A high-definition movie clocks in at more than 1GB, although smaller DVD-quality versions will also be available for those with slower connections.
Hinton said Microsoft had already struck a deal with iiNet whereby Xbox Live usage does not count towards customer’s download caps, and the company was working with other ISPs to “unmeter” usage of its movie rental store.
Soon, intermediary devices such as the PS3, TiVo and Apple TV will not even be required, as TV makers are now building internet connectivity directly into their new models.
So far in Australia the internet-enabled TVs are offering little more than YouTube clips but this is set to change shortly, with Americans already enjoying movie downloads via Netflix. [stuff]