In the past it has been Sony who has bragged about the multimedia capabilities of its Playstation 2 and Playstation 3 consoles. In the case of the PS2, most of those promises never actually came to pass. In the meantime Microsoft has been rather low key on how the Xbox and Xbox 360 can handle other features besides games. Via Xbox Live the Xbox 360 has been the platform for downloading high definition trailers for movies and TV shows and they even allowed people to download an entire 40 + minute retrospective episode of the sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica (although that episode was a regular 480p resolution segment).
With the Xbox 360ís first anniversary coming up on Nov. 22, and perhaps more importantly the launch of the PS3 and Nintendo Wii coming in the next 10 days, many people wondered what Microsoft would do to counter the launches. Today, we can reveal that beginning on Nov. 22, Microsoft intends to go much further in making the Xbox 360 more than just a gaming machine. On that they will begin offering high definition movies and TV show episodes for download with around 1,000 hours of programming available for download to the console before the end of the year. Last week FiringSquad spoke on the phone with Scott Henson, the director of platform strategy for Xbox Live, to find out more about their plans and other Xbox 360 news.
While our chat with Henson covered several topics, we will cut to the chase and report on what Henson told us about their high definition video download plans. Microsoft has contracted with a number of movie studios and TV networks to have some of their programming available for download. Pricing for the service had not been nailed down prior to our conversation with Henson last week but we were told that Xbox 360 owners will own the TV episodes they will download while the feature films will have a rental structure (the amount of rental time was not revealed in our conversation). Basically anyone with an Xbox Live membership (Gold or Silver) will be able to download high definition movies and TV shows onto an Xbox 360 hard drive. Since each purchase is tied into a personís Gamertag, they can also sign on to their profile when they go to a friendís Xbox 360 and download it to that hard drive and watch it there.
Now for the catches. As one might expect, these high definition movies and TV show can only be played on an Xbox 360 console. Henson told FiringSquad that they cannot be transferred to a PC, HD-DVD disk, flash drive or any other medium. Also thereís the rather small 20 GB hard drive that the console has (and only about 13 GB can actually be freed up) which will only allow for a handful of movies and TV episodes to be stored. As many have asked already, we inquired to Henson if there were any plans to introduce a larger hard drive for the console (rumors of 60 GB and 100 GB hard drives have been floating on the Internet in the last few weeks). While Henson said that there were no announcements they could make at this time, he did say that if they heard from Xbox 360 owners that they wanted a bigger hard drive to store more movies and TV shows they would consider it.