As expected, November 17th is indeed the day that Xbox Live goes social with its latest big update. The popular online console service now has integration into leading social sites Facebook and Twitter.
Currently, the integration for Facebook is not the complete version, so you won’t be playing any FarmVille on your high definition television. However, the Live rendition does incorporate all of your major Facebook site features. From your TV, you can view pictures (which was a personal favorite), see updates, and post to your feed. Granted, it is a bit obnoxious to type with a controller, and not a keyboard, but it is still pretty cool from what we’ve played around with so far.
Another interesting feature is that you can see all of your Facebook friends who are on Xbox Live and all of your Xbox Live friends who are on Facebook (once they have installed it on their console). Of course, this doesn’t mean that your normal Facebook friends list is forsaken. On the contrary, you can see all of them and view all their updates, news feeds, and pictures right from your couch. It’s nothing different, really, from what you can do on the web… except the whole 1080i thing.
Now, if Twitter is more your thing, then that is here too. From here, the integration is a little fuller (but then again, there is a lot less to Twitter than Facebook). Users can tweet directly from their console, see the latest tweets from whom they are following, and even view what trending topics are out there.
Beyond, Facebook and Twitter, the new Xbox Live update has also included Zune and Last.fm. The former allows users to watch high definition, 1080p, television and videos with up to seven friends. Seems minor, but with the digital age bringing people together across the world, it really adds another great means to connect with them. Last.fm, on the other hand is a program that allows you to customize and listen to various radio stations wrought with free music. Users can choose to skip, “ban,” or “love” a myriad of tracks that will allow them to create a mix of music that is perfect for them. In fact, stations can be browsed based on popularity, artists, and for those in the UK and U.S., a gamers-only station filled with popular game soundtracks.
Overall, the new additions to Xbox Live are a phenomenal boost to the console’s social endeavors. Quite frankly, just setting up some gamer music stations led us to an exorbitant amount of procrastination. And that doesn’t include the time it took to play around with Facebook and Twitter. However, the new updates only seem to be available if you own a Gold Membership and not the free Silver Membership. Frankly, this sort of kills a lot of the update.
Microsoft wants the Live service to be more social. To have people do more than just play games on it. However, the people that play games all the time are there to play games, not so much use these new social features (save Zune, perhaps). The people they want to attract – the more casual crowd – is not going to pay for a Gold account when they can get the same social networks for free on the computer. At the very least, Facebook and Twitter need to be made for the free Silver account; otherwise… what is the point? Hopefully that will change, but as it stands, it is still a very cool addition.