Xbox to be social network

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Social networking usually invokes Facebook and Bebo, but a new system update for the Xbox will make it a huge social network.  

On November 19, Microsoft's Xbox 360 console will undergo what is probably the biggest moment in the gaming machine's history since its launch - a major software upgrade will completely revamp the machine's operating system.

Called the New Xbox Experience, the update brings a much more visually appealing look, as well as customisable avatars, and makes the Xbox 360's menu system more user friendly than the current "blade" system with which the console launched.

The plan is to make the Xbox 360 as strong a social networking tool as websites like Bebo and Facebook.

Would Microsoft executive John Schappert uses Xbox Live in the same breath as Bebo and Facebook?

"I certainly think we're much closer and more akin to that than another online service that just focuses on multiplayer gaming," he says during a roundtable at the Tokyo Game Show. "We see it as the largest social network in the living room. We've got 14 million members and you can see a lot of the additions we've made with the New Xbox Live experience are around socialising with friends, going beyond just playing games.


"You can join a party together, you can go from experience to experience together, you can share photos, watch movies ...

"Xbox Live really does take a console, which started out its life as a games machine, and turn it into an entertainment hub."

Why didn't Microsoft just let gamers play games?

"Because you still can," Shappert replies. "Social networking is about getting together and having a conversation, it's about us playing games and sharing photos.

"People game together, that's how it started, but there are an awful lot of people who get home, start up their Xbox and they're not playing a game, they're chatting. In no way are we abandoning gaming - the fundamental that makes all this possible, - but I think gamers are entertainment consumers and want to do more than just play games and get disconnected from their party. They want to be social."

With about 20 million Xbox 360 consoles sold, Microsoft realised there were different gaming experiences for each console owner.

"The little secret is that core gamers also enjoy casual gaming as well. Uno (a card game) is one of our most played games on Xbox Live arcade."

Create 360 games

Also launching next month is Community Games downloadable game creation tools that let Xbox 360 users make games on their computer, which they then transfer to their console and distribute them over Xbox Live.

"What is cool is are we going to be talking about the next great game from the major publishers that we all know or the next great game that is made from someone unknown to us because they're just a young, upstart programmer who is going to wow the world," says Schappert.


The Press