Allaying the concerns of paying Xbox Live subscribers everywhere, Microsoft has announced that the Windows Live pricing will be the same as the Xbox Live pricing: $49.99 per year. This will likely include a similar feature set as the console counterpart: ability to play online with cross-platform games, a unique gamercard, access to achievements, and so on.
Those of you who, like me, enjoy spending a few hours here and there gaming with friends over the ‘net via your subscription to Xbox Live (and whose professional lives make this an infrequent proposition), you’ll be happy to know that the Microsoft attempt at giving PC users a similar gaming experience is going to be entirely free to you. (Of course, you’ll only get as much as your 360 Live subscription entitles you to on the 360. C’mon, nothing is really free.)
That’s right, if you have Windows Vista and have any Windows Live enabled games, you’ll be able to boot up your PC and for no extra charge access your Xbox Live friends list, and all the other “Gold” features, via Windows Live. Shadowrun will be the first of the Windows Live games — Halo 2 will have a limited set of Windows Live features built into it.
What I’m most looking forward to, however, is some real interactivity. When can I plop down on the couch in front of my HDTV, plug in my 360’s webcam, and videoconference with my friends on their Vista PCs? Interactivity like that would sell many users on the 360 as the home entertainment center of choice.
Already the downloadable movies and TV shows on the 360’s Video Marketplace are making a dent in my typical habits. The free HD episode of South Park (Fun With Weapons) occupied my idle time exercising, rather than the normal channel flipping. (It’s only available free for 2 weeks–download it quickly!). And Superman Returns, which was impossible to get in HD-DVD or Blu-Ray from Blockbuster Online (before any of the current reported problems) was a quick 30-minute download before I could begin watching it. The HD is only 720p, but the difference, even on a 50 inch LCD HDTV, is negligible.
So, good news for 360 and Vista owners, and hang on–the competition for the “home entertainment center” is only heating up. Sony, as you may know, just fired its own shot with its “3d social networking service” for the PS3 that it calls Home. It’s a 3-D “Second Life” type world that it hopes will make the PS3 more attractive. I personally haven’t gone for–and again, don’t have time for–the leisurely pace of 3d “life”, but judging from the putuative popularity of Second Life, I anticipate Home will get a hefty following and give the 360 at least a run for the money.