Internet experience will be a fundamental part of the new Xbox 360 console. It is always online (via a broadband connection of course) and has a built in Media Centre Extender for Windows XP which means you can connect to your PC and other multimedia devices. It can also be hooked up to a home network via a cable or wireless adapter (either your own or an optional Xbox 360 one that fits snugly inside the console).
Once connected, users can play music, videos and display pictures from their computers to their television. MP3 players, digital cameras and camcorders can also stream their content when plugged into the Xbox 360 via a USB cable. A revised version of Xbox Live (Microsoft’s online service) means you can also pass content to fellow Xbox 360 owning friends.
This is just the first step in Xbox Live, however, with a series of upgrades being made. An online marketplace lets users download new game trailers and demos and buy content, while an optional Xbox 360 digital camera enables users to video chat, snap pictures and it will apparently interact with some games.
There will be two levels of Xbox Live subscription this time around: Silver (which is free) and Gold. The first limits online gaming to weekends, but you can still chat with friends and utilise the marketplace. Gold provides 24/7 access and throws in Intelligent Matchmaking which works courtesy of the fully customizable online identities through your gamer tag. (Allard’s tag is “HeroProtagonist“, should you see him online and want to cap his ass!).
The customisation doesn’t stop online either, as on the hardware side of things it turns out that the Xbox 360’s faceplate is removable and can be replaced with different coloured or game-themed or mock material (there will be an imitation wood facia available) alternatives.
Moving onto the controllers we come to one of the most interesting parts of the console, something Microsoft dubs the “Ring of Light”. What this is, is a guide button divided into four quadrants that can call up a Live menu at any time no matter if you are playing a game, watching a movie or listening to music. You don’t need to be online to work the menu as the offline mode will still provide you with access to the console’s user preferences. The controllers themselves are currently powered by AAA batteries, but rechargeable power packs are expected to make an appearance either simultaneously or just after the Xbox 360 launch.
Next hard drive and games…