The New Xbox Live – New UI + Netflix = interesting

Although there have been buggy hacks out there that let you do this for months, and although I’ve been told that the Original Xbox still has a cult following because of some of the hacks people built to do this kind of stuff, Netflix has finally confirmed the rumors that they’ll bring their on-demand streaming service to the Xbox 360. Gizmodo’s first review says “very promising.” I finally signed up for Netflix, and in lieu of having to wait for new DVDs to get to my front door, I started trolling their “Watch Instantly” titles – but was disappointed – finding very few “good” movies available. So my biggest concern with this new Netflix-on-the-Xbox joint venture is that if we’re really serious about this, Microsoft needs to put some muscle behind getting the latest & greatest content from all the major movie studios onto Netflix-on-demand – and, while they’re at it, why not onto Zune Marketplace as well. iTunes has done a fantastic job getting content – all of which is now available via Apple TV.

 The other big update: Wired has screen shots of the new Xbox UI. The reaction seems to be that, yes, this is much cleaner and more “playful” – some commenter calls it “what would happen if a Wii and an iPod had a baby” – but the other side of that coin is that people are saying it’s basically an attempt to copy what PS3 and Wii have done, and it doesn’t fit with the hardcore gaming machine core audience that Xbox attracts.

If you look at the avatars, and the netflix, and the game titles they chose to highlight in these screen shots, the strategy becomes apparent – Xbox’s amibitions no longer lie with the hardcore gamer – a market that may be saturated. Instead, the Xbox team seems to have set their sights on the Wii, and the potentially-much-bigger and more lucrative casual gaming & entertainment space – essentially straddling the PS3, the Wii, and the Apple TV. We’ll see how they do. It reeks of classic “we want to be everything to everyone” but without the focus on getting 1 core thing right.  I think there’s a real risk here that Xbox will alienate the hardcore gamer audience – whose support & loyalty they need since Xbox 360 isn’t being replaced anytime soon, and the PS3 is beginning to pick up steam. They need to be mindful to cater to your core audience rather than going after the new demographic. That said, with such a tremendous opportunity out there – essentially the opportunity to replace cable & satellite as the primary vehicle through which people consume TV & Movie content – it seems worth some risk.

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