Microsoft has said social networking sensations Twitter and Facebook, along with Internet radio star Last.fm, are connecting to the Xbox 360 videogame console online world.
The announcements Monday came on the eve of a major Electronic Entertainment Expo trade gathering in Los Angeles and as Microsoft jockeys to put Xbox 360 consoles at the heart of home entertainment.
Console owners that subscribe to Xbox Live become part of an Internet videogame community with benefits such as being able to connect to Netflix online film rental service.
By year's end, Xbox Live members will be able to access their Twitter or Facebook accounts through consoles, posting content and connecting with friends the same way they might by using computers or smart phones.
"This is a Facebook experience customized for your living room," actress Felicia Day said as she demonstrated the new Xbox Live feature at a Microsoft press conference.
The link is essentially a Facebook application for Xbox 360 users, and the California social networking firm is set of making similar links to online communities for Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii console users.
Microsoft bought a 1.6-percent stake in Facebook for 240 million dollars in 2007.
"We expect to be working with all the consoles and platforms," said Facebook director of platform marketing Ethan Beard.
"It really is about making games more social. Gaming is incredibly popular on Facebook itself."
Microsoft also announced that it has enhanced its Xbox Live video offerings in the United States and arranged to let Xbox 360 owners in Britain and Ireland watch Sky TV through the videogame consoles.
An Xbox executive referred to streaming live television through a gaming console with no additional hardware as "a watershed moment for the gaming industry."
Microsoft said music from online radio station Last.fm will be streamed to consoles free of charge.
Positioning Xbox 360 consoles as al-purpose home entertainment devices for movies, music, socializing and games is a smart move by Microsoft, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter said after attending the press conference.
"Being able to do Facebook on your television alone is reason enough to buy an Xbox," Pachter said. "Microsoft doesn't need everyone to be a gamer if they can get everyone in the household using the 360 for something."
Still, the Microsoft press conference was crammed with exciting videogame offerings that promise to please Xbox 360 gamers.
"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" is a sequel that videogame analysts expect to be a "monster" when it hits stores in November. Blockbuster "Metal Gear Solid" and "Final Fantasy" franchises have Xbox 360 games on the way.
Hot action videogames being made exclusively for play on Xbox 360 consoles include "Halo 3 OTSD," Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction," "Shadow Complex," and "Crackdown 2."
"Over the past year our industry has done well in this uncertain economic climate," said Xbox corporate vice president John Schappert.
"Perhaps it is because now, more than ever, people want to have fun and they want to connect with each other from the comfort of their living rooms."
(c) 2009 AFP
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