Microsoft Corp. is aiming to raise the stakes in the $30 billion global video game industry and strengthen its foothold in living rooms with major changes to its Xbox Live online gaming service, industry sources said on Monday.
As game makers prepare for the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, the year's largest video game show, Microsoft is readying a new version of Xbox Live with advanced community features such as voice chat and locater services that operate independently of games in progress, said sources with knowledge of the software company's plans.
While a Microsoft spokesman declined to comment on the upcoming upgrade, he did say the company was planning "groundbreaking announcements" at E3.
After the upgrades, the sources said, players will be able to turn on their Xboxes, see who among their friends is online, and engage them in voice chats in community settings that do not even require a game to be inside the console.
Other add-ons coming soon to the console include the ability to use the Xbox as a sort of media center, to listen to digital music and watch videos in their living rooms.
The upcoming upgrade will have a new feature tentatively dubbed "Xbox Music Mixer." It allows users to pull the music files off their computers and onto the Xbox's 8-gigabyte hard drive, then use the Xbox as a media center with on-screen displays and auto-identification of songs, sources said.
With the new upgrade, Xbox users would also be able to transfer properly encoded video from their personal computers to the Xbox and view that video on a television screen.
Still, many see the console's biggest problem as a lack of strong first-party games, the type of "must-have" titles that sell hardware and generate significant profits.
News source: Yahoo