Microsoft, that friendly giant that everyone appreciates, is at it again. With their new Zune multimedia player coming out in a bit over a week, they’ve now announced that Xbox 360 users will be able to download high-definition movies and TV shows over Xbox Live. The movies are all rentals – they can be downloaded in high-def (720p) or standard definition, and must be watched within two weeks of the download. Once the movie has started playing, it can be watched an unlimited number of times for 24 hours. After that, it remains on the hard drive for a specified amount of time (unless deleted) but the user must pay to watch it again. TV shows are for purchase only. Once a show is bought, it can reside on the 360’s hard drive forever, or it can be deleted to make room for more shows and then downloaded again an infinite amount of times.
I think this is a great move by Microsoft. The ease of the Xbox Live marketplace, coupled with the 360’s overall coolness, will make this ability very useful. So what are my concerns? Well, the hard drive is only 20 GB – we definitely need more space, and I’ve got a 500 GB drive on my network which would be great to use. Unfortunately, movies must reside on the downloader’s 360 (TV shows can be transferred to another user’s 360). As of right now, there’s no Zune hookup, which is a real shame. If they truly want the Zune to be successful, they need to integrate it into the 360 as thoroughly as possible. And they need a lot of content available. I want a ton of movie choices, because Nacho Libre isn’t cutting it.
What I do like is the quality of the movies. 720p with 5.1 sound is better than a DVD, and that’s good enough for me. In addition, not only has Microsoft set aside a new service to make the movie downloads faster than the current game demo downloads, but movie downloads don’t even have to complete before the movie can be started. The pricing seems reasonable as well. Movie rentals are $4 for standard definition and about $6 for high-def. TV shows are $3 per show (and remember, that’s a permanent purchase). Now, just integrate this into the Zune and let me use my 500 GB hard drive (yeah right) and I’ll be completely satisfied. Let’s see the PS3 do that.