Special Feature: The best part of "The Experience"
Xbox 360 has had a video marketplace since the console launched, but there was little reason to check it out until this week. The addition of Netflix streaming in HD as part of the system's New Xbox Experience, or NXE, gives Microsoft a significant advantage in the gaming world and finally turns Xbox 360 into a true multimedia hub device.
Most importantly, it gives you a cost-effective way to watch movies and television shows, an irresistible bargain during these tough economic times. The $8.99 a month Netflix plan, the cheapest of the bunch, allows you to request one mail-order DVD at a time from the 100,000 movie and TV library, while allowing you to stream nearly 12,000 instant movies and shows if you're an Xbox Live Gold member ($50 a year). So, for a total of $158 a year, you can have thousands of hours of video content at your fingertips, mail order the titles that aren't available instantly and never have to drive to a Blockbuster or experience another late fee again.
Having never been a Netflix subscriber before, the New Xbox Experience enticed me to sign up for the free two-week trial. I star-rated my favorite genres and a handful of movies I've seen before, and Netflix suggested dozens of titles based on that information. I quickly filled up my Instant Queue with movies I always meant to watch, but haven't like The Illusionist, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The 13th Warrior. Movies that are old enough, so they're usually free on TV, but I never catch them or want to sit through commercials or want to watch them in 4:3. Who wants to pay to rent those old movies, anyway? The same goes for movies I fell asleep on like Pan's Labyrinth. I saw half of it, but Hollywood Video wasn't going to charge me half price to rent it again. Netflix allows me to add it to my Instant Queue and finish it without the expense of a movie rental store or even the hassle of having to wait for it to arrive in the mail.
Netflix on Xbox 360 is currently the most ideal way to watch movies. But, it's not without some pitfalls. The reason that ?nearly? 12,000 instant movies are available is because it seems like Sony decided to pull its licensing of movies from subsidiary Columbia Pictures, but only for Xbox 360 streaming. Clearly a tit-for-tat move. So, when I added Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Lives of Others and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story to my Instant Queue online, they didn't show up on my Instant Queue on 360. I'm almost glad that The Dewey Cox story didn't show up, but other big blockbusters like Superbad and Spider-Man are going to be sorely missed by a lot of gamers. For these movies, you'll have to do one of three things: wait for TiVo to get this same Netflix streaming treatment (slated for December), watch these titles on a computer or wait for Sony's hissy-fit to end.
You can't really fault Netflix or Microsoft for the Sony situation, but I did find it unreasonable to add National Treasure 2 (a non-Sony movie) to my Instant Queue, only to find out that I'll have to wait for the mail-order DVD of the first National Treasure (also a non-Sony movie). It's not available through any
sort of streaming for whatever reason, so I'll have to hold off on watching the sequel, which is a bummer since that's available right now.
Netflix streaming is the future of watching movies on demand, and it's cost effective for everyone since the company saves money on shipping, while studios can charge higher licensing fees. As long as you're already paying for that Xbox Live Gold membership, you can save money and time, too, without having to sacrifice your movie-watching escape. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to, at last, become a fan of The Office, having put off watching it on NBC for years and never wanting to go through the hassle or the expense of buying/renting/borrowing the series DVDs. Netflix is my new addiction? after video games, of course.