Lauren bought me an XBox 360 for Christmas last year. I got it hooked up to my network and to my home theater in the living room, but to tell you the truth, the console didn't get much use. Don't get me wrong, I did buy a handful of games for it - Madden, Lost Planet, Burnout Legends - about 18 games in total. I'd play a game of Madden here and there, but most of the time I didn't even get to finish my game. I never got around to finishing Lost Planet and I'm probably only a third of the way through the game. In a nutshell, I haven't used my XBox as much as I used to use other game consoles I've had, like PS2, DreamCast or even Super Nintendo. This weekend, I had some spare time so I spent a little more time exploring the features of my XBox. I had never explored the XBox Live area, so I loaded up on points and checked out some of the downloadable offerings there. What was really cool was the breadth of classic arcade games Microsoft sells. I bought three different Pac-Man games, a Tetris game, Rush N' Attack, Golden Axe, Double Dragon, Yie-Ar Kung Fu and a few other games from my youth. These were great fun for a couple hours in the afternoon.
My home theater already has an iPod dock, but in exploring the XBox, I found out that I could stream music from network-connected PCs in my house. It requires the installation of some rather clunky Zune software, but I installed it on my home office PC and started streaming video and music to my XBox. There are some really cool visualizations for the television, so it was pretty cool letting some music blast at high volume and seeing the trippy patterns as I did some straightening up.
I meant to check out some of the community features like chat and IM. However, unlike the young 'uns out there in high school or college who probably have tons of buds with gamer handles, I really don't know any of my friends' handles. If you've got a gamer handle, shoot me a quick e-mail or leave your handle in comments. I want to check this out.
One of the things that I was looking out for was the marketing. And yes, you did see some underwritten games in the Marketplace from the likes of Toyota and the U.S. Army. It seems like the platform has plenty of other opportunities for reaching out from a marketing perspective. (Well, as long as the approach isn't the typical ham-handed one.) Underwritten or otherwise-subsidized games are only one approach. What about things like IM skins and sponsored apps? How about multi-channel promotions that let people earn points to redeem toward games?
I've been talking about campaigns like this for years in my columns. Spending some time with the platform, though, has reinvigorated my enthusiasm for these types of programs.