Xbox now used more for online entertainment than online gaming
In a significant milestone for a device once known only for blasting "Halo" opponents, Microsoft's Xbox 360 video game console is now used more for watching movies and TV shows and listening to music online than playing video games online.
Microsoft has long attempted to use the Xbox 360 and its predescessor, the original Xbox, as a "trojan horse" that would use video games as a way to become the digital entertainment hub for families in the living room.
"The original vision for the Xbox was for it to be the heart of connected digital entertainment and it has been amazing to watch the arc," said Otto Berkes, a senior vice president of consumer technology at HBO who helped to launch the Xbox at Microsoft.
Yusuf Mehdi, who heads up marketing and strategy for Microsoft's Xbox business, said households now spend an average of 84 hours a month on the Xbox Live online service playing games, watching videos and listening to music. That's up 30% from a year ago. Just over half that time is spent on videos and music.
By comparison, the average household spend about 150 hours a month watching television.
"What we're seeing is that people are turning on the Xbox to play games and then keeping it on afterwards to get other types of entertainment," Mehdi said.
Over the past few years, Microsoft has added number of entertainment applications to the 360, including Netflix, ESPN, Hulu, Vudu, and YouTube.
On Tuesday, it is adding new video applications from HBO Go, Major League Baseball and Comcast Corp,'s Xfinity on demand video service.
The additions bring the total number of music, television and movie services available on Xbox Live to 36.
The new applications require that users be paying subscribers to Comcast's cable service, the HBO premium network, or MLB.tv. Those who pay will be able to watch more than 2,400 baseball games or more than 1,000 of HBO programming, including every episode of its original series like "Game of Thrones," "Boardwalk Empire" and "The Wire." Comcast subscribers will have access to thousands of movies and television shows from a variety of channels via Xfinity.
The launch of HBO Go on the Xbox is a big step towards the premium cable network's digital on-demand service becoming a direct alternative to its linear channels. While HBO Go is available on computers and a variety of digital devices like iPads, Xbox 360 owners will be able to watch it on televisions. Previously, the only way to get HBO Go on a TV was via the Roku box, which is far less popular than the Xbox 360.
"The Xbox has an extremely broad user base that can deliver a rich visual experience, which is a pretty big differentiator," said Berkes.
More than 20 million people are paying Xbox Live subscribers who can access the console's entertainment services. A total of 66 million Xbox 360s have been sold worldwide.
Microsoft previously said it would launch HBO Go and Comcast's Xfinity on its console before the end of 2011.
-- Alex Pham and Ben Fritz
Screenshot of HBO Go on Xbox Live courtesy of Microsoft.