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X-tra X-citement

Announcement, facing NFL star highlight Xbox party

Posted: Tuesday November 7, 2006 3:52PM; Updated: Wednesday November 8, 2006 12:28PM
Your Xbox 360 isn't just for games anymore. Soon you'll be able to use it to watch TV shows and movies in high-def.

On Monday evening, hundreds of kids all around the United States were starting to wake from days of sleeping on sidewalks outside of video game stores, waiting to get their grubby hands on the new PlayStation3, which was scheduled to be released to the world at midnight. This was a release so awaited that it even caused the launch of a Web site dedicated to tracking stores where PS3's are still available.

As those gamers were picking themselves off of sidewalks and packing away their sleeping bags, Microsoft was doing their own work. The Manhattan nightclub BLVD is perhaps best known as a hangout for the city's set that doesn't sleep, but Monday night it was transformed into something resembling an old fashioned arcade. There were more flat screen HDTVs set up than in the Dallas Mavericks locker room, and Xbox 360s were whirring away everywhere you looked. This was the preview event for several Xbox 360 games that are yet to be released, but the game everyone seemed pumped up about was Gears of War, a shooting game due out this week. One room of the club was all set up specifically for Gears, with a bunch of TVs assembled in a square pattern, networked together, as two down people sat silently, trying to kill each other.

The club's DJ finally took a break and Microsoft vice president Peter Moore stood in the middle of the room and announced in a sparkling British accent the latest alteration to the Xbox 360: TV and movies. Starting Nov. 22, Xbox 360 users will be able to download high-def TV shows and movies. I'm not sure if this something that will come standard with the PS3, but as a recently converted and enthusiastic Xbox 360 user, I'm pretty excited about it. I can't get HD stuff on-demand at home through my cable provider, but now I can use the same system on which I've played hours of virtual ping-pong and golf to watch ATL, starring T.I. and Big Boi, in HD. (I'm assuming other, better movies will eventually be available -- for some reason ATL was the movie Moore used to demonstrate the Xbox's downloading capabilities.)

Of course, a media event in New York City isn't much of an event without a random celebrity or professional athlete in attendance, so Microsoft brought in clothing designer (and video game creator) Marc Ecko as well as two NFL studs: Larry Johnson and Amani Toomer. Neither player had any obvious connection to Microsoft or the Xbox, but that was irrelevant in this context: This was an evening celebrating flash and technical achievement, and if a couple of NFL players didn't mind showing up, well God bless them.


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