Xbox Live users received an update that included many new features including an application that allows ESPN 3 content to be streamed right to your television through an Xbox 360 this Monday.
For those unfamiliar, ESPN 3 is the re-branded ESPN web content provider available at http://espn.go.com/espn3/. The majority of events are college American football but also includes basketball, cricket, rugby, and, of course, football. The variety of leagues is quite impressive with Copa Del Rey, Eredivisie, German Bundesliga, La Liga, MLS, Portuguese League, and Serie A represented. A few international friendlies and quite a few Euro 2012 qualifiers are also available. Most importantly, ESPN’s Premier League matches are featured. All content on the ESPN 3 web site appears to be identical on the ESPN 3 Xbox Live application.
After downloading the Xbox Live update, restarting, downloading the ESPN 3 addon, and restarting again, I was able to run the ESPN 3 application and was impressed by the presentation right away. The home screen is a mock stadium with a row of big screens displaying featured sporting events. Huddled together under the screens are the avatars of some of the users currently using the application.
Overall, the picture quality was excellent. I tested the new application by watching the Blackpool against West Bromwich and Los Angeles against Seattle matches on replay and they looked beautiful. The information panel includes an HD bar that indicates your level of picture quality and I was able to achieve four out of four bars for most of the games. While a few seconds of blurriness would occasionally occur (most likely due to buffering), the picture was at the very least near-HD quality the majority of the games. I am sure those infrequent seconds of blurriness may have been more prevalent if I had watched the match live and the picture quality will also be very dependent on your location and connection speed.
The list of features indicated a few that are exclusive to the Xbox Live application such as the ability to set your favorite sports or leagues to be viewed on the home screen and favorites tab, capability to view highlights of matches, a predict the winner game during live broadcasts, and voice chat functionality.
While the favorite sports or leagues tab is nothing revolutionary, it is a welcome addition to let users access all the available games for a given sport or league upon launching the application. There are highlights galore for other sports but sadly the only football highlights I could find were short, web clips from ESPNsoccernet.com. Lastly, the predict the winner feature is currently only used on select college football, college basketball, MLB, and NBA games.
I didn’t have a chance to test the chat feature but this has to be the most exciting feature for me. Users start a “party” of up to eight people while in the Xbox Live dashboard, launch the ESPN 3 application, and are then able to voice chat while watching a match. While it will never replace the atmosphere of going to the local bar, it’s definetly the best alternative I’ve ever heard of. Without a hint of sarcasm, I can now ask visitors from all over the globe accessing this web site, “anyone interested in watching Bolton against Tottenham this weekend?”
My overall experience was great and I’m eager to test the chat feature but the addition of highlights and the prediction feature for football leagues would make this a more complete package for football supporters.
I have to also note that ESPN 3 on Xbox Live isn’t at all free. In addition to needing to own an Xbox 360 console, you must be a Gold, Xbox Live member. This will run you $60 for a year of service. While this is quite a price to see one or two Premier League games per week, this can definitely be seen as a welcome bonus for those of us already in possession of the console and membership for gaming purposes. Also of note, you must be on a participating internet service provider (like Comcast) and live in the United States.
What are your thoughts?