Last week we had a chance to get a first hand demonstration of how ESPN and NFL.com will be integrated with the Xbox One.
As Microsoft has made perfectly clear up to this point, the Xbox One is meant to be not only a gaming system, but an entertainment hub. “Hardcore” gamers haven’t been too excited about this, but after seeing how some of these non-hardcore entertainment features like ESPN and NFL.com work first hand, we can see the potential.
Though there are some issues.
But first the Good. ESPN on Xbox One looks great, and the interface looks smooth in motion.
You can get sports highlights and content that’s available on ESPN.com, but you need to sync up with your cable provider like you would through Watch ESPN. In other words, don’t expect to get to watch free ESPN with your Xbox Live Gold membership, you still need an account through your local cable provider. More on that later.
Once you’re synced though, the idea here is to enhance your sports watching experience and access your personalised ESPN account with your favourites and personalised scores along with the full breadth of content from the ESPN networks and website.
The NFL on Xbox One offers a similarly customisable experience with the addition of a rather deep looking Fantasy Football option.
Here’s what the NFL Game Center will look like:
Fans can tailor the game center to their favourite teams and associated highlights by syncing with NFL.com NFL Network, and NFL RedZone.
Fantasy Football really looks to be taking a leap forward here. One of the most impressive features we were shown was the ability to track your team in real time, then actually see the highlights of each individual player in the same interface. Colin Kaepernick as your QB? Did he run for a 57 yard TD and nab you some points? The highlight will be there.
For those that will use their Xbox One for gaming (who would have thought!) the Snap feature allows gamers to pull up their fantasy team while playing in a smaller window. You don’t have to pause the game to get this up and running. In our demonstration, they showed a clip of “Halo 4” multiplayer going on while the player pulled up his fantasy team.
All of these features launch when the Xbox One does. In the mean time, Xbox 360 will be host to NFL.com fantasy football here on September 5.
Now some initial concerns. This isn’t a new complaint, but one that I feel has to be addressed in the future for those paying $US59.95 a year for an Xbox Live Gold membership is the fact that despite the relationship with ESPN and NFL there are no “exclusive” services aside from the interface. To watch ESPN TV, you still need a cable account. These are added costs on top of your gold membership.
It would be extremely nice to see one of these partnerships turn into some exclusive deal with content that users can get through their Gold memberships. More bang for the buck if you will.
More and more folks are cutting their cable TV cords in favour of tailored services. Isn’t Xbox Live such a service? Why not give users a reason to call this a true entertainment experience and hub?
Also, the quality of the video through both ESPN and NFL remains to be seen, as what we saw was not a final build.
Both ESPN and NFL.com for Xbox One are great for hardcore sports fans looking for a more interactive experience. For the casual fan though, there are a lot of hoops to jump through if you’re just looking for scores of your teams and the occasional update or highlight. If you’re not the fantasy football type, then the NFL.com experience also loses a bit of it’s lustre, though not all of it.
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