On a scale from 1 to 10, the Netflix / Xbox experience is slathered in weaksauce.
I have an Xbox 360. When I heard about the new Xbox Live experience (new UI, new architecture, more features, more customization, etc.) I thought it sounded really cool. I’ve always thought it was a neat product, but I also thought there was a better interactive experience waiting to be enjoyed, if only someone would come along and develop it. Last Thursday, November 20, 2008, that experience became available for everyone.
One of the features I was most interested in was the Netflix streaming directly to your Xbox 360. I believe that digital home media have a long way to go. Networked media PC’s are a pain to set up, streaming media servers even more so, and Apple TV (even with Apple’s vaunted user-experience) isn’t an elegant or simple solution. But I have an Xbox 360, a computer (for all intents and purposes,) already hooked up to my television and with an HDMI connection. Netflix streaming directly onto my TV? Sounds excellent.
I even resurrected a membership for this. I had Netflix a long time ago, and ended up canceling because I just didn’t get enough value from it. I get lots of movies from the Library (I know, laugh all you want, but’s it free) and I felt like I was always forgetting to return the Netflix discs and just throwing money away on the membership. So I canceled. But this Xbox partnership seemed like a good reason to renew the subscription, because of the ease, convneience, and my sheer exuberance at the prospect of streaming it right on to my Xbox. Then reality set in.
I just re-subscribed to Netflix, activated my account on the Xbox, and added (hang on) 39 movies to my queue. Thirty-nine movies. Of those, not one is available to stream the Xbox 360. Not one.
Now that, my friends, is weaksauce.
And before you retort smartly, let me say that this is not just a bunch of brand new, extra fun movies. Among others I have indies (Run, Fat Bot, Run – 2007), thrillers (Revolver – 2005), TV (How I Met Your Mother Season 1 – 2005), Action (Blade – 1998), Sci-Fi (Resident Evil: Extinction – 2007), and comedy (Forgetting Sarah Marshall – 2008) to name just a few. There’s a good blend, in my opinion, of older and newer, hotter and less-hot choices in my list. And none of them are available to stream. That’s not acceptable.
After searching diligently I did finally find one movie, National Treasure 2, that was available for streaming to Xbox Live, and I wasn’t wholly opposed to watching it. It worked flawlessly. I’ve never watched any of the National Treasure movies, but my wife convinced me that I might like them, so I gave it a shot. Truthfully, I enjoyed the movie. Low expectations help a lot, and the history is a lot of fun. But more importantly, the Netflix experience on the Xbox 360 was fantastic. Moments after adding the movie to my queue, the Xbox Live page displayed it as available. I asked to watch the movie, and in 15 seconds it was ready to go. The picture quality was excellent, and the controls all worked perfectly. I was REALLY satisfied with the experience of using Netflix. Unfortunately, there’s not much for me to watch.
Netflix and Xbox have bragged that there’s a library of 12,000 shows to choose from and stream to your Xbox 360. That’s not real helpful, if I don’t want to watch any of them. I am sadly unimpressed, and if I were forced to give this a numeric rating between 1 and 10, right now it would get a 4. I like the idea and the service worked well, but there’s no content I’m interested in seeing. No bueno.
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I’ve been thinking about this situation some more. Jivebotic and Wunder both left very good comments (on 1to10) about what movies are available, and the benefits of the Xbox / Netflix experience. I agree with both of them. The way I see it, there are two major problems:
1. There’s still not enough good content available on the Xbox. Jivebotic pointed out some good movies that I can watch, sure enough. But they’re still not the ones I want to watch. I don’t know why that rubs me the wrong way, but it does. Out of 40 or so movie titles that I want to watch, I should have been able to find a couple that were available. For me, there was not one.
2. Netflix needs to add some kind of serach and identification mechanism, and that right quick. Currently they do identify their “instant” titles, but there are 4 or 5 different “instant” mechanisms for streaming movies, and not all titles are available for all mechanisms. I need a way to search for Xbox-compatible films, they need to visibly tag those films with an Xbox logo, and they need to quickly add more titles if they want to keep my business.
This post is also available on 1to10reviews.