Consoles Without the Games

I adore the new media applications on the Xbox 360 dashboard. I don’t mean I like them, find them useful or appreciate that they are there. I adore them.

Since December I think I’ve watched more live Barclay’s Premier League football than Howard Webb. Do you know how much I’d watched in the previous four years? Barely any. In fact, since television rights in the UK were monopolised by satellite TV, I’ve only ever seen live top flight football in a bar, surrounded by dribbling morons. Since December, I had a trial with SkyGo, and watched countless matches via my Xbox 360. It’s impressive too, the stream is mostly great quality and when it does suffer from bandwidth issues it generally only degrades for a few seconds and quickly sharpens itself up again.

[drop2]It’s not just football, either. My wife watched several dreadful Christmas movies and we both loved the Treasure Island special that was on at the start of January. We’ve watched a couple of complete TV series thanks to the on-demand aspect too. It’s really a brilliant service if you’ve already got a healthy Sky subscription and want access from another room. But that’s the biggest problem too: Sky’s subscription fees are astronomical.

I’ve priced it up because I’d love to keep it after my trial runs out and even though I don’t want a dish on my house or a box under my television, it’s £40 every month. Is it worth that for a couple of movies I might have missed on their DVD release and seven or eight football matches a month? No, definitely not for me. If it was an extra streaming-only service, separated from the standard Sky services, available to Xbox 360 customers for a reduced fee then I’d definitely consider it. As it is, it’s over priced for those without an existing Sky subscription and of limited use to those with one.

There’s plenty for free on the relatively new dashboard that’s nice to have though. The MSN video app has some nice archived TV shows as well as the web clips and BlinkBox automatically adds free streaming options for the DVDs I buy in Tesco. Even YouTube and DailyMotion will have their appeal to those who engage in the online video communities more than I do. It’s all really quite brilliant.

My absolute favourite of the applications, though, is Netflix. I can’t overstate how much Netflix has enriched my life over the past few weeks. I injured my chest and back after Christmas and as a result I’ve spent a lot of time horizontal. For long periods of time, I haven’t even been able to use a laptop or play games because I couldn’t sit up and focus. But lie in bed and watch the whole run of Firefly over the course of two days? Yeah, I could do that.

I’ve watched several TV series and countless movies via Netflix over the past few weeks and it has all been absolutely flawless, HD quality instant streaming. It’s immeasurably better quality than my old LoveFilm subscription allowed me to view, so much so that I haven’t even bothered to activate the free trial I had to that streaming service.

Of course, the Netflix application also arrived on the PS3 and I have to admit, I think it has a slightly crisper picture and a much better user interface on that console. Unfortunately, it seems to have the odd problem streaming onto my PS3 through WiFi, even when the 360 streams flawlessly. So I’ve stuck with the 360 version at least until I can plug the PS3 in via Ethernet again and see if that fixes the buffering. It’s totally changed the role of the console for me in the past couple of months. Previously, I wouldn’t use the 360 for any media playback at all. The PS3 plays Blu-ray and does a better job of upscaling. But the 360’s streaming is, for me at least, undoubtedly more hassle-free. And streaming is how I’ve consumed almost all of the content I’ve made use of since Christmas.

It might sound over the top but the new video streaming applications – and especially Netflix – have really made the past few weeks of house-bound tedium much more bearable. There are times when I like nothing more than a long session with FIFA or whatever mindless shooter I’m playing through but there also are times when I don’t want to have to think or react. I just want to watch.



  1. I really love Netflix. I’m watching a lot of ’90s Marvel shows, the ones I loved as a kid. Watched the entire run of Spider-man and now I’ve started to watch Fantastic Four. So easy to use and such a brilliant service I hope it continues to grow.

    • Wow that kinda sells it to me in its own right!

  2. I really, really want Netflix, but it’s not available in The Netherlands fml

    • Same here. I hope Netflix finds its way to the rest of Europe, starting with the Netherlands and Germany! :)

      • Actually I’m thinking of setting up a US account to get Netflix. Paying in US dollars isn’t a problem with the US PSN cards

      • I don’t think you can pay for Netflix using PSN cards but please correct me if I’m wrong as I would love to be able to do that.. :/

      • I don’t think the payment is the problem. As far as I know the content is restricted based on your IP and I’m not aware of any fast, reliable and free US proxies that can cope with the required bandwidth to get a satisfying experience out of the deal. To be honest, if I’m unable to access media in the original language I’m not that inclined to make use of their catalogue anyways, if it ever arrives here…

      • You fools follow this link and you can watch the US Netflix in any country, no need to wait!! It works without a hitch!!!

      • I had a look at your link ….. So it costs an extra £3 per month plus a charge of 4.95% on top of that …Well they do say a fool and his money are easily parted ;-)

    • Erm no it costs just under £8 a month where you pay £6 a month for the UK Netflix which has a lot
      Less content than it US equilvalent FOOL

      • I see now that Netflix is cheaper in the US but it still adds to the cost and seems like a lot of hassle just to watch a few shows that could be watched/downloaded elsewhere for free – both methods are theft of intellectual property of course, but if you’re going to take part in something illegal why would you pay cash for it. That’s just silly.

  3. I am really liking netflix at the moment i am watching the 4400 on my mobile, pc or wired ps3 :-)

  4. I dont like Netflix. Not for any other reason than the content. 36 a month to watch nothing i want to watch is still £6 out of my pocket.

    Im hoping for future catalogue upgrades which astound me….like Chuck, Hustle, Sherlock, Wonders etc and movies that wernt released 5 years ago.

    So far im not impressed by it but thats not to say im against it. The concept and pricing is brilliant, if the content is there to make it worthwhile.

  5. Shift button fail! £6*

  6. Ace article mate, really pleasant read :) I hope your injury is clearing up nicely but if you’re looking for any viewing recommends I’ve enjoyed the following recently.

    DEXTER – my fave popcorn TV.

    FOUR LIONS – Viciously funny satire of terrorism and counter terrorism in the UK.

    GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX – Best, most intelligent sci-fi besides BSG

    DEADWOOD – Dunno if it’s available to stream but it’s well worth a look, an obvious inspiration for Red Dead in terms of “feel”.

    • Been reading lots too lately, dunno if you are a reader, but I’d certainly recommend No Country For Old Men and All The Pretty Horses by Cormac Macarthy and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Peace.

      • Ready Player one is required reading for anyone who condisers themselves a gamer. This means you TSA Staff/Community! :P

    • Wait Dexter. Always wanted to watch that. May fire up the free trial. How many episodes per series and how many series are there

      • I think you’re looking at 6×12 episodes (40 minutes per episode) . Can’t wait until the 7th season starts. Season 6 ended with the biggest cliffhanger of the series!

      • 2 series on netflix atm iirc. There are 6 seasons in total each with 12 approx 1 hour episodes. It’s great fun,has a wicked sense of humour and Michael C Hall is always great to watch.

    • Ghost in the Shell is a great show, have you seen Eden of the East?

      It’s by the same director(s), both Mamouro Oshii from the GiTS movies and Kenji Kamayana who did all the SAC stuff, and it’s really good.

      Get the blurays if you can as it’s a very good looking show.

      • Mamuro, and Kamiyama rather. >_<

      • GITSAC is indeed awesome :) and thanks for the headds up on Eden, I haven’t seen it and am on the case now – so cheers :D

        Gotta love Mamuro Oshii eh?

  7. Is there any way to see the full Netflix catalogue without signing up to the free trial? On the website they seem to just show a selection, and that selection is awful. Do they even get new film releases? I love the idea of streaming but the choice of film needs to be at least equivalent to the discs I can get from Lovefilm (whose streaming service is indeed poor).

  8. I’v never tried lovefilm but I have heard it has got more content and newer films than netflix and that its streaming is awfull

    Some good things I like about netflix are

    Good buffered streaming

    Being able to watch and pause / stop on one device and carry on where you left off from on another device

    The price 6 pounds

    Unlimited streaming which on lovefilm is I think around 11-12 pounds but you don’t get there full catalogue ?

    Bad thing about netflix in uk at the moment is that the content is quite poor, there are a few things to keep me going for maybe a couple of months as i have missed some TV from years ago and for 6 pounds I can not grumble

    If your the kind of person who watches everything as soon as its released and have hardly ever missed anything on tv i would say netflix is probably not worth it at the moment

    • I’ve checked the Lovefilm catalogue on several occasions and to be honest I wasn’t impressed by the content they offered. I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t older than a few years. Maybe they changed that but all I remember is that 90% of the stuff I saw in the library I didn’t even know because it was so ancient and the other 10% was stuff I wasn’t interested in.

  9. If you search “get us Netflix in the uk on ps3” on YouTube, there’s a easy guide. I tried it and it works well- the u.s. selection is a lot better.

  10. Netflix sucks. I joined the free trial and scrolled through my lovefilm list. Not a single one was available. Not one. So of every film I want to watch netflix had none. I must say that when testing the streaming quality it was I
    Impressive (streamed through PS3) but not as good as my 1080p blu-rays from lovefilm. Why does everyone love it? I’m sure there was only 1 film from the last 10 years available?

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