SPOnG can reveal today that the Xbox 360 will see an unprecedented downloadable demo offering from day one, with Xbox Live being shaped to deliver massive levels of on-demand content.
Microsoft is expected to announce plans for the system at its pre-E3 event in Los Angeles next month, highlighting what was described to SPOnG as way of highlighting “key titles” to users, as well as offering further added value to the groundbreaking Live service.
“It will mean more work for developers,” our source told us, “though it will offer what is essentially hype-free evaluation options to the consumer.”
Microsoft’s decision to include demo software in downloadable form is far from good news for the magazine sector, which to date has seen Official Xbox Magazine sales propped up on the back of the demo discs included on their covers.
This news could also be seen as a shot across the bows of traditional retail, with console gamers being further conditioned to look for gaming kicks online through Live rather than in-store. Currently around half of the price paid for any game goes straight into the retailer's pocket. Offering direct sales to gamers would cut out this expense and may be seen as a way of combatting escalating development costs which will inevitably have to be passed on to the consumer. Some estimates have talked of next-generation software titles hitting £70 or more at retail. Downloadable content would enable Microsoft to offer next-gen gaming without the hefty price tag.
Should the demo program prove successful, it would make sense for Microsoft to offer full game downloads in time, though the viability of this still rests with the as-yet unknown possibility of hard disc inclusion for 360.
However, Xbox lead J Allard recently hinted that the new Xbox may well come in different forms to suit preferences on a per-region basis, saying “I think we need to have a global foundation, and then personalise within region.”
Interestingly, SPOnG has had it confirmed by several senior sources that the Xbox 360 will feature wireless connectivity out of the box. Furthermore, data storage via PC will be featured, though information seen to date makes reference to this being used solely for media storage. However, downloadable Xbox content could, in theory, be stored too, though we should make it clear that the possibility of such content being stored in this way is mere speculation at this point.