Microsoft has finally announced the launch of the Xbox 360's video-on-demand store in the UK. The US-version has been a huge success thus far, so it was only a matter of time before the service arrived on UK shores.
The several months-late Xbox 360 autumn Dashboard update is now live, and with DivX codec support also being added, the Xbox 360 console can now claim to be the one of the strongest media hubs on the market. That puts it out in front of Sony's PlayStation 3, which has yet to receive DivX support or a full-blown video-on-demand service.
Arriving this month
While the new video store will be delivered in today's dashboard update, the store will actually go live on 11 December. Presumably that's to allow Microsoft time to iron out any bugs that might be found in the update.
So what exactly is going to be available in the new video store? For a start you'll be able to rent full-length films such as 300 and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. And the cost? 250 Microsoft Points (that's around £2) for standard definition movies and from 380 Microsoft Points (about £3.20) for high definition copies. Not too shabby in our book.
However, if you check out the full list of movies below, you'll notice they're all pretty old. There's no 2007 blockbusters in there. But presumably, as the service grows so will the choice of movies and TV shows that are available.
"Xbox Live Marketplace Video Store in Europe is all about adding to the ever-expanding number of entertainment choices that our consumers have on their Xbox 360," says Robin Truchy, director of Xbox Live in Europe, in a statement to mark the announcement.
"We want to give them the entertainment they want, in the format they want, when they want it and at an affordable price. We were already offering HD games, HD music videos and the option to enjoy HD-DVD format films, now we are offering HD movies to download and rent as well. This is very exciting for us and the consumer."
While movie downloads are currently a niche business venture for most studios and media companies, many analysts think it'll be big business in the future. "As Hollywood turns its attention towards selling digital copies of its blockbuster movies, the delivery of movie content over the open internet has become a key battleground for a broad range of service providers," says Arash Amel, a senior analyst at Screen Digest.
VOD key for future
Screen Digest predicts that the total European movie download market will be worth £249m by 2012, up from £12m in 2007. "The Xbox Live Marketplace Video Store, as the first multi-territory hardware-based online movie delivery service in Europe, is expected to be a European market leader for movie downloads," he said.
"Consumers in both the US and Europe have already made it abundantly clear that they are reluctant to watch two-hour long films on their PC, instead preferring to view them on personal devices or most preferably devices that can provide a link to their large-screen living room TVs and home entertainment systems."
Movies that'll be available on December 11:
The Matrix Revolutions
The Matrix reloaded
The Perfect Storm
Eyes Wide Shut
Lethal Weapon 3 & 4
Clash of the Titans