Category: XBLA

Xbox 360 owners rejoice – the next phase in the set-top entertainment paradigm is upon us.  As I mentioned in earlier posts, Microsoft was able to forge an exclusive partnership with online DVD rental mogul Netflix that brings the catalog direct to your home entertainment system (with an existing Netflix membership) at no additional cost.

Today, the New Xbox Experience (NXE) goes live, and Netflix HD streaming is already available.  Here is the official press release:

Movies Instantly Streamed From Netflix to the TV Debut on the Xbox 360

More Than 12,000 Movies and TV Episodes are Available to Watch Instantly At No Additional Cost to Current Netflix and Xbox LIVE Gold Members

LOS GATOS, Calif., Nov. 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Netflix, Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), the world’s largest online movie rental service, today announced that Netflix members can have thousands of movies and TV episodes instantly streamed to the TV via the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system when the New Xbox Experience premieres nationwide tomorrow. Adding to a growing number of Netflix-ready devices, the Xbox 360 is the only game and entertainment console that lets users instantly watch movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix to the TV. There is no additional monthly fee for Netflix members who are also Xbox LIVE Gold members.

Netflix members simply add movies and TV episodes from a growing library of more than 12,000 choices to their instant Queues at the Netflix Web site. Those choices are automatically displayed on the TV screen via the Xbox 360 and, once selected, will begin playing in as little as 30 seconds.

“This is an important and exciting moment for Netflix and Xbox,” said Netflix Chief Marketing Officer Leslie Kilgore. “We believe the New Xbox Experience — with thousands of choices available to be streamed instantly from Netflix as one of its key enhancements — offers consumers a great at-home entertainment option and provides terrific value as a holiday gift idea.”

Netflix also said it is taking the first step in instantly streaming movies and TV episodes in high definition with the introduction of approximately 300 HD choices that will play with standard definition audio via the Xbox 360. The company said it intends to increase the number of HD choices available and will eventually add multi-channel audio. Classic, adventure, musical, foreign and comedy movies now available to watch instantly in high definition include “La Vie en Rose,” “Flawless” and “Heroes.”

All Netflix members can rent from over 100,000 titles on DVD. They can instantly watch movies and TV episodes from a growing library of choices on their PCs and Intel-based Macintosh computers, as well as on their TVs via one of the Internet connected Netflix ready devices sold by Netflix partners.

The Culturepin is about a lot of things, but it is primarily about contemporary culture.  I say this to allay any confusion that may arise in my readers about the recent pattern of discussing video games.  But if home video game consoles/entertainment centers are not a bona fide part of our daily life, then I don’t know what is.  Unless you’re Amish.  In which case you are not reading this blog.

I want to offer some insights into the gameplay of Peter Molyneaux’s pre-Fable 2 release: Pub Games that offers a Vegas-meets-Ren Faire scenario that after some investment of time affords an enormous amount of satisfaction.

The lure of Fable 2 Pub Games is the fact that money earned (“won”) can later be merged into your main character in the game (once it is released October 21st.)  Seemingly simple at first, certain complexities creep up as you delve deeper.  For example, the real money to be made comes from playing the tournaments which, mercifully, afford you 1000 gold of play money to get in and get you started.

I was immediately partial to Fortune’s Tower – a form of Poker wherein you place bets against the odds of an increasing number of cards that threaten to double up and knock you out of the proverbial ring.  The most important thing to know when playing Fortune’ Tower is that if your row of numbers does NOT equal 15 points or more, then you are losing money on that round.  However, if you are down more than a couple of rows and the GATE card has already been used, take what you can and get the hell out because you will likely bust.  So in spite of anything I say after this about how I bet, it follows the above strategy.

I found the most success taking my chances – betting high in the first of twelve rounds and tempting luck as far down the pyramid as I could go before busting.  If you manage to get to the bottom of the pyramid without having to call on your Gate card, that offers you a Hail Mary pass on any double-ups, you have a good chance of winning the value of all the cards on the table.  If I continued to lose with my high-roller bets as I went through the rounds, I would back my bets all the way back to the minimum by round six in order to prevent further annihalation.

Then there is the Roulette/craps hybrid that is my Achilles’ heal.  By pressing the left trigger you can see the odds against all positions on the table – I play this like I play real Roulette – insisting on my favorite numbers (usually loved ones’ birthdays), Pairs, Triples, Runs and Keystones and stick with that.  The reason being – if the dice roll in your favor you win big and likely finish in the top five which grants you the special item card you are going for.

One of the things it took me a second to figure out is how to level up.  You do this by playing solo and not in tournaments.  Evidently, the longer you gamble and the higher the stakes, the more XP you get.  I can tell you whther or not the amount you are betting is pegged to the amount of XP though; its like in Vegas – you stick at those slots long enough and you miraculously start receiving free drinks.  Stick with it and before you know, new game options will open up.

See that "A" button for "Spin?"  Learn to use it to win big.

See that A button? Learn to use it to win big.

But let’s get back to to the third type of tournament in the game: The Spinnerbox.  at first I could not for the life of me figure out how a game of pure chance could ever grant me the win.  Then I realized that you can stop the Spinner at any point by pressing the A button a second time, rather than wait for the slots to stop spinning.  In tournament mode, understanding this is key.  What is even more “key” is getting the hang of the sweet spot: as soon as you start the Spinner, watch the discs cock up and get ready to roll.  The instant before the spin, hit the A button again.  It’s a feel thing, but I swear on my life, once you grab that sweet spot, you will win every single time. I don’t know how this could be an exploit – it has to be built into the game or otherwise how would you win a tournament, which seems to be based on how many times in succession you actually manage to hit the sweet spot.

Give it a try. I assure you this is the way to win and win big.

Fable 2 promises to be a rich and evolved next-gen game.  Molyneaux himself has admitted that he doesn’t want it to be a game that you play multiple times but rather delve into deeply on the first and only pass.  They have programmed an exhaustive amount of complexity into how your character unfolds so that the ultimate climax to the story is a long way coming and the journey to it is as dense and interesting as possible.  Something, that I wish the creators of Spore had implemented.  I love Spore, but the urgency to get to the final stage left me wanting.

Exploring the deeper possibilities of the this mere Xbox Live teaser to Fable 2 means really good things are on the horizon.

Please be sure to leave your comments on this article – I am interested in hearing your own experiences at the Albion gaming tables.