Netflix on the Xbox 360: Not What It Could Be or Should Be

By  |  Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 12:22 am

xbox360When I first heard about Microsoft bringing the Netflix’s streaming movie service to the Xbox 360, I pictured myself not in the usual hunched gamer stance on the couch, but just laying there, wireless controller in hand, 12,000 movies at my fingertips. That’s what technology is about, right? It’s connectivity with all the things you want, making life easier.

It was not to be. Xbox 360’s Netflix service is crippled by the inability to browse and select movies directly from the console. Instead, you have to search Netflix’s Web site on a computer and add movies to your queue from there. And this is after you download the Netflix program on the Xbox, register an account on your computer, go back to the Xbox for an activation code, then return once more to the computer to enter the code.

Do I sound lazy? Maybe, but think of the possibilities. You’re at home with some friends. They want to watch a movie but don’t want to go to Blockbuster. It’d be great to turn on the Xbox and choose a film by committee. Or maybe you’re entertaining a significant other, trying to rationalize your nerdy gaming box with a library of instantly available flicks. You get the idea.

To make things worse, Netflix’s online browser is already broken. Searching the service’s database is only possible for hard copy rentals. The instant-watch selections can only be searched alphabetically or by category. Good luck finding that one movie you wanted to see among 11,999 other titles.

In fairness, the streaming itself is great. Watching Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (don’t ask) on a 64-inch, standard definition television, I momentarily forgot the Internet was involved. I also had no problem loading up the streaming queue with over 50 movies, preventing quite a few tedious trips back to the computer. Still, there’s no denying how great it would be to have it all.

Microsoft has kept mum on this issue. A spokesman told me that there are no announcements on future Netflix queue management. Let’s hope that changes.



7 Comments For This Post

  1. mehrshad mansouri Says:

    Notwithstanding the dearth of titles available for instant viewing (12k yes, but c’mon – it’s a bargain barrel selection; and Sony’s recent move didn’t help any), I gotta say that Netflix exceeded my expectations with their first push on NXE.

    I would presume that neither MSFT nor Netflix would want to release a soup-to-nuts port of the experience until a) significant usage provides validation of X360 as a more sensible MOD platform than a PC with Windows Media Player or, say, the Roku (which it is) b) all the kinks with quality are worked out (oddly, streaming’s still a bit buggy for me), and perhaps most importantly c) content, content, content.

    The Blockbuster MediaPoint and other forthcoming entrants will hopefully light a fire under Netflix ass, so they can finally bring new releases to the fray. That said, I’m off to finish watching Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels for the fifth time. 🙂

  2. Joel Says:

    The setup process is dead simple. And you only have to do it once. Grousing about that seems really persnickety.

    And while it might be nice to browse the Netflix store from the device itself, it would mean the development and upkeep of a completely separate interface for the Xbox when there’s already a perfectly serviceable one right on your computer that is twice as easy to use as any controller-based one would be.

  3. Keith Says:

    Microsoft just spent years developing a whole new shiney interface. Surely if they wanted Netflix connectivity, they could have added that in and maintained it.

    I watched a couple trailers and both had to pause for loading about half way through but that’s going to happen I guess. Video quality was excellent and I think you’re right – It’s a first gen product that needs a lot of improvements.

  4. Chris Rex Says:

    This is not Microsoft’s fault (for once). This is the exact same way netflix is implemented on the other devices that are netflix-capable. As a matter of fact, the way the xbox handles FWD and RWD searches is far superior to the heretofore standard ‘Roku’ box. To get something for free that is an improvement on my $99 investment is ok in my book.

  5. Jack Says:

    On-demand video has been the first goal of screen convergence for a decade, and I would have bet on Apple to get there first. Let’s face it — Apple TV delivered virtually nothing on that promise. In contrast, the Netflix/Xbox gets a lot closer in terms of delivery and pricing model (I want to subscribe to a service, not pay by the film or episode). But as another commenter noted, it’s all about content. More is, well, more…

  6. zombyboy Says:

    I’m with Joel on this one: the set up was easy and the queue management not too onerous. Would I like to be able to do the entire thing from my Xbox? Sure, but for a free service this is a great first step. Right now I have something like 70 movies and TV shows all set up for whenever the urge hits me.

    More importantly (to me): I’ve been amazed by the streaming quality. I would never have bet that a streaming, on-demand video service working over my home wireless network would deliver a good result. And I would have been very, very wrong.

    My biggest complaint would be about selection, but hopefully that will become better in the over time.

  7. Jared Newman Says:

    Mehrshad — Yep, Lock Stock is in my queue as well. Boondock Saints as well. Bargain bin or not, you can’t argue with those. 🙂

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