The nice folks at Microsoft gave us an early sneak peek this morning of their Facebook and Twitter integration on the Xbox LIVE platform. And while the company should be commended for creating a very usable interface for those skimming through their social media services, the whole experience wasn’t nearly as inspiring as I’d hoped.
To be fair, I only spent a short amount of time with the service, which is scheduled to roll out in November (we got a video demo while at Microsoft last month), so I haven’t fully immersed myself in the social media features the gaming platform has to offer. But just as Liz discovered with Cliqset this week, implementing social TV is harder than we thought.
My first impression was that socializing felt disconnected from the Xbox experience. This could just be my bias since I primarily use Xbox as gaming platform, but there isn’t much overlap between my friend interaction and my playing (unless we’re on our nerdy headsets talking with each other). By that I mean, the two are kept in separate silos — there’s no social peanut butter in my gaming chocolate. When I’m playing a game, I can’t see Twitter or Facebook updates (though some games will allow you to share screengrabs and post those images from inside the game). Sure, I probably don’t want a steady stream of updates as I’m trying to fend off the horde in Gears of War 2, but there are probably scenarios where I’d like to get some news from select friends while I’m killing time.
Don’t get me wrong, the integrations themselves are quite good. Facebook on Xbox in particular promises to be a nice way to look at photos on the big screen (something that Verizon FiOS also does). But if you want to add updates or comment on those photos you’ll need to get the “chat pad” keypad add on for your controller, otherwise you have to move through an on-screen keyboard, punching in each letter (up to 140 times if you’re on Twitter!).
Then there’s the question of what’s being shared. From a content perspective, you can only view photos on the console — not videos, which seems like a pretty big hole given how much video is being added to the Xbox and how Facebook is becoming a video powerhouse. Additionally, you can’t share links, a mainstay of modern day communication.
But the question is actually a larger one that is more about social media integration into the TV in general. Sitting in the demo room with the Microsoft folks, I felt pretty exposed watching personal updates from friends flash across the screen. Granted, I was in front of strangers so I was probably more guarded, but social media feels like more of a lean-forward experience than the living room. I may broadcast my thoughts and images with the world, but I don’t necessarily want them blaring out of my TV. I would imagine this goes double for kids playing at home in the living room.