Remember when we said Microsoft has big plans for the future of its Xbox console? With the Electronic Entertainment Expo beginning June 5, rumors about what the video game industry will unveil are starting to heat up. One of the most recent speculations to surface involves plans from Microsoft to offer a new feature that will stream Xbox 360 content from games directly to a mobile phone or tablet.
The app, known as Xbox Live Companion, is not to be confused with its social and marketplace app Xbox Companion. Kotaku, a video game news blog that is part of Gawker Media, has learned about the new feature from an internal source, coming right after a rumor sparked last week that gamers will be able to stream content from their consoles directly to their mobile devices. The new app was originally known internally as Smart Glass, and according to Kotaku, the feature will focus primarily on games rather than other media content.
Users with iOS, Android or Windows phones or tablets would download the Xbox Live Companion app to their devices, and developers of console games would have the option to include coding that would allow their games to send content to the app while it is running. One example referred to was Halo 4. Players who begin the game on Xbox 360 can transform their tablet or phone into a personalized companion application for Halo 4. When finished, players can turn the game off and switch to another title supported by the app.
Since there are a variety of requirements and resolutions spread over the span of phones and tablets, asking individual developers to create their own apps designed for Windows, iOS, and Android would not be feasible. Rather, Microsoft's app will be cross-compatible with all of them, requiring developers to only write the Xbox Live Companion App coding into their games.
Some may be wondering what exactly this companion app will do for gamers. Xbox Live Companion would be connected to the same servers as a player's Xbox account, and therefore will be able to bring up maps, status screens and other features for the game one is playing. The insider source also told Kotaku that all Xbox Live users will be able to access the app's basic features, while Gold subscribers will be able to obtain some more advanced content. Examples of this include in-game inventory management or additional video playback features streamed directly to one's phone or tablet.
And according to Microsoft, Xbox Live Companion is just the beginning. After the basics of the application are up and running, Microsoft has aspirations to stream even more content, and perhaps even entire games, directly from the console to a mobile device. Some Xbox 360 games will contain Xbox Live Companion compatibility, but in the long run this is a feature that will play a big role in the next-generation Xbox 720.
In the past year, and especially with the launch of its most recent iPad, Apple has been said to stake a stronger presence in the gaming industry. When the company made its official unveil of the new iPad in March, one of the features showcased was its popular iOS game, Infinity Blade: Dungeons.
With some wondering whether or not the iPad will become the go-to mobile gaming device, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company may have to step up its game to compete with Microsoft. Will the Xbox Live Companion app give the PC-maker an edge in the mobile gaming industry? Until more information is unveiled it will be tough to say, but since Microsoft is the manufacturer behind one of the biggest gaming systems, Apple will need to reveal something extraordinary to keep up.
It's no secret that Apple has undoubtedly made strides in the mobile gaming community, with some arguing that Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja could be the Pac-Man of the current generation. But although the depth of mobile games are continuing to grow and expand, it could take some time before hardcore gamers tie Apple as closely with the gaming industry as they do Microsoft.
It is unclear exactly when the Microsoft Companion app will launch, what the cost will be, and what it means for the future of gaming and mobile compatibility. But as E3 looms, Microsoft's press conference may provide some clarification.
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