Sky Player on 360: Re-invention?

Last time we looked at how the Sky Player for the Xbox 360 was a failure. Well we’ve taken on board the criticism and comments from the previous article and thought it would be appropriate to take a look at why Sky Player is actually a half decent service and respond to your comments.

Murdoch’s millions may have failed to inspire the service, and the monthly costs associated with it are still extremely high for a service of its calibre. But it seems many of you are willing to fork out or at least try and enjoy what is on offer from a technology we’ve not previously seen before without having a dish screwed on to the side of your house, or a bunch of cables running in from the street.

On-demand may not exactly be new to technology buffs, but the delivery of it down the internet through an Xbox 360 is. Back in 2005, no one could vision such a service making headlines at the end of 2009. Virgin has its on-demand service and Sky has yet to achieve something similar on its digital satellite service. So essentially aside from the PC version, it is a first for the corporate giant and a pleasing effort at that.

Microsoft has these strict requirements that any content designed for the Xbox 360 has to be unique. It can’t be a carbon copy of the PC version or anything else seen in the public domain. If it hasn’t got new features, then the idea will be binned. Sky came up trumps by offering a unique aspect to the Sky Player allowing you to ‘watch’ with your mates.

Providing they also have a Sky subscription of some sorts, you can sit down with your virtual friends thanks to the avatar system. Once you’ve got comfy on the sofas, the programme plays out on a virtual television set in a living room. You can use a set of emoticons which are located on screen to replicate your real-life feelings to your virtual mates on-screen. Or alternatively you can use the headset to chat or most likely throw a few expletives at your mate as you watch the Chelsea v Arsenal game on Sky Sports.

If you are one of those lucky enough to have the full packages or know someone with that content, then the Sky Player has a number of things to offer. With 21 channels streaming live including the Sky Sports channels, it really does offer a little something for everyone.

But what is the best aspect of the Sky Player? The crème de le crème of the service has to be the 400+ films that are on offer. Of course you’ll need the obligatory Sky Movies subscription, but with that little gem comes a vast variety of film greats, including plenty of new films and the classics as well. One thing for sure is that you’ll not be stuck for films over the Christmas period. And the on-demand films work flawlessly.

Using the sublime menus you can pick out a film under genre and read a description as well as related content. Press ‘Play’ and you're off. A small bit of buffering and before your very eyes is one of the latest blockbusters. With some extensive testing as well, I’m pleased to say that it all works perfectly with not one bit of buffering during a series of films.

There is still progress to go however, the quality is still lacking edge and HD content is possibly still a long-way round the corner, but for now we’ll give credit to Sky for giving us the bare-bones, and hopefully in 2010 the main course will deliver something special.

There were some scathing comments on the previous article including this one from ‘Mgs fan’ who said: “I'm sure Microsoft and Sky will in time perfect the service. This service is a first on any console and is still in early days, you shouldn’t criticise it.”

Point taken entirely, but beta testing should have happened long before the release date. You cannot release a product into the public eye without ensuring it at least works with a certain amount of users. It somewhat ridiculed the service from the off.

Carnage UK was disappointed with pricing: “To me the biggest failure has to be the pricing. Both Sky and Microsoft have missed a golden opportunity to gain new customers and show how this method of access to sky content is different and more accessible. If I wanted to pay for a subscription, I would buy a dish and digibox.”

Those words in particular cropped up from many people and it couldn’t be far from the truth. On its own the service is far too expensive. If the option of having Sky for £15 with Movies and Sports was open, then it’d attract far more users. As it stands, the basic package is very basic and with a normal Sky Box with hundreds of channels costing the same, you can see why it doesn’t offer great value to consumers.

Finally this from James: “Content is still atrociously bad compared to the PC version”.

Apparently due to licensing agreements with American content providers on Xbox Live who carry American programmes for rent, for the time being American shows won’t be available on Sky Player.

We’ll continue to monitor the service and update you on developments in the New Year.


Rob Rymond

Currently residing between Solihull and Stoke, Rob is training to be a professional journalist at Staffordshire University. He has a wealth of experience under his belt and has been writing for 7 years despite only being 19. He thrives on news and reporting it but also dabbles with reviews as well from time to time. Outside of video games he is also a radio broadcaster (or DJ to me and you) and spends time with his girlfriend.

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