When Microsoft and the UFC jointly announced that they would bring UFC content to Xbox Live, there was a collective cheer from MMA and Xbox 360 fans about the prospect of getting additional entertainment/sports content on their consoles.
However up until now, information about what exactly will be available on Xbox Live has remained pretty vague.
Luckily we had the opportunity to meet with Microsoft recently in San Francisco to find out just what exactly will be punching and kicking its way to the Xbox 360.
The main purpose of the of the service, will be to give fans another avenue for watching UFC PPVs, but with the added bonus of extra content not found in one location.
PPVs will be available in both HD and SD at the same price that fans will find on their satellite or cable systems, while the service will also include past events that can be purchased at a discounted rate. Prices will be in dollars, so it won’t be necessary to be fumbling around with Microsoft Points to figure out how much each event costs. With each PPV, there is also additional coverage that can be found near the bottom of each PPV’s landing page. Users will find videos of weigh-ins, pre-event previews, interviews, and more. This additional content is free and a PPV purchase is not required to view them. All of these videos are streamed in HD, though the quality of each user’s internet connectivity will have an effect. For the most part though, a quality connection will yield up to 60 frames per second and the handful of videos we saw came in pretty clearly. A subtle, but cool feature is the recommendation tool, which basically takes a look at your connection speed and then recommends either SD or HD streams of the PPV, so users won’t feel hosed by getting an HD version and finding out later that their connection isn’t fast enough to handle it properly.
From the moment the service is launched, you can appreciate the user interface, which is both easy to follow, clean and attractive. It’s obvious that a lot of thought has been put into it, which almost resembles a website; which should make it easy to use for anyone in the home.
Whether purchasing a new PPV or an old one, they will remain available for repeated viewings anywhere from 24-48 hours, which is something controlled by the UFC and not Microsoft.
Upon arriving on a landing page for any particular event, the service adds in some very useful information, such as a rundown of the entire card (fight card), along with fighter bios, the tale of the tape and even each fighter’s fight history (covering their last three performances). While UFC will surely appreciate having all this information at their disposal, it’s probably the casual fan that will benefit from this even more, and what better way to hype up the event, than by getting some background information on the participants!
There are also some social aspects to UFC on Xbox Live, in particular with the ability to post predictions for each fight. Users will be able to pick a winner, as well as the method – be it by submission, knockout or by decision. Each pick renders points, depending on how accurate you were with the prediction and a leaderboard for each PPV will display the results for you and your friends. Picks can be changed up to the time of each fight and there will also be a UFC Friend Activity feed, which lets each user know if their friends have already made their predictions, as well as what they’re up to on the service (watching videos, etc.).
UFC on Xbox Live Producer Mike Mahar says that there is also some Facebook integration currently in the works, to allow for posting predictions on your wall, though it may or may not be available at launch. It should also be noted that making predictions is available to anyone using the service and doesn’t require a PPV purchase either.
Towards the end of the demo we were also shown how stats, which are being done by Fight Metrics, can be pulled up on the fly during any fight, and the service will be smart enough to know which fight you are watching, in order to pull up the appropriate information.
The service is set for a December 1 launch, to coincide with the UFC 140 PPV, which airs on Dec. 10 and is the first PPV offering.
All in all, UFC on Xbox Live looks very promising and is sure to bring in both existing fans and those on the fence. It’s a great way to merge the two sides and promote the UFC as a whole.