XBox 360 Sky Player floored by demand?
It looks as if the XBox 360 and the new Sky Player that runs on the platform has attracted too much interest in its first week of existence. This has lead to Sky adding the message "Following an unpredicted technical issue at launch on Tuesday, the Sky Player on Xbox 360 service was suspended." on the Sky Player page. This highlights the problems of offering TV over a broadband infrastructure, i.e. it is not just the issue of contention but getting scaling of servers and other facilities ready. The suggestions are that the problem arose due to unexpectedly high demand for the service.
Greg Howson on The Guardian Games Blog has written about his experience of the new service, with the summary being when it worked it was impressive. From watching the publicity material it seems the avatar mode where people using the XBox 360 can join each other in a 'theatre' to watch a programme may prove popular for the football fans out there, though surely most people will simply go around to their mates house.
The price of the service looks confusing at the moment, with a dozen lines of fairly small print text setting out the various offers. Basically if you have Sky Broadband Unlimited or Sky TV Multiroom then the Live TV channels are free. If you have Sky TV but no Multiroom subscription you pay £9.75 a month for the basic channels. Non-Sky customers pay £15 a month. The offer running at present is that the Multiroom rate is reduced to 2/3rd's if you sign up for a three month subscription. Various packages are available with the bill rising to £50 a month if you take sports, movies and ESPN - a basic movies package costs £24 a month. Don't forget to add the monthly cost of the XBox Live Gold subscription.
IPTV at the prices Sky is charging seems expensive, but then movie channel subscriptions are not cheap on Sky or Virgin Media. Potential users of the service should consider the alternate options such as buying movies via XBox 360 Marketplace and postal DVD rental services. For people considering using the XBox 360 as an alternative to installing a satellite set-top box in a room, remember that while you can add wireless to an XBox 360, for video streaming an Ethernet (wired) connection will much better. An additional consideration is the amount of data used by the service and how this may eat into any monthly usage allowance your broadband service has (and remember that some unlimited services actually slow down as you go over what are sometimes undefined usage levels).
Sky has a special promotion in partnership with Amazon.co.uk, that is offering an XBox 360 Elite (120GB HDD) with 3 month Live Gold membership, Pure and Lego Batman games plus an extra wireless controller for £199. A little hunting around shows similar priced deals are available, though from a quick search the addition of the Gold membership makes it better than most.