Microsoft has been fairly quiet about their UFC deal since first announcing it at E3 this year... until now. Today they've come out with new details of UFC on Xbox Live – a free addition to Xbox Live that's due out on December 1 in time for UFC 140, which is scheduled to go live on December 10. Using UFC on Xbox Live you’ll be able to stream the pay-per-view event at 60 FPS, making it as clear as it is when you purchase it from your cable provider. In fact, the experience is going to be almost identical to the one you’d get from typical cable when it comes to the basic services. The prices are the same ($54.99 for HD and $44.99 for SD), the viewing window is the same (you have between 24-48 hours to watch the purchased content, as well as viewing it live), and the customer service is the same (if your cable drops out or you aren’t home to view it, Microsoft will give your money back). Where it’s different is in the presentation, which takes advantage of the Xbox 360’s power and connectivity to give the best UFC experience possible.
Streaming UFC should provide an experience similar to watching through Comcast, Verizon, or any other cable provider. It’s what happens before and after the event that makes UFC on Xbox Live stand out. Microsoft is taking advantage of the video content available for free on UFC.com and creating a stronger arrangement for it, giving access to pre-fight interviews, videos, and other clips to promote the event. Sure, you could load up the website and watch them, but being able to view them for free on your television is significantly easier. Being able to load up a bunch of SD and HD videos for free sounds like the perfect pre-fight festivities, and should help get us excited for all of the fights – even the ones we might not have known about before the PPV begins.
Even the live pre-fight events, like the weigh-ins, are going to be presented for free, streaming on Xbox Live. Essentially, everything that’s not already licensed by another company is going to be available, making it easy to get informed, and giving plenty of options as to what to watch before the event begins. If the service is successful, we might even see Xbox exclusive content, too, similar to what is found on Facebook before a big event.
For as interested we are in this new way to watch UFC, the most interesting element of UFC on Xbox Live is being able to join in some friendly competition with friends. Even if you don't buy the PPV you'll be able to predict the outcome of UFC matches, adding a sort of gameplay to the experience of watching. You can make your picks and track your stats against those of your friends using leaderboards, earning Achievements along the way.
It looks absolutely fantastic, and incredibly advanced compared to the archaic menus of most cable companies. It takes the same aesthetic prowess Microsoft has pioneered this console generation and applies it to creating a home for the digital side of UFC, and we're anxious to give it a go in December. But the real test is going to be in how it works. Microsoft claims that a majority of Xbox Live users should be able to stream in HD without a problem, though we’re not going to be convinced until we’re watching it live ourselves.
Oct 7, 2011