>> From the press release (letter from Marc Whitten):
Last week we announced that Xbox LIVE has reached a staggering 20 million active members, reinforcing that Xbox LIVE isn't just an online gaming service; it's a community. That's why we're committed to offering entertainment for everyone on Xbox LIVE, from the core gamers with us since the beginning, to our newest members just learning about all the fun of Xbox 360.
We took a great step toward that goal last November when we re-imagined the Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE with the New Xbox Experience.
I talked then about our commitment to innovation on LIVE, and today we continue to deliver on that promise as we showcase new blockbuster games, technologies and partnerships that will transform the way people think about home entertainment. With Xbox LIVE at the center of your living room, you can watch your favorite movies in instant on 1080p HD and 5.1 channel surround sound with Zune video, or update your Netflix instant Queue and share the fun with a virtual movie party.
You can take your entertainment experiences to the largest social network on the planet with Facebook on Xbox LIVE, and even post a snap shot of your favorite gaming moments through Facebook Connect. And with Twitter, you can stay connected and keep your social circle up to date by reading, posting and replying to tweets right on your Xbox 360.
And for music lovers like me, our partnership with Last.fm will bring personalized streaming radio stations right to your Xbox 360.
We're also thinking globally, and delivering a custom experience from BSkyB, one of the biggest names in European home entertainment - bringing great local content and live football to our members in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
We're excited about all the innovations we unveiled today, and I want to share some of the new gaming and community features coming to Xbox LIVE this fall:
* Games on Demand. Xbox LIVE has changed the way you play your games, and now we're changing the way you access them, with the digital distribution of full Xbox 360 games. The Games on Demand channel will launch with a library more than 30 great games, from classic hits like "Mass Effect," "BioShock" and "Assassin's Creed," to family favorites like "LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga" and "Sonic the Hedgehog." You'll have access to a wide variety of great games, downloadable in only a few hours and at the touch of a button. We've also added the option to purchase Games on Demand directly with your credit or debit card.
* Great games on Xbox LIVE and Xbox LIVE Arcade. Xbox LIVE Arcade is keeping the fun rolling all summer long. We are continuing our commitment to quality and innovation by delivering five weeks of downloadable blockbusters with the second annual Summer of Arcade - bringing you the biggest and best smash hits of the season including "Shadow Complex," "Trials HD," "Splosion Man ™," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™ : Turtles in Time Re-Shelled," and "MARVEL™ VS. CAPCOM® 2." And of course I'm excited to see the launch of our beta season of "1 vs 100" today. I'm also already playing a ton of our newly announced game, "Joy Ride," and I can't wait for you to experience it this holiday.
* Avatar Marketplace. Since the launch of NXE, millions of Avatars have been created on Xbox LIVE, giving our members a whole new way to express themselves online, in games, and in their social experiences. Starting this summer, you will see some great new ways to make your Avatar truly your own. First, we heard loud and clear from you that you wanted to get new avatar items as awards when playing games, and I'm happy to announce support for in-game Avatar Awardables. Second, you're going to see some great new options with animated Props and full costumes to add to your Avatar. Finally, we're continuing that spirit of customization and self-expression with a virtual closet full of premium clothing and interactive props to download and purchase for your Avatar. Whether its game-inspired gear or the latest fashion trends, there will be creative options for everyone to enjoy. You'll also be able to easily access the new Avatar Marketplace directly through the Avatar editor.
* User Ratings. We're adding a five star rating system that lets you easily rate any content in the Games Marketplace. Now you'll be able to show your support for your favorite games and Game Add-ons on Xbox LIVE and also quickly organize by user rating to find the community's favorite content. This has been one of your most-requested features, and we're very happy to bring it to you this summer.
* Performance Updates. We know that the details also matter. That's why we're making a series of updates based on your feedback. First and foremost, the entire Xbox LIVE service is being upgraded for improved performance including better guide and friends access. Some other things we've done based on your feedback include revamping the friends sorting list, Achievement views and improving our matchmaking support. There's always room to improve, and your input really matters to us...so keep it coming!
I've never been more proud to be a part of this team, and I truly believe that there's never been a better time to be an Xbox LIVE member - there are more entertainment choices than ever before for our members. With today's announcements, I can confidently say that an Xbox LIVE Gold Membership is hands down the best value in home entertainment, giving you exclusive access to Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Sky, Last.fm, "1 vs 100 Live" beta, and the best gaming and entertainment network on the planet.
There's much more to come, and you'll hear even more details soon. But in the meantime, we hope you're having as much fun as we are.