The big news broke yesterday morning (Oct. 7, 2011) that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Microsoft struck a deal to stream the fight promotion's pay-per-view (PPV) events through XBox Live, the video game company's online platform available through its Xbox 360 console.
Now able to stream content from providers such as ESPN3, Netflix and Hulu, the Xbox 360 has evolved beyond just being a toy that plays the newest "Call of Duty." Much more. It has become a multimedia powerhouse and the UFC is getting in on the ground floor.
Starting with UFC 140: "Jones vs. Machida," fight fans will be able to order PPVs straight through the new UFC menu option that will go live on Dec. 1, 2011. But the fun doesn't stop there, Maniacs.
Fight picks, interviews, pre-fight press conferences and much more will also be available.
I was lucky enough to get a hands on look at what Microsoft and the world's number one fight promotion have in store for us during the UFC Fan Expo this weekend.
It was impressive to say the least.
As I mentioned above, the biggest news coming from the announcement is obviously the PPV, which can be ordered in standard or high definition (HD) for the same price one would pay through their cable or satellite providers. The HD version streams through at 720, which is due to a compromise from the boys at Microsoft. The video quality isn't noticeably different, but buffering will be almost nonexistent. To help compensate for this, fans will get the feed at 60 frames per second.
To make the payment process is as headache-free as possible, you will have to use a debit/credit card to purchase the PPV, meaning Xbox Live points won't cut it.
Now let's get down to the fun stuff.
Here's a quick look and what the interface will look like:
On top of the full event itself -- all preliminaries and main card bouts -- fans will be able to view the pre-fight press conferences and/or the weigh-ins, while also having access to interviews with the fighters from the event. Want to watch the Countdown to get yourself pumped for the fights?
You can do that, too.
Microsoft wanted to avoid having fans sit through buffer screens and came up with a clever solution. The video starts immediately -- albeit at a slightly lower quality -- which increases as the video progresses. No load screens here, Maniacs.
Now let's talk fight picks. Maniacs pride themselves on being experts when it comes to predicting who will get their hands raised at the end of the fights. UFC on Xbox Live offers yet another medium to trash talk.
FIght fans will be able to pick the winner and method of victory for the evening's bouts and then share those predictions on their Facebook pages. But let's say for some reason you can't decide between Leonard Garcia and Nam Phan. Select the fight and you'll get access to a gaggle of stats: Fight record, in-depth results from each fighter's last three bouts, and much more. FightMetric, which is the official stat provider inside the Octagon, will make sure you make as informed a decision as possible.
But, what good is getting fight picks right without the glory, without the bragging rights? National scoreboards, contests and achievements are just some of the incentives Microsoft is offering for you young Nostradumbasses in training.
Another neat feature is being able to tag content for your friends. Know someone who is a huge "Rampage" fan and notice a new interview has gone up? You'll be able to send someone a message that will alert them on the new content.
Microsoft is also integrating its new Kinect hardware with the service. Voice commands will make a hands-free experience possible with phrases like "Xbox previous screen" or "XBox Jon Jones" pulling up the appropriate content.
There are still kinks that need to be worked out. Microsoft isn't sure if fans will be able to watch from multiple systems in a single home linked to the same Xbox Live account or how long the PPV will be available for replay. But, it will have around two months to get figured out.
Again, the service goes live on Dec. 1, 2011, just in time for the new light heavyweight title bout between Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida.
If what the UFC and Microsoft already have in store is any indication, their new venture will only get better as time goes on. It's exciting news.