The big news broke a couple of months ago that fans would be able to order UFC pay-per-views (PPV) through their Xbox by year's end, streaming events straight from their video game console. It's Microsoft's latest step in making the their system more than a toy and transforming it into a bonafide multimedia entertainment center. Joining the likes of media giants Netflix and Hulu already available through Xbox Live, the UFC is poised to play a major role in the Redmond company's future plans to achieve that goal.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview of the service before it goes public on Dec. 20 just in time for UFC 141: "Lesnar vs. Overeem" so I've got the full skinny for my beloved Maniacs.
How was the video and audio quality? Were there any lags in the stream? What advantages does ordering a UFC PPV through XBox Live have order the usual manner of cable or satellite?
All of these questions and more will be answered after the jump.
Quality of stream: Running off a wired 10 megabyte download speed cable internet connection and your run of the mill high definition television, I could not see nor hear any discernable difference between the Xbox Live stream and what I usually experienced ordering PPVs through my cable box.
The picture was sharp, the sound was crisp, and there was no lag to be seen. Granted, this was a closed preview so the servers weren't as stressed as they will be once the service goes public. Whether or not any hiccups will pop up starting with UFC 141 will remain to be seen. The price point for the show remains the same across the board but if the quality holds up, there shouldn't be much to complain about there.
Fans are also able to replay the event an unlimited amount of times up to 24 hours later with the option of skipping ahead or fast forwarding to their favorite fights.
The only qualm I had with the stream was that it seemed to be a little over a full minute behind the action. When Mark Hominick and Chan Sung Jung were in their corners being asked by the referee if they were ready on my TV, my Twitter timeline was already being flooded with just about every exclamation you can think of after "The Korean Zombie" flattened his opponent in only seven seconds.
A minute might not seem like a big deal but it's a lifetime in terms of a fight. A tweet or a text message can ruin the ending of a fight in that time.
Presentation: This is where the Xbox Live experience begins to pull away from your basic mom and pop cable or satellite companies. During the event, pressing the Y button on your controller will pull up the fight card, complete with a "Tale of the Tape" for each bout. Also included are your fights pick if you made them before the event started as well as a leaderboard which keeps track of everyone else's picks.
Hitting the left and right bumpers or triggers will scroll through a series of options including the last three bouts -- and their results -- for each fighter. You also get a Fight Overview which is a little blurb about each combatant. It was pretty generic this time around, I wonder if it will get more in-depth as time goes on.
The final option is a listing of your Xbox Live friends' picks for the event. Bragging rights seem to be all that's at stake for now but I can't help but think Microsoft might throw out some prizes -- like Xbox Live points -- for those fight fans whose picks are spot on.
Extras: The fun isn't only for those who have committed to buying the PPV through their Xbox. Simply accessing the UFC application through the Live menu grants fans all sorts of awesome access. It's nothing you can't find anywhere else but having it all under one roof -- so to speak -- is fantastic.
Interviews with Tito Ortiz, Lyoto Machida, and UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones are available as is a trio of videos from the open workouts. The weigh-ins are also available. I'm unsure if they were streamed live but they were available immediately afterwards. Hours later, highlights videos were editing out from the three big fights were also made available if you can't sit through the entire thing.
You can also watch a video of the pre-fight press conference as well as the entire Countdown episode for the event. Going further back, videos from UFC 139 are still available and going into the future, you can also watch a teaser for UFC 141.
As is, the entire UFC on Xbox Live experience is more immersive and a welcome change to the current method of ordering a PPV. There's a ton of potential there as well as Microsoft and Zuffa have only scratched the surface of what is possible. Live chat rooms and integration with UFC Undisputed 3 are only two of near limitless possibilities for the service.
One final note: it seems that while every Xbox Live user will be able to order the PPV, only Gold level members will get access to all those fun extras like the weigh-in videos, Countdown, etc.
Any Maniacs interested in ordering UFC 141 through your Xbox? Any others questions you may have that I didn't touch on?