The folks over at Kotaku have learned from a reliable source that either at E3 or very shortly after that Microsoft plans to reveal a new feature called Xbox Live Companion. This is not the same thing as the marketplace app Xbox Companion, no my friends Xbox Live Companion is a system where developers of Xbox 360 console games can stream content directly to a mobile phone or tablet. The source has apparently said that this feature was known internally as Smart Glass, the same term that broke a last week touting much the same capabilities. That’s also the same term that Microsoft went on a domain name shopping spree purchasing almost every variation of the name they could get their hands on.
Xbox Live Companion would work like this: owners of iOS, Android or Windows phones (or tablets) download the Xbox Live Companion application to their devices. Then, developers of console games will have the option of coding in features that would allow those games to send content to the app while the game was running, transforming it into a personalized “companion” of the title being played. They were apparently given an example of how this feature would work in terms of Halo 4.
Start playing the game on Xbox 360 and, if you’ve got XBLC on your phone or tablet, it will become a Halo 4 companion application. Turn the game off and switch to something else that the app supports and it suddenly becomes your companion for that game.
By using the base companion app, individual developers don’t have to come up with their own Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows Phone versions of each “companion”, Microsoft’s app will be cross-compatible with all of them; game developers need only write their code for the Xbox Live Companion App and Microsoft will take it from there. Since Microsoft is one of the best software companies on the planet we are going to say they should be able to handle that.
But what do the companion apps actually do? Since they would be connected into the same servers your account and games are running on, it can bring up things like maps and status screens for the game you’re playing. This concept isn’t completely new though, it’s very similar to what Sony is trying to develop with the PS3 and the Vita. The major difference though is that since most everyone owns a cellphone, most Xbox 360 owners will already own the necessary hardware required to take advantage of the service. According to the source, all XBL users will get access to basic features described above. Gold subscribers though will get access to more advanced capabilities. The source also talked about more robust features including in-game inventory management or access to stuff like hacking minigames along with content streamed directly from the game to your phone/tablet, such as additional video playback or a racing game’s rearview mirror (though apparently the latter two are examples of features that may not make the app’s launch).
If the source is correct then Microsoft is just getting started and once they get the basic functionality up and running they would hope to expand it to the point that they could stream even more types of content or possibly entire Xbox games directly from your console to a compatible device, similar to the streaming capability that services like OnLive already allows. We wouldn’t plan to see too many of this Xbox 360 games make it onto this platform since this seems to be a long-term play on Microsoft’s part. With that being the case, I’m guessing that it will be even more fully integrated into their next console, code-named Durango.
No word on when the app could possibly launch or how much it might or might not cost. Microsoft opens E3 tomorrow so hopefully we hear more about it then. I’ll admit that I’m a PS3 guy through and through, but this would be a really nice capability if they release it. Hit up the comments and let us know what you think about the Xbox Live Companion.