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Windows 8 and Xbox: How to realize their hidden synergy

David Murphy | Jan. 25, 2013
The gaming PC and the living room game console have never been close friends. So PC gamers play their PC games, console gamers play their console games, and never the twain shall meet.

Unfortunately, Play on Xbox needs a lot of extra software to work properly, and some of those extras are expensive. Most crucially, only content that you've purchased through Microsoft's Music and Video apps can take advantage of the Play on Xbox feature. Any locally stored files that you've acquired via, say, iTunes or ripping physical media has to use the more limited Play to Xbox, instead. As if that wasn't enough of a barrier, you'll also need an Xbox Live Gold subscription and an Xbox Music Pass subscription if you're hoping to use Play on Xbox to jam tunes on your console.

The abundance of costly roadblocks is a real shame, as Play on Xbox is one of the standout features highlighting Windows 8's console integration. Alas.

Game over, man, game over

Even setting aside Play on Xbox's disappointing limitations, not all is perfect in Windows 8 and Xbox 360 land. Notably missing from these two platforms' growing integration is any way for gamers on Windows 8 to message their friends on Xbox Live directly through the operating system. (Games for Windows Live doesn't count.) Additionally, those looking to stream content from their systems to their gaming consoles will still have to put up with the Xbox 360's restrictions on supported video codecs and encoding types.

In other words, you might not be able to stream all of your videos even using Microsoft's techniques. And, of course, there's currently no way flip the streaming equation in the one way gamers might want to try: Streaming games from their consoles to their computers or tablet for some keyboard-mouse (or finger-tapping) play.

The Windows 8/Xbox pairing doesn't work flawlessly across the board, either. As mentioned, I've been having a heck of a time trying to get my operating system to recognize that my turned-on Xbox 360 exists. I suspect this might be the result of my desktop computer being connected to my router via ethernet cable, whereas my Xbox 360 is connected up wirelessly--somewhere, somehow, the wireless connection might be a bit of a deal-breaker when it comes to our desktop PC being able to correctly identify the device one hundred percent of the time. My editor rocks a similar setup that works just fine, however, so your mileage may vary.

Microsoft's marriage of Windows 8 and the Xbox 360 isn't quite perfect, but it's highly promising--and when it works, it's a blast.


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