Microsoft on Tuesday unveiled a host of significant upgrades to its Xbox video game platform and online service, including a "Games on Demand" feature that facilitates server-based gaming, online manuals, and improved search and social networking tools for Netflix movie viewing.
"One of the amazing things about the Xbox Live experience is that it's always getting better," said Microsoft.
Games on Demand lets users purchase a copy of an Xbox 360 title online and download it to their console. The feature also allows gamers to log into their Xbox Live account from any other Xbox console to play previously purchased games online, even if the device lacks a hard disk.
Users can also delete games if they run out of space and download them again at a later date at no additional charge. Game manuals can be viewed, downloaded, and printed from Xbox.com.
The new Games on Demand features are available starting Thursday, Microsoft said.
Microsoft also announced new features that enhance its exclusive on-demand movie partnership with rental house Netflix. A tool called Party Watch lets viewers in different locations chat and message while watching titles that support the capability.
New search tools let users more quickly browse through new releases and other genre types they specify simply by using their remote. Improved playback features are designed to maintain a high-quality viewing experience through a variety of network conditions, Microsoft said.
Microsoft also launched a new avatar marketplace on Xbox Live where consumers can purchase clothing and other items for their online counterparts.
The enhancements could provide a needed boost for Microsoft's entertainment unit. The company said revenue from the Xbox platform and PC games fell 12% year-over-year in the most recent quarter, primarily due to a decline in Xbox 360 unit sales and price reductions.