Social Gaming Hitting A New Level

Xbox LiveLast week, Microsoft rolled out a new update to its Xbox 360 dashboard. Among other changes, the update added Twitter and Facebook functionality to “Gold” users of its service. CNET tells us that “millions” are already using these new services.

The new add-ons allow users to do the usual things that you would expect to do with Twitter and Facebook – browse profiles, tweet, etc, but they also do one very important and very powerful thing, too:

They allow you to see which of your friends on these services are using Xbox Live.

Why is this a big deal? Because, if you’re anything like me, you’re tired of logging on to spend a few minutes playing your favourite game online and being confronted with a bunch of kids yelling vile insults at you. Thanks to those types, I rarely (read: never) play online with people I don’t know.

The problem with that philosophy, though, is that it can be hard to find which of your friends uses the Xbox Live service, leaving the online experience feeling somewhat empty. With these new features, you can scan your Twitter follower and Facebook friends lists to find your fellow gamers, and quickly and easily connect to them.

It’s another step in the merging of social media and social networking into the things we already do online.

  • Mass media websites have incorporated social media tools such as RSS and commenting for a while;
  • Movie producers have used social media features during movie and DVD launches (Fight Club is a great example);
  • Now, social media is further encroaching on one of the largest entertainment industries around – computer gaming.

My bet: in a couple of years, this kind of feature will be so ingrained that people won’t think of it as a “social media” feature – it’ll just be a given when they turn on their console.

What do you think?