LOS ANGELES - Have an XBox Live membership and a smartphone or tablet? Then this applies to you.
XBox announced today in advance of E3, the giant Electronic Entertainment Expo here, that it is jumping into this year's big gaming shift, using touch screen devices to interact with and control media through your game console and then display content on your TV, Windows 8 PC or portable device.
Just don't expect to pick up an Xbox branded tablet controller for the experience…yet. The new functionality, dubbed "XBox SmartGlass," is being touted as an app for existing smartphones and tablets, which might make folks happy to learn if they're already up to their ears in gadgets and controllers. This is in sharp contract to Nintendo's move forward this week, reintroducing its new gamepad controller, which will feature a touch screen display right in the center of the device.
Team XBox expanded on the possibilities of integrating an extra lap screen with what's on your television, first displaying a map of the fictional realm of Westeros while an HBO Go user watched an episode of the hit "Game of Thrones," then featuring a player accessing additional content and gameplay modes within "Halo 4." All demos took place on prerecorded video, without many live examples of how the juggle between controller and touch screen device would play out in a real situation.
XBox also plans to use the app to foray into web browsing over your television for the first time, hoping that touch screens can make for a smooth and enjoyable navigation experience. Though not discussed at the event, access to the network is likely restricted to XBox Live subscribers, as all of Microsoft's online endeavors with the XBox have been thus far.
Many were hoping to see the announcement of an XBox 360 successor at E3 this year, but as the machine is currently the No. 1-selling console worldwide, Microsoft is in no hurry to usher in a 720. Instead we've seen tweaks to Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing system, as well as user interface and now apps, improving and adding to the existing experience. No word on when the apps will begin to roll out just yet, but we'll keep you on the up-and-up when they do.