The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 broadened their social networking capabilities this week, with the introductions of Facebook on both consoles, and Twitter and Last.fm on the 360.
Facebook on the Xbox 360 functions like a limited version of what you see on your computer. You can check out all your friends’ status updates, post your own and view folks’ profile information. There’s also a cool little bit of interactivity that helps you find your Xbox Live friends on Facebook and also lets you discover your Facebook friends’ gamertags. It’s a pretty cool feature. I’m generally a bit gunshy about gaming online with complete strangers, but I’d team up with former coworkers or classmates, even ones I’ve largely lost touch with, if I knew they liked “Left 4 Dead” or “Culdcept Saga” as much as I do. Sadly, the unveiling of this new feature wasn’t accompanied by any raising of Xbox Live’s 100-friend limit, or the ability to form groups (e.g., “Modern Warfare 2” tournaments). It’s also worth mentioning that, because the 360 lacks a Web browser, you can’t click on shared links or watch YouTube videos the same way you could on the PS3 or Wii.
By far the best Xbox 360 Facebook feature, though, is the one that lets you view slideshows of your friends’ photos. Even though I’m a semiprolific Facebooker, I have to confess I rarely look through entire albums of my friends’ pics because Facebook itself lacks a slideshow feature. And clicking on one thumbnail after another just isn’t my idea of fun. On the 360, though, my wife and I were able to view all of Mike Murphy‘s Paris vacation photos on our TV at the press of a button.
You’ll find no such feature in the PS3’s new Facebook-integrating update, but don’t be surprised if they add it at a later date. Right now, Facebook on the PS3 is pretty limited. Sure, the console has a Web browser that lets you view the site the same way you would on a computer, but the slideshow and friend-finding features are nowhere to be found. In their place, though, you get an option to link your Facebook account with your PlayStation Network ID, so that every time you earn an achievement trophy in a game, or buy anything from the console’s online store, your PS3 will automatically post a small update to Facebook.
Now let’s think about this a minute: Does the world really want constant Facebook status updates every time anyone on our friends list completes some small in-game goal, or downloads a new add-on for “Fallout 3?” Probably not. But hey, it can’t be any more annoying than all those quiz-result stats updates, and Facebook does give you the option of hiding all posts from the PlayStation Network.
All told, the Xbox 360/Facebook slideshows and PlayStation Network-driven status updates are great first steps at attempting to integrate video game consoles within the larger social networking hive mind. But given that both applications are dashboard driven, and accessed only when you’re outside of a gaming session, we’ve still got a ways to go. It’ll only be a matter of time before you can hit your console’s guide button and have a world of social networking possibilities at your thumbtips.
As for Twitter on the 360, I found it to be just as much of a dud as regular old Twitter. I like using the service to share links or observations on this blog, but it’s not a digital space I’ll actively hang out in. The Xbox Live integration doesn’t change that. The 360 also got a version of Last.fm. I’m a huge music nut, but I honestly haven’t had time to sync up my 360 with my existing Last.fm account. I’ll try to get to it over the weekend and post my thoughts later.
To access Facebook and Last.fm on the Xbox 360, you’ll need to download the apps from the dashboard. They’re free to all Xbox Live gold subscribers. On the PS3, finding the Facebook integration stuff is a bit trickier. It appears under “account settings,” accessible from the main menue, or XMB to those in the know.