Xbox brings families together

I’m pretty sure my sister and her boyfriend both have Xbox Live Gold accounts. I’m already on their AT&T family plan for my iPhone, I may as well pass them some more money to include me on this, too! While Netflix streaming is awesome for my large plasma TV at home, it wasn’t enough to keep me on a Gold membership once I expired this past September; most of the games I purchased at release date were single-player only, so there was no need for the online gaming aspect of Xbox Live.

At $49.99 per year, a subscription to Xbox Live Gold isn’t all that bad of a deal — unless you compare it to the newly announced Xbox Live Gold Family Pack. Starting in November, $99.99 a year will give up to four users access to all of the perks that the single user membership offers. You know, great stuff like multiplayer gaming, a Zune Pass, Netflix streaming, video chat and 3,500 live sporting events from ESPN.

An Xbox LIVE Gold Family Pack includes:

  • Up to four individual Xbox LIVE Gold memberships for the price of two – (US) $99.99.
  • Family Center – a single, easy to use, destination for Family Settings and account management, accessible on the Xbox dashboard and on Xbox.com.
  • The primary account member has the ability to purchase and dispense Microsoft Points to other Xbox LIVE Gold Family Pack members.
  • Activity monitoring reports viewable on Xbox.com to help encourage discussions about safer more balanced gaming and entertainment habits.
  • Simplified billing that applies all purchase charges to the primary account holder’s billing account and the ability to authorize purchases, helping to manage the family’s entertainment budget.
  • Exclusive family content and discounts.

The industry-leading, built-in Xbox 360 Family Settings are also being taken to the next level this November. It’s Microsoft’s goal to provide parents and caregivers with tools and resources to manage their children’s gaming and entertainment experiences, and these features are available to all Xbox LIVE members:

  • Family Programming that removes all mature games, movies, and content from the dashboard, based on ESRB, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings and the TV Parental Guidelines system. Family Programming is password protected, and easy to turn on and off for each member. (Compatible with international ratings systems.)
  • Title exceptions – the ability to allow your family members to play specific games above the console’s designated ESRB rating if you deem appropriate. (Compatible with international ratings systems.)
  • Intelligent default settings for child, teen, and adult profiles. Xbox will automatically assign default privacy and activity settings for each member that can later be individually customized.
  • Family Settings are displayed prominently in the MyXbox channel. Current tools include the Family Timer, which allows you to control the amount of time – either daily or weekly – your children may use the console.

Whether you want to play your favorite games, stream movies and music from Zune, or watch the latest sporting event together via ESPN on Xbox LIVE, Xbox 360 brings the best family-friendly entertainment straight to your living room.

Wimbledon Epic, to continue again tomorrow

The longest match in tennis history was suspended because of darkness at 59-59 in the fifth set at Wimbledon on Wednesday night. The first-round match between 23rd-seeded John Isner of Tampa, Fla., and qualifier Nicolas Mahut of France had already been suspended because of fading light Tuesday night after the fourth set.

They have been playing each other for a total of exactly 10 hours — 7 hours, 6 minutes in the fifth set alone, enough to break the full-match record of 6:33, set at the 2004 French Open. Never before in the history of Wimbledon, which was first contested in 1877, had any match — singles or doubles, men or women — lasted more than 112 games, a mark set in 1969. Isner and Mahut played more games than that in their fifth set and still did not determine a victor, although the American came close: He had four match points — four chances to end things with one more point — but Mahut saved each one.

Even a courtside electronic scoreboard couldn’t keep up, getting stuck at 47-47 when the score had really risen to 48-48 and then eventually going dark entirely. Yet the pair played on. All the numbers were truly astounding: They played 881 points, 612 in the fifth set. Isner hit 98 aces, Mahut 95 — both eclipsing the previous high for a match at any tournament, 78. And this cannot be emphasized enough: They are not finished. No one won. The match will continue, stretching into a third day.

The drama drew an overflow crowd on cozy Court 18, and others players watched the telecast in fascination.”I have almost no words anymore watching this,” defending champion Roger Federer said. “It’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen and could imagine. I don’t know how their bodies must feel the next day, the next week, the next month. This is incredible tennis. For them to serve the aces they served and stay there mentally is a heroic effort. “As we know, we have no draws in tennis, so there will be a loser. But I guess in this match, both will be winners because this is just absolutely amazing,” he said.

Shortly after 9 p.m., Mahut and Isner approached the net to discuss with a tournament official whether to keep going Wednesday.

“I want to play,” Mahut said, “but I can’t see.” Fans began chanting “We want more! We want more!” and then rose to salute the players with a standing ovation. In a courtside TV interview, Isner said: “Nothing like this will ever happen again. Ever.”