Baseball fans know the season officially kicked off on Tuesday, with Ichiro Suzuki and the Mariners dispatching the equally lowly Oakland A’s in extra innings in Suzuki’s native Japan. Man, Ichiro really deserves a World Series ring. I feel bad for him, wasting away on a talentless Mariners team for so long.
Anyway, this means the long baseball season is starting anew, and that there are plenty of baseball games that will need watching from now until October. Thousands, actually! Of course, people are cutting cable these days, and not everyone’s favorite team is local, making it hard to watch games. What’s a fan to do? Well, a subscription to MLB.TV is as good an option as any, and now you can access it through your Xbox 360 and Kinect.
At $124.99 for a year’s subscription, MLB.TV is a bit pricey upfront. Xbox Live Gold members who are baseball fans might be glad to know that the MLB.TV app is available to them free of charge, albeit in a limited form. Gold members have unlimited access to game recaps, as well as a free ‘game of the day’ each day.
Gold members who pay for an MLB.TV subscription get every regular-season out-of-market game live, and all the games are archived after they air so that they can be watched at any point during the season. It’s essentially a baseball-only DVR that you don’t have to worry about filling. Additionally, MLB.TV grants access to an archive of all of last season’s games, in case the copious amount of baseball from this season doesn’t sate your appetite for the sport.
The app’s interface is intuitive and simple. All the content is present, and you can choose your favorite teams in order to put content related to them at the forefront of your display. A mini guide at the bottom of the screen gives you a preview of all the day’s games, keeping you up to date with what’s going on. Thankfully, you can also disable the display of scores, if you don’t want to accidentally spoil yourself on a game you intend to watch later. All the games are presented in 720p and most will let you choose between the home and away audio feeds, which is great if your team’s commentators aren’t very good. If your team ever plays the Giants, I suggest that broadcast, as the Giants have the best broadcast team in baseball, between the regular pairing of Jon Kruk and Duane Kuiper, and the occasional stand-in by Giants radio play-by-play man Jon Miller.
Exclusive to MLB.TV on the 360 is ability to watch two games at once (or one game and one recap, or two recaps) in split-screen. Each screen can be controlled independently if you need to pause or rewind a certain bit on one of them. Exclusive to the Kinect is the ability to control your content with gestures and voice commands, which works fairly well and could be useful if you’re trying to watch games while doing something else that occupies your hands, or if your hands are covered in jam and you don’t want to get sticky, smashed strawberries on your controller. Of course, I did run into the issue of the Kinect, vain as it is, thinking we were talking about it in conversation and doing things we didn’t want it to do. I suppose you can always spell out trigger words around it, as you would to protect a small child from obscenity.
The app is also has some additional neat features still in the works. Event tagging, for example, will allow you to watch specifically grouped content, like all of the home runs hit on a given day. There are also plans to implement easily accessible statistics, including a means of tracking your fantasy baseball players, which should please fantasy aficionados.
The addition of MLB.TV on the Xbox 360 is a logical one, given the country’s predilection for baseball and Microsoft’s aim to make the console a media hub. Though I wasn’t blown away by the Kinect integration, the split-screen functionality is a pretty cool addition to the 360 version of MLB.TV, while the service as a whole is a great choice for baseball fans either without cable or not in their favorite team’s home market.