Xbox Live began as a way for console gamers to hook up with friends and play online against one another, but Microsoft has steadily expanded the service's usefulness in the nearly eight years since it debuted on the original Xbox. Since that time, Microsoft has added downloadable games through Xbox Live Arcade and Games on Demand, TV shows and movies through the Zune Marketplace and Netflix integration, music through GameSpot sister-site Last.fm, and social media options like Twitter and Facebook. On top of those offerings, next week's dashboard update will include ESPN programming and the Zune Music streaming service.
Xbox Live users are increasingly taking advantage of a number of these added options, according to a round of statistics Microsoft released today. Most strikingly, the company said the 25 million Xbox Live members worldwide combined are logging more than 1 billion hours a month on the service. That breaks down to each member averaging a 40-hour work week on Xbox Live each month.
That number could be rising in the future as well. Next month, Microsoft will roll out Xbox Live in an additional nine countries: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and South Africa.
Microsoft also gave an update on its Xbox 360 worldwide installed base, revealing that the company has sold 42 million of the consoles in 35 countries worldwide. The owners of those systems are also watching movies and TV shows on their Xbox 360s more than two and a half times as much as they used to (a 157 percent increase in the last year), according to Microsoft. Among Xbox Live Gold paid subscribers, 42 percent average an hour of watching TV or movies through Xbox Live every day.