Game of Thrones fans who watch Season 3 replays of the popular HBO series on an Xbox 360 will have a new way to immerse themselves in the show’s sex, violence and dragons -- on a tablet synched with the action on TV.
Microsoft this week is releasing Xbox SmartGlass apps for Game of Thrones, ahead of the Season 3 premiere March 31. The feature works with the HBO Go service on an Xbox, and is available for Apple’s category-leading iPad as well as Windows 8 tablets.
Synchronized with the playback on TV, the SmartGlass tablet app functions as a companion guide to provide exclusive content, including interactive maps, character guides, cast and crew commentaries, behind-the-scenes extras and other digital goodies.
Other shows have toyed with synchronized second-screen apps, but it's too soon to tell if such one-offs become the way many viewers will experience TV programming. HBO will use the SmartGlass experiment to see how effective it is at sucking superfans in -- and whether it significantly reduces the chances they'll cancel out of the service.
HBO and Microsoft demonstrated a prototype of the Game of Thrones SmartGlass experience last June at 2nd Screen Summit NYC. It's available only in the U.S. to Xbox owners who subscribe to HBO from a provider that offers HBO Go, and also have an Xbox Live Gold subscription, priced starting at $5 per month.
It's worth noting that HBO's Otto Berkes, who has assumed the post of CTO from the longtime tech leader Bob Zitter, is one of the original creators of the Xbox.
Also this week, Microsoft’s Xbox Live lineup will expand to include content from Discovery Communications’ Revision 3, PopcornFlix, IndieFlix and Toys ‘R’ Us Movies, which touts a selection of “family-friendly” movies and TV shows for rental and purchase.
In addition, just in time for the start of the regular baseball season, MLB.tv’s Xbox app will get a worldwide refresh. The service, which provides access to more than 1,430 Major League Baseball games live or on-demand, now includes a full view of game progress with base-runners and pitch-count without leaving the game you’re watching.
Microsoft says there currently are 46 million Xbox Live members in 41 countries; the company doesn't break out how many of those are premium Xbox Live Gold subs.