UFC on Xbox Live|
I have sort of a love/hate relationship with the UFC. A couple years ago I went to a UFC event in Las Vegas to promote THQ’s UFC game. It was a great event and I got to meet several UFC fighters. I soon was watching UFC fights with friends so I could follow the careers of the fighters I met in Vegas.
Then earlier this year came the UFC Xbox app. The UFC got all kinds of press for this app since it expanded their marketing reach even further to the video game demographic. Then they actually tried to use the app to stream a UFC event. They pretty much failed on every level. So many people wanted to see the fights that they crashed the system. Apologies ensued along with offers of free access to another event for some people. I was one of those who signed up but had other plans the night of the freebie so I was more than a little irritated by the whole experience.
After downloading the UFC app to my Xbox 360 I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few new options and a much cleaner interface. You can watch all the promo videos for upcoming fights, look at the fight card, pay for video on demand of previous fights, and even watch a couple freebie fights to get your appetite up for the next pay per view UFC event. You can even make your picks on the fight card and see how you do against your friends on the leaderboards.
The content on the UFC app is pretty extensive… at least for the last dozen events. They offer lots of videos of previous fights for $2.99 each, plus lots of free promo and story videos to drive people to buy the PPV events. The production quality is top notch. It’s really ingenious marketing. UFC must be rolling in money.
Ever since my visit with the UFC fighters, I kept watch of the fight results and the guys I met in Vegas. Mir, Nogueira, Stout, Condit, Hendricks, Griffin and a few others were interesting to watch. So when I saw the fight card for UFC 154 I decided it was time to try the UFC Xbox app out again – because certainly they would have fixed their problems by now.
UFC 154 had Sam Stout on the undercard and the co-features had Johny “Big Rig” Hendricks (aka “Happy Bearded Guy”) vs Martin Kampmann, and the big fight of Carlos Condit vs GSP. UFC had the fights for $44.99 in standard def and $54.99 in High Def. Thankfully the last week of the fight they offered a 30% off deal so I got to watch 12 fights in HD for $38. Or so I thought.
After I invited a bunch of friends over I was again disappointed by UFC’s marketing machine. It turned out the PPV was only for the main card – just 5 fights. The UFC doesn’t really go to a lot of effort to tell you – “hey the pay per view is only for a handful of fights, not the whole event.” The problem is they market it as UFC 154. When I paid for UFC 154 I expected to see all of UFC 154 not just the 5 main card fights. The 4 fights on the undercard – including Sam Stout – was on FX. The 3 preliminary fights were streaming on UFC’s Facebook page. I don’t have cable or satellite so I don’t have FX. So when I informed my friends of the situation, half of them decided to stay home and watch football.
The prelims started at 6:30 and thankfully the UFC Xbox app streamed those 3 fights to my console in glorious HD. Then at 8 p.m. it went to a looping promo video for the main card while the undercard was on FX. So we missed 4 fights, including Sam Stout who went the distance and lost on decision. But those were 4 fights that could have had quite a few guys at my house watching the UFC brand and possibly becoming fans and continuing to watch UFC fights in the future. Instead they stayed home to watch college football. Thankfully at 10 p.m. the main card started off and it was fun to watch. Things looked amazing in HD and we were enjoying guys’ night watching the fights. I had to laugh because the overall presentation is nearly identical to THQ’s UFC videogames, right down to the on screen graphics and announcers. But that’s great – it was a first class presentation. Then just as the 3rd round of the Carmont vs Lawlor fight began, the video started to stutter. “Uh oh” I said as flashbacks of my first attempt to watch UFC on the Xbox 360 came rushing back. Then the all too familiar “buffering” circle came up. My guests looked at me like I had just kicked their dog. “Don’t worry, it’ll get going again”. No such luck. The screen went to black and a message popped up “sorry, the video service isn’t available right now. Please try again later.” What?! I PAID FOR THIS! Oh crap!
I tried to connect several more times. Same message. Internet is working, Xbox is logged in. Oh, this is bad. Time to go into emergency mode. I rebooted everything from modem to router to Xbox. After logging back in and going to the app, it thankfully started back up and connected to the UFC server and we were back watching the fight. We missed almost 3 minutes of round 2. Luckily it seemed like not much had happened so not a huge deal, but man if we had missed 3 minutes of the Johny Hendricks fight we would have missed everything!
The two big fights came on without a hitch and we got to see a short fight as Hendricks knocked out Kampmann in 36 seconds! I was happy for him – having met him, he is a super nice guy and deserves a shot at the title. Then the title fight went to a full 5 round decision of a bloodied GSP over an even more bloodied Condit. It was an exciting close to UFC 154. Condit is also a nice guy and came close to pulling off a knockout of GSP which few expected. It was great to see some guys I met do so well.
This was my first PPV event. Despite the excitement of the final two fights, I overall felt like I had been cheated. When I pay for UFC 154, I want to see all of UFC 154 – not just the main card. I understand having multiple outlets for their product. Putting a few fights up for free on Facebook, Fox, or FX makes good marketing sense. It builds the UFC brand. People enjoy it so they inevitably want to see their favorite fighters in the main card on PPV. But completely cutting off the paying customers while fights are on another network does the opposite.
It’s clear the UFC guys still have some work to do on their app. While it worked for the most part, one little streaming glitch caused us to miss nearly 3 minutes of a fight. This is the UFC and a lot can happen in 3 minutes! Just ask Martin Kampmann (if he can remember it). While I enjoyed the fights and had fun with the guys, I certainly will not be paying to see the UFC ever again. I couldn’t see 4 of the 12 fights because they were on FX, and had a near ‘party foul’ when the video quit working midway through a fight. The overall experience of UFC 154 (or more accurately, the part of UFC 154 I could watch) left a bad feeling in my wallet. It won’t happen again.