As mentioned early last month by my colleague Daniel Terdiman, Microsoft is giving users the option to browse and purchase Xbox Live Marketplace content within the browser. The new storefront, which is slated to go live early Wednesday morning, is already beginning to appear on Xbox.com, albeit in incomplete form.
The new system gives Web users the same catalog to browse through and purchase as they get on the Xbox 360, including themes, gamer pictures, demos, and downloadable games. Once players turn on their system at home, all the purchased items are queued up and begin downloading right away.
Users are also able to manage their download queue from the site. This includes the option to view your past purchase history, and re-download old content. Microsoft's new system only lets you do this one item at a time, however I can easily see the company adding a bulk queue management tool later on down the line. In the meantime, this is a far better way to go through and re-download a large number of items than navigating the list on the console. In case of a hard drive crash or any other loss of data, this is a quick way to get back up to speed.
While you cannot play the movies, music videos, and TV shows from your browser once purchased, the online experience includes the same short video previews that are available on the console itself. It also lets you hop around available content a whole lot faster, despite the addition of alphanumeric searching on the freshly updated system software.
Other small improvements include the option to add more Microsoft points to your account balance, and tack on extra time to your Xbox Live membership. There's also the option to enter redemption codes, which are given out in retail cards and as promotional items for early betas, and exclusive content giveaways. Allowing users to submit these codes at any time means many more folks will be able to claim them in situations where they cannot make it home--giving them a jump start on contests or other limited-time offers.
The new Xbox.com Web marketplace should be completely up and running early Wednesday morning (PST). In the meantime, registered Xbox.com users can still access the new Marketplace interface to add Microsoft Points, edit account information, change Xbox Live membership levels, and redeem prepaid and promotional codes.