For a while now, Sony’s PS3 has done very well out of being the best Blu-ray player in its price range – oh, and you can play games with it too.

So it will be interesting to see how it fares now that Microsoft’s Xbox is offering US users streaming HD content from Netflix.

That, and the fact that Blu-ray player prices generally are falling drastically, may have some impact on the Sony console.

PS3 sales figures for the third quarter showed a very respectable 56 per cent increase year-over-year, even if total numbers were lagging behind Nintendo’s Wii and the Xbox 360.

There are also now 14 million active PlayStation Network (PSN) accounts worldwide – equalling the number of Xbox Live (XBL) subscribers, according to Sony.

Registered PSN users have leapt by four million since July, with the total amount of content downloaded shooting up from 170 million pieces to 273 million pieces.

That said, the Xbox 360 isn’t doing badly. Microsoft forecasts that by the end of this month, 25 million Xbox 360 consoles will have been sold worldwide.

The NPD Group reported in September that the Xbox 360 was ahead of the PlayStation 3 in sales for the first time in months – even if only by a slim margin.

So Microsoft will be hoping that today’s Xbox update will add further appeal to its console and keep those totals climbing higher.

It will be offering HD content from Netflix, the latest entrant to the rapidly growing streaming digital market that has seen a series of set-top boxes begin offering the service.

Movies from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment subsidiary, Columbia Pictures, will not be available to Xbox 360 users streaming via Netflix, though.

Shortly before Xbox 360’s update went live, the list of movies available for Netflix Watch Instantly streaming suddenly dropped all Columbia’s offerings.

All the blocked content can still be viewed online and through all other Netflix enabled TV devices except for the 360.

Rivalry issues aside, as well as the lure of high-def programming, the Xbox changes offer a new interface with a simpler panel and new customizable avatars to display users in the friends list and certain games.

A LIVE Party function can be used to virtually host up to seven friends for voice chat, game play, and photo sharing.

There is also a community games channel which allows users to play games that have been created by private individuals.

Among the new games to be launched are "You’re in the Movies" and "Lips".

So, plenty of entertaiment for Xbox users to get their teeth into – but will it be enough to halt the march of the PS3?

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