Our Netflix streaming queues just got considerably shorter on the eve of the NXE launch. Acting on a tip, we popped into our Netflix account and sure enough, our "Instant Queue" had a new "Notes" column with an oft-repeated, red (nobody likes red!) notice: "Not available on Xbox." Logging onto Xbox Live (with an NXE account) confirmed that these titles were no longer available for streaming on Xbox 360.
We've reached out to Microsoft for a full explanation -- so keep your fingers crossed that this is just a launch period mishap (like someone flipped the wrong switch ... or something). We're betting on licensing issues, though, which could further cripple the service. Currently, there's no way to tell if a title is excluded from Xbox streaming until it's added to the Queue (reminder: this can only be done from a separate computer). We're not much for statistics, but we can tell you that 13 of 110 items in our Instant Queue are now unavailable, all of which are feature films. The blackout seems to have hit a range of flicks, from: Superbad to Bad Boys; Drunken Master to the entire Karate Kid trilogy (that's right -- the entire trilogy! We don't count that Next Karate Kid noise). We'll update when we learn more.
Update: We've found a common thread! All of the affected titles from our Queue are distributed by Columbia Pictures. Columbia Pictures, of course, is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, a subsidiary of Microsoft rival Sony. Case closed?
Oddly enough, Sony Picture Entertainment movies (listed here) are still Xbox-enabled.
Update 2: It appears that the sudden yoinking of Columbia Pictures films from NXE Instant Queue access is a licensing issue with Sony after all. MTV Multiplayer pinged us with word that, on the rental service's official blog, Netflix corp. communications VP Steve Swasey writes:
"As watching instantly becomes a more prominent part of the Netflix service, our goal is to have all of our streaming content licensed for all of our partner devices. We're doing well in this area, but it will take some time before we fully achieve that goal. Today, titles regularly come in and out of license and there is a natural ebb and flow to what we have on license at any given point in time. In the case of Xbox 360, a few hundred titles are temporarily unavailable to be streamed via the Xbox game console. Those titles are still available to be watched on subscribers' computers and on TVs via other partner devices, and we hope they'll be licensed for Xbox 360 shortly."