Xbox Live - the online gamespace for Xbox users - will add social networking features and high definition movies on demand from today.

Xbox Live Gold subscribers who use Facebook and Twitter will get stand-alone applications to allow status updates and tweets right from the console.

Without a keyboard the social netwroking apps are a bit on the cumbersome side to use - anyone who has typed a serial number into an Xbox using the controller will attest to that - but both add further value to the Gold service.

Facebook streams and updates are visible for friends on the popular social network, and it's possible to compare Facebook and Xbox friend lists to see if you know other gamers using Live.

The purpose built application uses a 'spinning wheel' interface that is fast and easy to use, but perhaps the best feature is the ability to view photos easily on a big HD screen.

The Twitter app allows users to wade through profiles, view trending topics and, of course, to send their own tweets.

But the most exciting addition to Xbox Live is the availability of high definition movies - which can be purchased using 'Microsoft dollars' (a recent-ish release costs about $6 in real money) and streamed directly to the console.

Those who don't need high-def can elect to stream standard definition, and will get a slightly cheaper price to suit.

Movies available during a preview of the service weren't exactly top of the New Release shelf - but there was a small selection across a number of categories. Microsoft says this service will be continually updated and added to.

Movies can be shared with up to seven friends through voice chat, with your Xbox Live avatars appearing on screen.

The performance of this 'instant on' streaming - which was announced at the E3 games expo earlier this year - is depended entirely on the quality of your broadband connection.

During testing it worked well though, using a Wi-Fi adaptor through a Vodafone internet connection.

"The difference for Xbox LIVE has always been our community and we've already seen a tremendous response to these features in our public preview," says Xbox' NZ boss Tom Hunt.

Xbox Live Gold adult (18-plus) membership is required, and Silver adult members can temporarily access the new features in a special free preview.