Missing that cozy holiday ambiance in your drafty apartment? Drop 400 Microsoft Points, download this virtual fireplace and snuggle up with your loved ones in front of the HDTV.

Boasting “realistic smoldering embers and flickering flames”, the virtual fireplace, developed by XNA user SniperED007, even has the soothing crackle-and-pop of a fireplace, all without the hassle of actually having to light a fire or owning a fireplace. “Enjoy the awesome ambiance of a crackling fireplace in your living room…[the fireplace] sets the perfect backdrop for a relaxing evening,” Microsoft writes. Since when is “ambiance” something that’s described as “awesome?”

The Xbox Live Snow Globe was one thing – it uses Avatars in a cute way, and it’s free. This is fairly ridiculous. So, alright. I plop down five bucks (or download the demo) for this and, since my 360 is hooked up to a gigantic TV, I now have a fake fireplace that’s five feet across in the middle of my living room. Maybe it’ll work as an icebreaker during awkward Christmas party conversations.

“So uh, that’s a pretty realistic fireplace.”

“Yeah, it’s just the demo. I bet the full one is even better, I was just too cheap to spend the money on it.”

To be fair, however, plenty of folk spend more than $5 on fake fireplace DVDs and even fake fireplace displays. So embrace the next generation of transparently phony Christmas ambiance and give the Xbox 360 Fireplace a try. Bonus if you’ve got an older 360, because then it even comes with genuine physical heat: just put your hands or your feet near the console and soak in the warmth generated by that shoddy heatsink!

[Via Major Nelson]

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