So, the Microsoft press conference is over. The biggest announcement other than Final Fantasy XIII (I’m still excited now)? The “New Xbox Experience”, that’s what! We’ve seen rumours of avatars for a while. Whilst the “My Gamerpad” rumours may be false, the avatars sure are real. But are they gimmicky? Only time will tell really. But they seem to be a lot more customisable than Nintendo’s Miis with new clothes and features being added every so often.
And with these new avatars comes a completely new interface for the Xbox 360. It seems the Dashboard has been replaced by something highly reminiscent of the Windows Vista interface. According to Microsoft it is meant to be more streamlined and easy to navigate. It sure looks more appealing to the eye. So let’s take a look at this “new experience” Microsoft are giving us.
The avatars will run alongside your gamercard. You will be able to customise how your avatar looks, how they dress and anything else really. These avatars will be used similarly to the Miis on the Wii. They will feature in game shows (which I talk about later) as well as during Live Arcade games and even perhaps some retail titles. The avatars are also used to indicate who on your friends list is online. Your friend’s avatar will appear in a space where all other avatars of your online friends will be.
First of all we have the LIVE party system. Here you can create a party with up to 7 of your friends. From here you can share your photos, share your music, watch films, TV shows and videos together. You can also hop easily into online games, demonstrated at the conference using UNO Rush. This really shows that Microsoft has listened to the community, not only by enabling multi chat, but by expanding their community features giving the Xbox 360 a more social networking feel to it.
Xbox Live Primetime
Your avatars can also work inside special games in a section known as Xbox Live Prime Time. These are game shows in which you and your friends, also using the LIVE party system, can take part in a variety of game shows. Microsoft have teamed up with Endemol, who make shows such as Big Brother, 1 vs 100 and Deal Or No Deal, to provide special game shows for avatars to take part in, gain achievements and perhaps win real prizes. These game shows are broadcast live so everyone playing is answering the same questions as you. In some games, a live host will also be directing the action in the show
To add to this experience, Microsoft have teamed up with Netflix to provide Xbox 360 users with a multitude of film and TV show rental options. This will not only expand the Xbox 360’s library of downloadable titles, but also enable Netflix members to download titles and queue them up for free. The great thing about this, though, is that it works with the LIVE party system. You can invite your 7 friends to watch the same film with you which, again, enhances the social aspect of the console. So now you can host film nights with your friends or just catch up on your favourite shows together.
Not only is all of the above coming in Fall 2008, this letter written by Marc Whitte, Xbox Live GM, shows that there is much more instore this Fall.
Dear Xbox LIVE Member,
When we launched Xbox 360 in November 2005, Xbox LIVE was integrated directly into the console. Back then, Xbox 360 was the first system to deliver access to experiences beyond just the disc in the tray. With the Xbox guide and dashboard you had access to everything on your console as well as your community.
We also imagined that Xbox experience would continuously improve over time, through the power of software.
Since launch, you’ve always pushed us to continuously innovate. It is because you spoke with one loud voice that we added new features like background downloading, 1080p support, movies and TV shows, video chat, a Marketplace blade and instant messaging.
Over time, as we’ve delivered more and more content into the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, we’ve heard from many of you that it has become increasingly difficult to find the games and content you want.
And that brings us to today.
Because of your feedback, we started rethinking the entire Xbox experience. What we discovered was that we could not only provide a better experience for you, but also something that reaches out to new audiences.
What John Schappert unveiled for the world on stage at E3 was just a sneak preview, so I wanted to share some deeper details on some of the new features in the new Xbox experience.
Here is a look at some additional features you will find interesting:
· Play from hard drive. Copy your games from the game disc and play directly from the hard drive. Not only will the drive not spin, but load times are quicker, as well. Of course, you will still need the disc in the tray to prove you own the game.
· Access Xbox LIVE Marketplace on the Web. Browse and purchase Marketplace content whenever you want from Xbox.com and it downloads automatically to your console. Purchase that new map, television episode, the latest Xbox LIVE Arcade game or set up a movie to watch when you get home from work.
· Dashboard built into the new Xbox Guide. For everyone who loves the blades interface, it’s not going away; they are now built directly in to the new Xbox guide. Every feature and option is available right from the guide. You can even access your full games library at all times. No matter where you are (in dash or in game), immediately call up your games played list and directly launch a game.
· LIVE Party system. Create a party of up to eight friends, and stay with them from one game to another, or watch a Netflix movie together, or share a slideshow of your personal photos. It works with all Xbox 360 titles, not just upcoming games. LIVE Party allows up to eight people to chat in the dashboard, so you can meet up before playing.
· Xbox LIVE Primetime. This whole new category of games is going to give you more reasons to get online with your friends. Games will support everything you’d expect, like Achievements and leader boards, but many of these games will include real prizes. You can invite your friends, and even set a reminder for an upcoming show. Each game is broadcast simultaneously, so everyone is answering the same questions. Many events will have a live host, calling the shots as they happen.
· Avatars. Your online identity started as a Gamertag – it then grew into a personalized Gamercard. Now, it has evolved even further into avatars. You can express your style, check out new outfits and share this with the community. Avatars will also be integrated into Xbox LIVE Arcade games, LIVE Party, as well as retail games.
· New display support. Because you asked for it, we are adding 16X10 over VGA or HDMI, and support for 1440×900 or 1680×1050.
This is only the beginning. Over the next few months, we will share more details on the upcoming changes.
See you online,
We’ll have more news about the New Xbox Experience as well as information from the other conferences at E3 here at Console Monster, so keep your eyes peeled.
Chris is a Northern lad with a passion for video games. With his opinions on video games and his need to force these onto other people, Chris began writing for Console Monster in 2006. Chris is a bona fide nerd who enjoys any decent game that can keep his interest. Being a keen music fan, in his spare time (what little he has) he likes to go to gigs and spends most time with some music on.
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