There has been a tremendous buzz about the upcoming Xbox 360 Experience upgrade coming to an Xbox near you next month. In fact, the new dashboard’s look and feel were debuted back in June at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), an annual event held in Los Angeles, California. Recently some good folks in the media have been given access to the new dashboard that is soon to be a part of the life of every Xbox gamer and have created quite a stir doing reviews of the new features and functionality. Not to be left out (although not actually included), I thought we would share an overview of the major changes and first impressions being reported by actual users of the new dashboard. Be sure and read through to the end of the post, as I have a couple of promo videos for those of us who just can’t wait to see the new dashboard in action .
The new Xbox 360 Experience has something that many gamers have been waiting for and are used to in the most popular MMORPG virtual reality worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life: the avatar. Yes, it’s true, Microsoft has added in an entire selection of avatars that can be modified quite extensively to meet your desired gaming look and feel. An interesting point is that these avatars are not just for your profile picture (although they can be used there too), but will appear in-game with such titles as Scene It? Box Office Smash. However there seems to be one drawback that seems to be of concern to some gaming purists. The lovable, cartoonish-looking avatars are very reminiscent of another gaming avatar, namely the Nintendo Wii’s Mii. At this point the customization of the Xbox avatars isn’t as in-depth as that of the Mii, Microsoft reps have said that more fuctionality and avatar accessories would be added.
Netflix Streaming Videos
In an agreement with Netflix announced back on July 14th of this year, the companies announced a partnership that would bring Netflix streaming videos to the Xbox 360. The Netflix application is found through the Video Marketplace and will take you right to a selection of videos from your queue. After making your selection you can view information about the movie and then get right to watching your favorite flick. While the majority of material available is in SD, there are currently around 300 titles available for streaming in HD, making the Xbox 360 the first to offer Netflix streaming in high definition. However, there are a couple of things to take note of where this service is concerned. First, the service will be available for Xbox Live Gold members only and will be tied to a Netflix account – so you will have to pay for both of those services. In addition, the current fuctionality does not offer a way to change what is in your Netflix queue via the Xbox 360, so anything you want to add, delete or move around still has to be done on a computer connection. Overall the reports are very promising with this feature ranking high on the list with most reviewers.
Friends Party Mode
Have friends? Will party! That’s the new concept behind the Xbox 360′s expanding Friends features. Now your friends list is almost like social networking, with a dedicated channel to view current activities and the option of inviting them into a type of 3D party room. One interesting aspect of the party mode seems to be that you can invite friends to the party while they are playing a game, all the while playing a game yourself. It allows the conversation to continue while you play different games or even when you change games! It also attempts to keep people connected to the room while offline, so you don’t lose touch when you return. While it’s not perfect, this feature has a lot to offer and hopefully will be expanded in the future to bring out some additional fun 3D interaction.
OK, for those who made it this far, I’m keeping my promise to you! Check out these two videos below. The first one will whet your appetite to see more, as it is the Xbox 360 Experience trailer and then you will see a nice presentation that walks through some of the screens we’ve been talking about here. Enjoy! (PS – Yes, I know the still shots look the same, but they are different clips, I promise!)