Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Xbox 360 - Xbox Experience Update

The 'new' Xbox Experience

While I know that this isn't exactly a game, it does influence the way you think about games and gaming. For those who don't know, Microsoft recently updated the dashboard interface on the Xbox 360. The interface went from a side to side dashboard to a more 3D interface.

In a lot of ways, the interface is new. In others, it's not so new. I will say that I do like it slightly better than the PS3's interface.


It's not that the Xbox 360 hasn't had gamer images (Avatars) in the past. But, now Microsoft has taken it one step further and made them 3D and moving. The problem isn't that they're 3D, however. The problem is that the Avatars end up looking far too similar to the Miis on the Wii. This isn't necessarily a good thing. We'll get to this issue in just a few.

Xbox 360 Audience

The Xbox 360 has always tended to appeal to avid, hardcore and more mature gamers. The types of games like Gears of War, Halo 3 and Assassin's Creed make this console live up to its reputation. You rarely, if ever find games like Mario Kart, Super Mario Brothers, Brain Age or Cooking Mama. The exception include games like Thrillville: Off The Rails (which is still more mature than most Wii games).

Enter the new Xbox Experience. With characters that look cartoony and feel like something that should be on the Wii, this is completely out of place on the Xbox 360 considering the audience that Xbox 360 attracts. These cartoony avatars are even more cartoony than those on Second Life. I would have preferred to see 3D avatars of a Halo 3 Spartan, ODST or Marcus from Gears of War. These are avatars that I could appreciate, understand and would feel is much more befitting of this console.

Xbox Experience

Additionally, besides the new Avatar feature, they have redesigned the interface and menuing system. No longer do you have the flat screens that fill like Web Pages, now the interface looks like trading cards placed one in front of the other.

You have to scroll right and left to move through the 'cards' and you scroll up and down to change the context between Games, Videos, My Xbox, etc. The My Xbox is now effectively your settings panel and where to launch games.

Loading Games onto the Hard Drive

One of the newest and probably best additions to the new Xbox experience is the ability to load games onto the hard drive. On the one hand, this makes the games load faster. On the other, it still requires that you put the media into the drive to play. So, it's not fully playing from the hard drive.

Copying the game to the hard drive not only takes quite some time to accomplish, but they also consume a fair amount of space. So, for games that have reasonably speedy loading times from disk, it's probably not worth the effort. For games like Fallout 3, it is probably worth it.


I somewhat like the new interface, but I don't like the Wii-ish nature that Microsoft is trying to do with the 360. There are so few Wii-type games, that these interface features make the console feel childish, yet the games are not. This dichotomy may send the wrong message to parents that the Xbox 360 has more kid-friendly games than it does.

So, don't be fooled by these Avatars, the Xbox 360 is still just as hardcore as it was. However, the danger that Microsoft is facing is trying to retarget the wrong audience. Making sweeping changes like this without gamer approval could lead to people turning away from the 360 should more Mario-ish titles start coming out. Clearly, Microsoft is up to something, but what that something is I'm not sure (and maybe they don't either). But, they need to be extra careful not to chase off their hardcore gamer base by trying to turn this system into becoming more Kid Friendly. We already have the Wii. We don't really need another one.

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