On November 19, Microsoft released its new dashboard, dubbed "The New Xbox Experience". This free firmware update is mandatory for all consoles that connect to Xbox Live, and aims to redefine how users both use the Xbox and interact online. The new update completely overhauls the existing blade-style interface, moving to a much more flowing, intuitive design. It promises to keep and improve upon legacy features, while adding new content and functionality. Existing themes, gamer pictures, or backgrounds will work just fine in the new interface. However, the previous dashboard, which provided a mazelike jumble of movements to get to places of interest on each blade, has been replaced with smooth vertically revolving themes, with each expanding out horizontally for related content.
The new Xbox Experience promises a lot but does it truly deliver in both increased usability and speed? Let’s take a look at some of the features that have been revamped and added, and then we'll have a chat about what we think is still missing.
WIth the new Xbox experience, users can now choose a custom avatar. The avatars, which are very reminiscent of the Nintendo Wii’s Mii portfolio, provide each user with a highly customizable character. There are quite a few initial options, however, there is a degree of rigidity in how you can individually tailor each choice. The avatar system also hints towards future clothing and customizable apparel micro transactions. Making an Avatar was very easy, starting with a choice of basic body types:
After choosing a body type you are presented with options to change features, clothes, take a picture, start from scratch, or accessorize.
After you’re done, you can snap a shot of your virtual self and upload it online to copy to your hard drive or anywhere else you please. The avatar is also presented next to your gamer tag in your profile, and anywhere your virtual self could interact with others, such as in the friends list.
The incorporation of avatars is clearly an effort by Microsoft to gain entrance into the casual and younger gamer circles. With the wealth of options for customization, it will surely appeal to many and give the Xbox another layer of interactivity all together.