Xbox 360 Gets a Facelift
As E3 continues, we got some updates yesterday from Microsoft on the future of the Xbox 360. It turns out the with the Fall release, a lot of changes are coming. First, for the first time in history (according to the release), a major consumer device will get a complete makeover for free through the power of software. Essentially, every Xbox 360 that’s out in the wild right now will get a free upgrade this fall that will essentially change the experience without having to buy a new console. This is the beauty of software.
Over the last several years, Microsoft has released new versions of the console, integrating new hardware such as larger disk drives and HDMI connectivity, all the while, the underlying platform has stayed the same. This fall, Microsoft will release a free software update that is in some ways akin to releasing a new console…but nobody will have to purchase anything new. The update is not just glitz and frosting, either, as far as I can tell right now. One of the things that will change is the culmination of an exclusive partnership just announced at E3 between Xbox and Netflix, wherein if you are an Xbox Live subscriber (who isn’t…I’ll get to that in a second) and a Netflix subscriber, you will have an online queue in Netflix that you can add movies and TV shows to. Then, from a TV connected to an Xbox 360, you can choose to watch these movies, and they will begin to stream…starting in as little as 30 seconds. This isn’t a new idea…I know. Heck, even Microsoft has been enabling this scenario through Media Center for years, but this partnership and integrated experience, along with a lot of new content available through the Live Marketplace, is a giant step toward true Living Room Integration (LRI) and Home Theater Integration (HTI). Alright…I just made those terms up…but it works, right?
So…first a quick note about Xbox Live. Also announced at E3 was that Xbox Live Membership has doubled both of the last two years. Last year from 3 Million to 6 Million, and this year again to 12 Million. It’s becoming sort of the de facto TV/gaming-based community…and even now encompasses PC gamers (released last year). I think with the momentum behind Live, great things are to come. Now, back to this upgrade.
Also, as part of the upgrade, the whole 360 interface will change from the innovative, but aging crisscross interface to something more carousel-like. This type of interface is something that Microsoft has been working on for years an years…I remember seeing prototypes of carousel interfaces aimed at Windows (way before Vista) over 5 or 6 years ago. It looks like an incarnation of that has made it to the Xbox in what looks to be a pretty effective and cool looking UI.
Microsoft is calling this the “New Xbox Experience”, and you can read about what has been announced so far here. But the highlights are:
- Tons of new games, including some sequels to established or up-and coming franchises, including
- Rock Band 2
- Guitar Hero World Tour
- Gears of War 2
- Fable II
- Resident Evil 5
- A new Scene It
- A new “interactive game show” system through Xbox Live produced by the makers of “Deal or No Deal”
- Live Parties
- Create customized avatars (a la the Nintendo Wii, but better looking)
- Tons of new media content (TV shows and Movies) through both Netflix and the Live Marketplace
- Of course, the new User Interface
Here is a video showing a trailer for the update…