At the Tokyo Game Show, it was announced by John Shappert that the Dashboard update for the Xbox 360 will be released on November 19, 2008. I look forward to this update primarily due to the party feature announced at E3 earlier in the year.

Gaming on the Xbox with a few friends and family sometimes requires co-ordination skills, especially when connecting to games throws up problems you might expect on the PC. At present, users can only chat from the dashboard with one person and to speak to others they must initiate a chat session and switch to the next person whilst the former sits twiddling their thumbs. Imagine this scenario if one or more of your group cannot get into a game and are all sending chat invites for your attention. You might as well keep your phone nearby or sign-in to a messenger app. Now a number of people can form a party from the dashboard to view photos and chat together. The party can also go into a game from the dashboard as a group, providing all members have the game. This leads to a more connected and seamless experience, which should have been a feature from the start. Once released we just have to see how seamless it is, if NAT problems will cause party connection problems as in multiplayer lobbies where some users cannot connect to others.

Other features of note include the new Avatars on the Gamercard. Appearing to be heavily inspired by the Wii’s Miis, the Xbox’s Avatars can also be customised with mention of new items being available for them. Whilst a considerable number of items are already available to apply to the Avatars, no doubt this will provide an additional stream of income with people buying new clothing and accessories for their Avatars, maybe there will be Horse Armour too! Users will also be able to take a picture of their Avatar and use that as their Gamer Picture. The addition of Avatars goes hand-in-hand with the redesign of the Dashboard interface overall. The navigation method is similar to Sony’s XMB with button presses in the X and Y axes to move through the menus. Rather than left and right through the main menus and up and down to go through the sub sections, the Xbox Dashboard will use up and down for the main sections with left and right for sub sections.

Users in the US will have access to Netflix connectivity. Having an account with Netflix will let users rent and download films directly to the Xbox 360.

Another feature I look forward to is the ability to copy games directly to the console’s hard drive to reduce loading times and noise from a spinning disc. I for one am looking forward to this due to the noise reduction factor as I do not have the leisure of turning up the volume on the TV as is often flippantly advised. One caveat is that the game disc must be in the drive to prove you have the game, at least it doesn’t check if you bought or borrowed the game 🙂

By Viran

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