Microsoft has started to open up the new Xbox 360 dashboard update to the great unwashed via its latest preview programme, and has released a comprehensive list of new features contained within the update to complement the abridged version we saw 12 days ago.
The list is somewhat disappointing in that many of the big features touted at this year's E3 are yet to be introduced. So there's not a hint of last.fm, Facebook or Twitter support. Xbox 360 Games on Demand is still "coming soon" despite a listing, and the "instant on" 1080p movie streaming we talked about has still yet to implemented. More than that, a great many of the new features are currently for US gamers only (the party enhancements, puzzlingly so).
Rather helpfully though, Microsoft has released a comprehensive list of what has been changed, and with deft use of cut and paste buttons, you can read all about it below. The user ratings are likely to become very popular very quickly, while the option to override the digital handshake between console and display will allow increased compatibility and marginally superior performance on a range of HDMI and DVI screens.
There's sure to be many more under-the-hood tweaks, changes and enhancements, so if anything crops up once we go hands-on, we'll be sure to let you know.
Parties - (Available Now, US Only)
Everyone loves to Party! Check out the new and improved party reconnections and streamlined party invites.
- Party Reconnections - If a user is disconnected from a party inadvertently, they will be automatically reconnected to the party without any user interaction
- Streamlined Party Invites - Invites are now just a click away! Never again will you have to navigate through multiple screens to get all your friends together.
Account Management- (Available Now, All Regions)
Been an Xbox LIVE member for a while? Check out some of the new features we've added just for you.
- Gold Member Veterans - Been here long? Show it off! Anyone looking at your gamer card will now know how long you’ve been an Xbox LIVE Gold member. And who knows, there might be other perks for you, too. Thanks for sticking around!
- Subscription Notification - If your Xbox LIVE subscription is about to run out, you will now be notified when you sign into Xbox LIVE. No more surprises the next time you hop in to frag your friends.
- Fixing Invalid WLID's - If the Winodws Live ID (WLID) you provided has expired, you will now be prompted to update it the next time you sign into Xbox LIVE. (This feature coming later in the Preview)
Account Recovery - (Available Now, All Regions)
Many changes have gone into the account recovery process to speed it up and to increase reliability.
Avatars - (Available Now, All Regions)
Avatars have seen lots of love! Check out the new Marketplace and Avatar Props.
- Avatar Props - You can now equip your avatar with animated items they can carry around and interact with.
- Avatar Marketplace - Reflect your sense of style with the new Avatar Marketplace. Download and purchase premium items, including branded apparel from your favorite fashion labels and Xbox 360 games.
Netflix - (Available Now, US Only)
Now you can watch movies with your friends and find new movies to add to your Instant Queue without leaving your seat.
- Party Watch - Catch a show with your friends! You can now bring your party into Netflix and watch a movie or TV show together.
- Find Content Faster - You can now browse through New Releases and other genre lists based on the types of shows you’ve previously watched, all from the comfort of your couch.
- Improved Playback Experience - Improvements have been made to ensure a better experience when adapting to changing network conditions.
- Improved Presence - Richer information is now displayed in the Friends channel and in the Guide showing what you and your friends are watching.
Video Display Options – (Available Now, All Regions)
Various improvements have been made to make it easier for you to see your game in the highest resolution possible when using an HDMI connection.
- Display Discovery - This feature allows you to override audio and/or video formats independent of the display's capabilities.
- How it works - By default, the console uses the information provided by the display (via its EDID) to determine the audio and video capabilities of the device. However, often the data is invalid or malformed, hence compatibility issues are encountered. When disabling display discovery, the EDID of the display is ignored, thereby, enabling the audio and video settings to be overridden with the desired format regardless of display support.
- Who should use it? - The Display Discovery feature is available for DVI and HDMI connections in the Display settings section of System Settings in the dashboard. Please note that Display Discovery should only be disabled if audio and/or video related compatibility issues are encountered - otherwise, the output quality may be compromised.
- Monitor Support - Additional monitor resolutions are now available for HDMI connections.
User Ratings – (Available Now, All Regions)
User ratings help you find content that other people think is awesome!
- How it works - Every piece of game content on Marketplace can now be rated using a 5-star system. Just open up the details on what you want to rate and chose the Rate button. Each time you press the Rate button, you add one star to your personal rating.
- Sort by Ratings - Now you can easily find great games that you might have missed out on. Just visit Browse All in either the Games or Video Marketplace and twist over to the Top Rated games to see what everyone’s been talking about.
Games on Demand – (Coming later in the Xbox LIVE Update Preview, All regions)
Enjoy the convenience of finding and buying new games right from your couch. You can now download full Xbox 360 games over Xbox LIVE.
- Purchase - You can purchase a game through the Game Marketplace and download it directly to your console. This purchase is also stored in your purchase history so you can delete it and download it again if you run out of space.
- Manuals - Game manuals will be available for these games on Xbox.com so that you will still have access to the full manual that comes with the boxed version of the game.
- Digital Rights Management (DRM) - Games on Demand titles follow the same licensing rights as all other forms of downloadable content. Users are granted a user license that will allow the purchasing Gamertag to play the game on any console, and a console license that will allow anyone to play on the console that the content was originally downloaded to. No physical disc is required to play these games!
Improvements to UI – (Available Now, All Regions)
Some parts of the dashboard have been slightly re-organized to make it easier to find the things you’re looking for.
- Indie Games - We listened to our community and have decided to change Xbox LIVE Community Games to Xbox LIVE Indie Games. We feel this new name better represents the independent spirit of these titles. User ratings are also available for Indie Games, which will allow you to share your rating for a game and use ratings from others to find new content. We hope these changes will help people discover more games they love.
- Achievement Browser - You can now launch a game directly from the Achievement browser making it even easier for you to max out your Gamerscore.
- Achievement Tracking - A new All Games view inside the Profile panel includes a summary of Achievements earned across all the games played and shows off all your completed games.
- Achievements - Check out the changes to the Achievement browser while playing a game. It’s now much easier to read through all the achievements so you can rack up the Gamerscore faster.
- Streamlined Navigation - New entry points in the Dashboard for Active Downloads, Redeem Code, Auto Sign-In (via Profile), Create Profile, and Recover Gamer Tag, so that these features are much easier to find.
- Voice Messages - When recording a voice message, a warning is now displayed if no audio is detected so you don’t accidentally send blank messages to your friends.
Console Settings – (Available Now, All Regions)
We’ve reorganized the Console Settings menu with fewer, more intuitive categories.
- Memory - Time stamps now appear in the Memory Area. This is particularly handy when managing saved games.
- Friends List Sorting - It’s now much easier to find your friends! Sort your friends list by Activity, Gamertag, or Online Status (default). Just press the Y button while you’re viewing the friends list in the Guide to change the sorting order