When the last big Xbox LIVE update arrived, eschewing the 'Blades' format for a decidedly Apple iTunes-esque design, I couldn't help but think Microsoft had abandoned functionality for form. Sure, it was stylish and simple, each distinct section split into columns whose contents were ordered into a lineup visible from beginning to end. But, damn; did it waste a lot of empty space.
Well, the iTunes-esque design has now been replaced, with Microsoft bringing Xbox LIVE in line with their 'Metro' interface available across their popular Windows Phone lineup. It also enables better Kinect integration, ditching finicky icons for big, bold panels and clearly defined sections. But by ditching Apple in favor of Windows, has Microsoft ensured we, their users, have a better experience to enjoy? Or is it simply a case of 'out with the old, in with the new'?
Xbox LIVE's Metro update largely allows Microsoft to do two things; it removes the need for a separate Kinect dashboard, with Metro's mobile-inclinations favoring the stroke and swipe nature of Kinect; and champion Bing, their ailing search-engine rival to Google. As for the former, the Metro update is no doubt a better option for Kinect owners. It's dense layout - the individual icons and panels clumped together in a Lego brick-style fashion - makes for swifter navigation instead of laboriously dragging the cursor across empty swathes of screen to reach your destination.Click here for more on the Metro update...
Going forward, Microsoft have stipulated that all future Dashboard apps must offer gesture navigation and voice command control.
Kotaku reports that Microsoft informed them that "that anyone looking to have their content or experiences on the Xbox will need to make sure that users will be able to navigate with gestures or voice". However, Microsoft aren't leaving developers out in the cold, apparently "helping developers making apps with tools to help index search terms for voice recognition and motion controls".
Kinect's success, and Microsoft's desire to set an industry standard across a number of platforms, has led to Kinect control now becoming a requirement where before it was a cool novelty.
Microsoft have announced that Xbox LIVE Gold will be free this weekend, offering up all of the services of Xbox LIVE for nothing, with special discount prizes across the Zune marketplace.
On top of that, anyone who accesses Xbox LIVE or jumps onto Xbox.com and enters a few basic details can put themelves in the running for The Xbox Christmas Entertainment Package which includes a Samsung LED television, an Xbox 360 S 250GB System Kinect Bundle, a 12 month LIVE Gold subscription, 8000 Microsoft Points, 10 x Xbox LIVE Arcade titles plus Forza Motorsport 4 and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, a Gears of War 3 Wireless Controller, a Modern Warfare 3 Wireless Controller, a Modern Warfare 3 Wireless Headset with Bluetooth and much more!
More details can be found here.
Following on from Jon's earlier post regarding the upcoming Xbox 360 Dashboard update, Microsoft have announced they'll be releasing a new Windows Phone 7 app, dubbed the Xbox Companion, tomorrow. With the app installed, you can track your 360 friends' activities - what games they're playing, videos they're watching, how their Achievement score stacks up next to yours - and search for content via Xbox LIVE.
Furthermore, the Xbox Companion app allows you to remotely control your 360, launching movies, hitting play, pause, fast-forward or stop, activate apps and even "initiate media purchases". It's nothing too eye-opening, but Microsoft has long promised to integrate the 360 and LIVE with their mobile platform, and it appears they're on the right track towards achieving this.
Microsoft made a strong pledge back at E3 that they'd be taking the entertainment bull by the horns this year and finally transforming the Xbox into a media centre to finally rival the on demand trinkets offered by its competition. Well, that process finally begins to get rolled out tomorrow with the new Metro update and Microsoft have provided a full list of partner along with a vague indication of when we might expect to see their products on Xbox LIVE. The BBC is on there, but slated for 'Early 2012.Hit the jump for more details and the full list of TV partners...
Many of you will have noticed that Xbox.com went live with a new 'metro' design over the weekend, which adds new search options and Beacons friend-finding functionality. It's also much easier on the eye.
For savvy consumers, however, the main event is the fact that you can now easily deactivate the much-maligned 'auto-renewal' function for Xbox Live Gold Membership. This nasty little feature usually meant long and tedious calls to customer support in order to dodge months of overpriced subscriptions drawn directly from your credit card, but it's now a thing of the past. About time too, really.
Good news, Alan Wake fans. Microsoft corporate shill Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb has confirmed that the next Alan Wake game will be a "fully standalone experience and released on Xbox Live"... and even more excitingly, XBLAFans claim to have seen it in action. According to their rumour and authentic-looking screenshot, the downloadable offering is entitled Alan Wake's Night Springs, and it features a mode called "Arcade Action" as well as a story campaign. I just hope that it isn't going to be a twinstick shooter.
Regardless, the new Alan Wake title is set for reveal at the upcoming VGAs. We'll shine a torch on it nearer the time.
After a "backend issue" prevented Gears Of War 3's Horde Command DLC pack from releasing on time, Epic Games VP Mark Rein has confirmed that it's now available on Xbox Live. It will set you back 800 Microsoft Points if you haven't bought the Season Pass - and adds three new horde maps, several new fortification upgrades and some extra characters. Details here.
In other Gears 3 news, Epic has announced that a free content pack will be heading to Xbox Live later this month. The Versus Booster Pack will be free to download from November 24th (barring more technical issues), containing five new versus maps including revamped versions of classic Gears 1 levels (Clocktower and Swamp) as well as tweaked Horde Command DLC arenas tuned for competitive play.
We recently reported that a number of Xbox Live accounts have been hacked in order to purchase FIFA 12 Ultimate Team DLC using the attached payment schemes... but Microsoft are certain that the problem isn't on their end. In a recent statement, the Redmond giant suggests that the personal details used in a "limited number" of incidents haven't stemmed from a weakness in their online service and that they're working directly with the affected parties.Click here to read more...
Over the last couple of days, numerous worrisome reports have surfaced regarding the hijacking of Xbox Live accounts in order to purchase FIFA 12 Ultimate Team DLC. Many accounts have been illegally recovered to other consoles, allowing the hackers to use their payment schemes with impunity (and even unlock achievements in some cases). Microsoft has locked any accounts with suspicious activity while they investigate these claims with a view to compensation. Note, however, that many of these reports are unverified and we have no clear way of knowing the extent of the problem at this stage.
However, if true, it appears that the EA servers may have been compromised.Click here to read more...
PR guru Major Nelson has announced that Microsoft are rolling out a new dashboard update today... but before you get too excited, it's only basic maintenance. "No new features," I'm afraid. We'll have to wait for the big new content update that adds TV providers, a new dashboard design and Kinect integration - which will arrive in late November if recent reports are to be believed.
We recently brought you the news that Microsoft has finally decided to offer a slew of TV providers as part of the Xbox Live experience; including BBC iPlayer, Channel 4, Channel 5 and LoveFilm. A new report from GigaOM suggests that Microsoft are "targeting" a November 25th launch for the update, which will also include Kinect voice controls, voice recognition and improved gesture controls. The dashboard will also be redesigned in a new format that Microsoft has branded "Twist Control."
We'll keep you posted.
Another week, another few indies slamming Microsoft's support of indie devs. Following Ron Carmel's disparaging comments about XBLA's restrictive content policies earlier this week, Eufloria designer Rudolf Kremers has suggested that PSN was the obvious choice for their game, as self-publishing on XBLA would have been 'impossible'.Click here to read more...
While it's a great machine for games, the Xbox 360's multimedia prowess lags behind the PC and especially the PS3, what with Sony's lacquered behemoth boasting all manner of mass-media features. However, that all looks set to change, with Microsoft announcing all new partnerships with the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and even LOVEFiLM to provide additional services to Xbox LIVE.Click here to read more...
Just a quick PSA: the free Peer Review DLC pack for Portal 2 is now available for download (as promised) on Xbox Live, automatic Steam update and the PlayStation Network. The co-op testing track delivers new challenges for P-Body and Atlas, the adorable robotic BFFs from the original cooperative campaign, as well as some singleplayer content and leaderboards.
Note, however, that the content pack weighs in at a massive 1.37 GB. It might be time for a bit of spring hard drive cleaning for console owners.
Busy fortnight, this one! To celebrate the release of Gears of War 3, Microsoft are holding 'Gears of War 3 Golden Wings Week'. Play any match on Xbox LIVE from 20 – 26 September to unlock the Golden Lancer and Golden Hammerburst multiplayer weapon skins. Furthermore, FIFA 12 lands on September 27th for all you footie fans there, be sure to check out our hands-on preview here, and let us know what you make of the much-vaunted new features in the demo.Hit the jump to see what Xbox LIVE looks like over the next couple of weeks...
This fortnight it's all about Crimson Alliance, BloodRayne and a little gem we checked out at Gamescom from Digital Reality, called SkyDrift. You can read our preview of it here. FIFA fans should get ready for this year's demo, out on September 13th, and you'll be able to experience the buzzword-heavy new features for yourselves. We'll be very eager to hear what you make of them, consider our own hopes and reservations post-convention season.Hit the jump to see what Xbox LIVE looks like over the next couple of weeks...
A quick update for all you Red Dead Redemption fans still wandering the wastes; a DLC pack is due in less than two weeks. Dubbed 'The Myths and Mavericks' pack, it adds a handful of new multiplayer characters to romp around with, a bunch of new maps to master and, best of all, it's all absolutely free! It must help being so damn rich you have to sell stuff for free just to loosen your pockets.Click here for more details
Here it is: the fortnightly roundup of everything you need to know about what's going on in terms of Xbox LIVE. Black Ops: Rezurrection is out, the Indie Summer Uprising is a-go-go, Street Fighter III 3rd Strike will send fighting fans into enraptured throes of bliss and if you have a Kinect, Hole in the Wall will help you become the contortionist you always dreamed you could be...maybe.In any case, hit the jump to see what's coming in the next two weeks...
Virtua Fighter fans, prepare to rejoice; as Sega has today announced Final Showdown, an upcoming expansion pack to 2007's fighter, overhauling all the mechanics, updating the animations, including new modes and online features, not to mention two brand new characters to master. It'll be available on Xbox LIVE and Playstation Network in the Summer of 2012, with Sega dubbing it the "definitive version of Virtua Fighter 5".Click here for more