For the last several hours Microsoft has been holding my hand and walking me through a series of demos, the first of which was their entirely redesigned dashboard. The dash is barely recognizable, retaining just a few references to the initial design. I've described the biggest new features below.
-A quick launch selector which is accessed through the guide (by pressing that big green button). The quick launch contains all of the apps and content on your 360, meaning you can switch from playing Uno to loading a disc or watching a video without having to quit out and navigate through any deep menus.
-The ability to copy entire games to your hard drive. The game disc still needs to be in the system to play, but loading times should be significantly decreased, and you won’t have to listen to the disc spinning around all the time. We’ve been assured that this will work with every game. According to Microsoft, Devil May Cry 4 can be installed on the hard drive in 10 minutes.
-The Netflix integration looks fairly slick. As long as the movies you want to watch are in your instant watch queue (which you need to set on Netflix), you can instantly stream them at decent quality (Netflix adapts the quality of the stream depending on your connection speed). Friends in your “party” can also watch what you’re watching, assuming they also have Netflix.
-You will get an avatar, regardless of whether or not you want one, but you can choose to still be represented by your gamerpic (they aren’t just going to delete all the custom ones you have).
-Eight players are able to join together in a party. The idea of the party system roughly spawned as a result of the question, “Why should I ever lose connection with my friends?” So regardless of what you and your party friends are doing, you’ll be able to talk and join each other’s activities. Of course, everything is in your control, so if you’re tired of hearing your friends blabber over the movie you’re watching, you can shut them up.
-The “Primetime” section will include games like 1 vs. 100, which was announced at the press conference. In the case of 1 vs. 100, players will have to join at a certain time, and somehow one of them will become the “1” and 100 others will become “the 100.” Those who are not a part of these groups will be in the audience, and will still be able to participate and win prizes in some way. No word on what the prizes will be or any other details on how it will work.
-No search functionality is being announced at this time.
-The entire package launches this Fall.
Jul 16, 2008