Microsoft have been releasing new updates to add features in to the Xbox One operating system every month since February with some big features: DLNA, external hard drive support, streaming, snap centre, friends tab and many more, its been really great to see how Microsoft have evolved the systems core features in such a short time. The Xbox feedback website has been important to this process, making it easier for Microsoft to hear what consumers want and provide the features that are the most sought after.
On the flip side I do feel that in the first year its been a combination of adding back features that were expected for launch (external HDD support, real names, twitch streaming) and then others that were features the 360 had a long time ago, obviously feature parity between two different consoles, one of which is 9 years old would be an impressive but difficult feat, it is something I keep in mind when looking at these updates.
I also like the preview program a lot, allowing users to test out the new OS features before the final release as long as people are aware its unfinished software and is likely to have some issues with it which the team communicate openly about. The apps for the preview, the base one app, survey and the feedback apps are bizarrely split into 3 apps when one would have sufficed but more importantly is the fact that they’re available on the system and make it easy for people to give feedback to Microsoft about what they like and what they don’t as well as issues they incur. Its pleasing as a consumer to see such a willingness to listen to the people that invest so much money in the console.
So, on a personal level, what do I want next?
- The black background is boring on the home screen, i’d like to have themes for specific games like on 360, Phil Spencer has confirmed this is coming
- I have a capture card now so its less of an issue for me personally but its still an important feature people want, it should be possible at the OS level like GameDVR video recording is but also through Upload Studio to take screenshots from videos. Another feature confirmed to be coming
- Achievements pop when offline
- Unlike the Xbox 360 achievements are a server side unlock, possibly to prevent any security issues, and I understand it for security purposes but they managed it for so long on Xbox 360 with any significant issues that I can see and I don’t like the system not telling people when they’ve got an achievement if they’re offline
- Pins usable when offline
- Pins are just tiles to give you quicker access to content already stored on your hard drive, I’ve never understood why they require to be online to use, it seems like shoehorning the use of the cloud for the sake of it
- Social media sharing
- Twitter support is coming, I believe but being able to post items from the activity feed (video links, screenshots, achievements) to your twitter and Facebook accounts is a must
- Custom soundtracks in the background
- At the moment you have to snap the music player to listen to custom soundtracks, they need to make it like it is on the Xbox 360 with it running in the background
- Separate download list to the My Games & Apps section/snapped active downloads list
- I’d like to be able to view my active multiple downloads (whether new games or even big updates) in a specific list rather than scattered through My Games & Apps, its not a huge problem but if I am download several items at a time, perhaps being able to view the list in snap and check on progress without having to go into a separate area would be quite nice
- Option to move the notification pop
- As it stands notifications always appear at the bottom centre of the screen, for some games it blocks out key HUD elements especially the twitch broadcasting bar, if its not snapped it can be very annoying, let gamers or developers choose where the notifications go so people can still see the important on-screen items and their notifications
- Snap apps without losing the game section as your active window
- Whenever you open snap it pauses the game and moves your active screen area to the snapped tab, it would be nice if you had the option to open snap but keep playing your game and then move over when you want to, this would be particularly more useful when using voice commands
- Patch notes
- When games and apps are update, you should be able to check a list of notes to explain what exactly the patch does
- Customise the order of your tabs
- With new tabs on the dashboard arriving eventually (hopefully?) there will be several options to choose from and it would be nice to be able to choose the order of the tabs so I can scroll through to the ones that are most important to me quickest
- Pre-loading for retail titles too
- You should be able download titles off the store without buying them so you can have the game installed and ready for either your digital pre-order or when your retail disc arrives, obviously without the digital or disc license to prove you own it the games won’t work.
These are some of the wants I have, some bigger than others but there are two more i’d like that fit in with the same area:
The Xbox One store and visibility. The store is a complete mess, from the poorly handled front end to the baffling design on the inside. As with several other things on 360, Microsoft got it right when they had separate tabs for each sections: Games, video, music and apps, I think these sections need to return to the dashboard to flesh it out and offer better visibility.
The storefront is where i’ll start, as you can see it has 4 boxes laid out to promote content, it just so happens that all 4 of the boxes are games but it will sometimes be content from the video store, or music too. Immediately I think this is poor design from Microsoft, does Far Cry 4 need a box that big? Does Plants vs Zombie Garden Warfare on EA Access need a box that big?
I really don’t think so, these are big titles and will get promotion on the store but as a front end they could promote easily promote 2 or 3 other games in the same space and I believe it would have little effect on the visibility of Far Cry 4 and how many people click on its tile to view the content available.
You don’t have to make it look cluttered either, at E3 they had many smaller tiles (proving its a flexible layout) its about making a balance between visibility and promotion, they’re currently not doing this very well in my opinion and new games outside of the first day or so (unless bigger titles) are quickly moved inside the store.
When you open the Games store, this is the first screen you get, the biggest tile on the left when clicked opens up to a smaller menu of the last 4/5 other items which have filled that section.
The next important bit is on the first scroll to the right, the “New releases” section, there was also a coming soon section for pre-orders next to it but recently that has disappeared for whatever reason. Looking at the new releases section though you can see The Evil Within takes up 2 of the 4 spaces which are given the front page treatment, this is poor design and Microsoft have designed a store which currently requires each separate version to require a different page on the store and it wastes the ability to promote other games, more specifically there is very little space here to show the recent ID@Xbox releases and other titles. The rest of the store is split up in less meaningful sections as you go along and generally you’ll find the same games getting promoted on the store, if you look at the image you’ll see the 3 dots at the bottom, clicking on that will expand the sections, this in itself shows that what my suggested solutions are would probably be reasonably easy to implement. So whats the solution to the lack of visibility?
- Single game pages that inside them have multiple links to pre-order the different versions of the game and its add-on content (Seasons pass etc)
- Tabs at the top – like pins, home etc on the dashboard, to clearly define each section
- Full pages for each section with a tab to promote titles (new releases, ID@Xbox, add-ons, trailers, demos etc)
- ID@Xbox section, these games are coming out with little in the way of release date announcements so visibility on the store is probably more important for these games
- Bring back the coming soon section and get pages and content (trailers, screenshots, information) up quicker for these titles
- Xbox Wire section to show the latest Xbox news and a release date calendar (updated quickly when release dates are known) to make it easier for people to see what games are coming out soon.
My solution is not too dissimilar from what the Xbox 360 dashboard and store pages are like, but I think visibility for titles and content is quite poor and its in Microsofts interests to fix that.
The dashboard has come along way since the Xbox One launch and will continue to improve hopefully at the same speed it has done this year, as we get closer to matching the Xbox 360 features it will be interesting to see what features Microsoft come up with to improve the dashboard and the console overall.