Big changes are coming to Microsoft’s current gen console with a huge Xbox One Fall 2015 dashboard update coming later this year.
This update will bring together several different plans Microsoft has for the Xbox One, and could change the way you interact with your console in a big way. From a voice activated personal assistant to integration of the PC and Xbox experiences, there’s a whole host of features on the way—with the new dashboard at the center of it all.
After an underwhelming start at its 2013 launch and E3 unveiling, the Xbox One has struggled to break the same ground as the PlayStation 4. The changes coming to the console in 2015 look set to turn around Microsoft’s fortune and place the Xbox One as a real contender in the market. With Xbox One backward compatibility, faster interactions and more, the free update could transform the way you see Xbox One and might convince hesitant 360 players to finally make the switch.
Faster speed and better interface for Xbox
One of the most notable things Microsoft has worked on is the speed of the console’s interface and the ease of use. Through simplified home screen menus and one-touch access to your friends and connections, the update aims to make it easier to switch between different features and to find everything you need.
From your games and achievements to your applications and messages, the slick new design has been put together based on feedback from users, making a big difference to the way your Xbox One dashboard looks and feels. It might not be for everyone, though; if you’re not a big fan of the Windows 10 app and its layout, you’ll be disappointed by the Xbox’s similarity.
Video: Xbox One Fall 2015 dashboard update preview from E3 2015
One of the key visible changes is the addition of vertical navigation menus alongside horizontal selection—the sliding design sits over to the side your screen without reducing picture size, making it easier to drop in and out of messages, party invites, achievement details and other menu hubs. And if that’s still too much input during a high-pressure gaming session, you’ll now have the voice supported assistant Cortana on hand to help you out.
There’s also been a big performance push, noticeable in demonstrations, which will hopefully stick around when the roll-out happens. Games and menus have had some speed issues on the current version, and many users have reported a stuttering, interrupted experience. Through the coming update and the addition of a great range of new features, things are now looking much smoother; the real test will come when the update is released to everyone in the fall.
DirectX 12 on Xbox One
The are many changes planned for the Xbox One, not the least of which is the upgrade to DirectX 12. It turns out that everything Microsoft had done with its console was building up to this point; or as Phil Spencer put it himself, “We knew what DX12 was doing when we built Xbox One.” The Xbox One dashboard update will come together with the potential of DX12 to give a better gaming experience with improved performance.
Developers now have the opportunity to bring the power of DirectX 12 into their games, as well as the chance to work on cross-platform titles. Graphics and frame rates look promising and will likely be compatible with hotly anticipated Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. Watch out in the coming months for news of further DX12-ready releases, due in time for the dashboard update later this year.
Bringing Windows 10 and Xbox One together
Those DirectX12 graphics aren’t the only big change coming with the dashboard update: Windows 10 is coming to Xbox. What’s more, Xbox is coming to Windows 10! This really is a big move on the part of Microsoft, and if it works well they’ve created a literal game-changer.
PC and console gamers have traditionally stayed in their separate camps, but with the new update, there will be lots of room for cross-play. That gap between PC and console gaming could be about to close, at least for Microsoft users. So what will Windows 10 mean for the Xbox One console?
Through your new Xbox One dashboard, you’re going to be able to access everyone who’s currently playing, including PC gamers using the Xbox app. You’ll be able to quickly set up conversations and send messages using your controller or the Kinect-enabled and upgraded Cortana assistant, which responds to more voice commands than ever to help you navigate your console.
The Windows 10 update should make current processes simpler and faster, although the real test of this will be when the program is rolled out to all users. Initial demos of Windows 10 on Xbox One certainly look smooth and bug-free, so hopefully those console teething problems have been worked out now that the machine is getting the software it was designed for.
Windows 10 will also be a free upgrade, available to all current Windows users. Microsoft believes that this is the key to getting everyone working, playing and socializing across the same platform, making the job of developers much simpler and enabling some very cool game innovations.
The Xbox application on your PC and tablet
While you’re enjoying the improvements Windows 10 aims to bring to your console, Microsoft also hopes to bring PC gamers over to Xbox through the fantastic W10 Xbox application. This app gives quick access to console features such as messaging, live chat, Xbox parties and more. You can switch between PC and Xbox yourself or interact with friends who play on either platform.
This starts with Fable Legends from Lionhead Studios; the team has worked to integrate the PC and Xbox One experiences so PC gamers can create villains to battle the console’s Heroes. Developers will surely take and run with this feature, allowing PC and console players to share content and engage with each other. Another game that has announced cross-play features is the much-anticipated Fallout sequel, which will bring PC mods to console gamers for the first time.
Cross-device streaming for Xbox One and PC
Want to play your Xbox One titles on your PC, or even on your tablet? With the upcoming updates, you’ll be able to stream any title you own physically or digitally through the Xbox app, effectively turning your PC into an extra console. You can enjoy your Xbox games alongside your PC titles; as long as you’ve got a steady connection in your home and the console’s power supply is constant, you’ll be able to pick those games up whenever you like.
Achievements and awards earned on your PC or mobile device will still register on your Xbox account as well, and you’ll be able to play online just as you would through the game itself. Finished playing? The console shuts itself down when you disconnect. Want to record your PC gameplay? You can access the same DVR feature as your console through the app.
These little touches are sure to make the experience of cross device-streaming much more pleasant, and if initial demonstrations are accurate, this should be a well-used new feature.
Backward compatibility on Xbox One
It’s not just your Xbox One titles that you’ll be able to reach on your PC: Xbox’s 2015 E3 update promised us full backward compatibility for Xbox 360 titles. Your favorite 360 games can be downloaded to your new console and played through the 360 emulator—these games will also be available for streaming through the Xbox app.
You’ll be able to get all of your games, past and present, through a range of devices. These are big goals for Microsoft, and some are still skeptical of the actual performance when the feature hits. Frame rate tests for early BC-ready games such as Mass Effect have looked really promising and offer sharper gameplay, so it looks like fears of buggy gaming are unfounded so far.
From arcade classics to the latest releases, you could be accessing your games and playing them in a whole new way; the latest dashboard update for Xbox One is just one of the ways Microsoft is hoping to reunite its gaming markets.
Be prepared: With so many Xbox One titles coming in late 2015 and backwards compatibility, you’re going to need more storage. Check out these top Xbox One external hard drives now.
Cortana for Xbox One
When you’re playing a game and something amazing happens, you want to see it again and show it off. That’s why the recording abilities of the Xbox One have been so well-received. Using DVR technology allows you to store clips during games, and this feature is coming to Windows 10 as well as Xbox.
In the current format, actually using the feature can be a little tricky in the heat of the moment, since you have to enter the menu and kick-start the recorder.
Accessing messages and answering them can also be a distraction, especially when trying to type through the on-screen keyboard. Don’t worry—things just got a whole lot easier with Cortana, Microsoft’s voice responsive personal assistant. The new dashboard update is going to give Cortana a lot more options for helping you out, including recording game footage on command and checking which friends are online.
You can even dictate messages without breaking away from your gameplay. This new and improved assistant seems to have a lot more interactions available than in the previous version, and it gives players more control over the system while busy inside games.
Surprising gamers at E3
The new dashboard update is one of many announcements that Xbox made during this year’s games conference, and alongside Windows 10 and DirectX 12, we can see how an ongoing plan is starting to come together. Backward compatibility was initially the biggest shock for the gaming world since it was so unexpected, but it seems now that this is just one small piece of a plan that Xbox always had for its new console.
Perhaps the biggest step forward for Xbox in terms of regaining ground taken by Sony is the inclusion of the Xbox app for PC gamers, thereby bringing Xbox games to a new market and linking two communities that tend to remain distinct. This could give Xbox a real edge when it comes to creating content, and allows developers to focus on the same OS and engine across all formats.
What next for Xbox One?
Did we mention that the upgrade is free? You’ll get all these new features without needing to invest in an updated console, and you can quickly and easily download the required apps to run the cross-streaming features. That means that you’ll be ready to get started as soon as the launch is rolled out everywhere.
Xbox has traditionally been hit by technical problems during major releases, and despite its enduring and endearing qualities, the 360 was one of the most problematic consoles ever—prone to frequent breakdowns, overheating issues, freezing and in-game glitches. Users of the Xbox One have so far not reported problems on this scale, with common complaints mainly referring to the console’s speed, the slow release of top titles and some display problems. The coming update seems to address these areas and more, bringing a whole new level of performance to an already powerful console.
Lucky preview members invited to sign up will be testing the dashboard update about one month before the full release, and we’ll bring you the latest hands-on impressions when this happens.
90's girl with a love of retro games and old school consoles - currently in the market for a working Commodore 64...
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