The New 360 Dashboard and What it Means for Us

The New 360 Dashboard and What it Means for Us

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 23rd Dec 2011

"The thing is just hot, and I spent over 100 hours playing with it over Christmas. It's fantastic. And it really draws you in because you get these awards, you meet people, you get into the contests. It's something." Bill Gates on the Xbox 360, CNET Interview, January 2006.

The newest version of the Dashboard for the Xbox 360 console is now fully deployed all over the world, and Xbox gamers have formed their opinions -- good or bad, like or hate -- we have what we have and, until they decide to change things around once again, that is all they have to say about that! The question that is skulking -- like the elephant in the room -- is what has changed and how does it make our life better?

The short version of the answer is that the new interface completely revamps the Dashboard to make it fully compatible with the Xbox 360 Kinect motion-sensing controller system. If you do not own one of those, these changes will not be as striking or as useful to you as they are to the gamers who do own a Kinect, but that is not to say that you will not benefit from them or find things that you like...

Before we get into all of that though, we thought we would take a historic journey and examine the Dashboard and the things that have changed through the years -- how about that?

The Evolution of the Xbox Dashboard

When Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 motion-controlled gaming was not on the radar at all. The 360 is the second generation of the Xbox Console Line, and a member of the seventh generation of modern gaming consoles, its release on November 16, 2005 put it in direct competition with Sony's PlayStation 3 and, perhaps to a lesser extent, competed with Nintendo's Wii console, though its biggest asset and most obvious feature was the System Dashboard and the Xbox LIVE service, an interactive online destination that was as close as the power button for your 360.

The launch feature for the original Xbox Videogame Console; the opening shot in the Console Wars...

The Xbox 360 was not simply the next video game console for Microsoft, it was a statement and a move to bring together all media, as the team behind its design viewed it as a Media System and not simply a gaming console. To that end and from the start it was built to interface easily with the PC-based Media Services that are part of Microsoft's current line of Operating Systems, with the goal being to make the 360 the Media Hub of your living-room.

Music, movies, games, and at least at first some rather limited online content were what the 360 offered, as well as a convenient and seamless source to update your Xbox games -- including the ones that had no online content of their own. The new console also served as the focus for online-enabled games, with gamers celebrating what was viewed the inevitable integration of game and gaming device, with the system dashboard being the most prominent feature for this new direction in gaming.

The first dashboard consisted of a graphical user interface whose focus was a series of tabbed interfaces that featured five "Blades" that were designed by AKQA and Audiobrain that launched automatically when the console booted without a disc in it, or could be selected to launch if a game was already inserted into the system.

The Xbox 360 Launch Event had a very different vibe, and a very different approach; now a veteran of the Console Wars, the slightly battered and scarred console division put launch titles in front of bravado as it unveiled the 360 on the world gaming community...

A simplified version of the interface could be accessed by hitting the Xbox Guide Button which is located in the center of the center of the gamepad, which theoretically gave the gamer access to the interface no matter what they were doing on the console.

In addition to accessing the library of installed games and featured content that the service wanted to show to the user, both the main dashboard and the simplified version provided direct access to the user's gamercard (LIVE Gamer Tag Screen), their messages, and a set of menus that provided access to their friends list, including the ability to see what game their logged-in mates were playing, and compare their gamer score progress with the Achievements that their mates had already unlocked. Both interfaces also permitted the gamer to access music -- including files served by a Windows OS-based Media Server on their personal network -- and the voice and video chat system that was a featured element in the system design.