For the games industry, it’s that time of year again. E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is the most significant showcase of upcoming games and games hardware each year. Despite being recently scaled down the event still plays host to important press conferences from the big three, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.
Normally these press conferences are used to lay out roadmaps for each company’s platforms over the ensuing 12 months. Platform refreshes are normally tied to the introduction of new hardware (the announcement of new consoles or the introduction of slim models). For the first time in this ‘next generation’, fundamentally changing the platform experience can be driven by software alone.
Apple are proving this with the iPhone and iPod touch platforms (although poor old iPod touch users have to pay for the firmware upgrades.) Sony has proven this with numerous updates to its initially feature-barren XBM (cross media bar) PLAYSTATION 3 interface and continues to tease the PLAYSTATION Home platform (a fully 3D, Second Life-style world that will hopefully be released in Q4 2008). Even Nintendo’s underpowered but highly popular motion controlled Wii delivers occasional interface updates via the Web.
A Full Tour Below…
Not prepared to be left behind, in the wake of PLAYSTATION Home’s imminent arrival and Nintendo’s Mii avatar system, Microsoft’s John Schappert took to the stage in LA this week to announce the revamped ‘Xbox Experience’, an all-new Xbox 360 user interface featuring 3D avatars, full Net Flix integration (at least, if you live in the US) and highly visual, streamlined community interaction. Gone are the days of the full-screen Blades and scrolling friend lists. The new Dashboard will be available to download in the coming months.
It’s an interesting challenge, melding function with impactful, highly visual design (all the while taking into consideration the resolutions and aspect ratios that players may be using – 4:3, 16:9, 480i all the way up to 1080p…) Hesitatingly I’d say it looks like Microsoft has pulled it off. Ever-so-subtly, this new UI takes inspiration from Sony’s XBM and allows users to navigate core options via the up and down controls with secondary options controlled via movements to the left and right (this principle is applied in the reverse on Sony’s console). It’s also interesting to note that all in-Dashboard advertising space has been eliminated (praise the Gods!), although certain content has fully themed backgrounds which still allows film studios and/or products on the Xbox Live Marketplace to push their branding straight into your living room.
Microsoft’s Official Spot
For the full minute 22 second promo spot shown at the conference, check out the video above. The revamped Dashboard will be available to download in Q4 this year.