The new Xbox 360 Dashboard

Rant moan rant rant moan.

That’s all I’ve seen written about the new 360 GUI. It’s rubbish. Everything is hidden. There’s too many adverts. Games aren’t the focus any more. It’s too confusing. Everything is seventeen menus deep and behind carousel images. Rant bloody rant moan moan.

With good reason:

Everything is hidden. There’s too many adverts. Games aren’t the focus any more. It’s too confusing. Everything is seventeen menus deep and behind carousel images.

Of course, it looks nice. It really does – clean and swish, and everything moves around seemingly much faster than before. With my useless Sky “Broadband” connection, the images on everything take a while to load, but at least I can chuck the screens around without having to wait, so that’s not the end of the world. I also like how playing my most recently played games is now a bit easier too, with the disc in the tray a single stab (been playing Assassin’s Creed, sorry) of A away and the ten most recent installed games and demos just down-and-A. Nice.

Unfortunately, it’s finding everything else that’s a problem. Getting to installed content is akin to one of those steady-hand testers, where accidentally veering into the wrong menu or tab or button or whatever the hell else you end up in means you get lost, electrocuted, and essentially have to start again. Finding new content, be it Arcade games, demos, or (worst of all) Indie Games is now five hundred and forty six button presses or more, is displayed in a jumble of nonsense, and even lumps stuff that isn’t new games (like game trailers and videos) in the list of new games. I spent ages last night excitedly trying to download Sonic CD from the New Games bit on the Games Marketplace only to realise it isn’t out – there’s just a video to look at.

Most worst (and most worser than my grammar) is the special offer section. Take the current Ubisoft offers, for instance. There’s an offers section, and within that an Ubisoft section. Fine. Except the Ubisoft section is three screens wide, with only 5 “tiles” on each. And then, on two of these screens, the middle (larger) tile is actually a carousel of several offers which cycle through, meaning you have to watch and wait to find out all the offers. Then move to the other screen and watch and wait there. I was later told (it doesn’t say this on the GUI anywhere) that you could select the carousel and use the right-stick to flick through manually, but even so – why can’t all the offers just be in one big list on one screen, which scrolls if necessary? Or at the very least, provide a “show all” button? They’re going to lose sales because people can’t browse – they essentially have to sit and watch adverts instead.

The browsing thing applies to pretty much everywhere as well. Unless you know what it is you want, finding stuff to buy is a chore. Impulse purchases are going to drop as a result, so it’s not only a bad design issue, it’s a bad business move – especially for the smaller companies who thrive (or throve) on XBLA sales. You can’t stumble upon their games any more, you have to seek it out. Often, when I had five spare minutes having finished a game or something, I’d have a quick nose through the marketplace at new stuff and offers. That’s not going to happen any more.

With the shift in focus from games to “home entertainment”, the menus on the dashboard now have lots of video, music and social “features”, almost exactly none of which I will, or even can, use. As I’ve mentioned, my internet connection is akin in speed to a telegraph machine, so any streaming media from the internet is out. So no Youtube, iPlayer, 4oD, Lovefilm or Zune for me. I have a phone for Twitter, don’t use Facebook, and since they crippled I don’t use that any more either. In fact, the only non-gaming thing I use my 360 for is streaming video from my network. As an aside, there is a positive thing I can say here – the new dashboard finally fixed it so I can stream m4v and mp4 files from my NAS, making my PS3 completely obsolete now.

And the adverts. Oh the adverts. Yes, they’re fairly unobtrusive, but I pay for my Xbox Live Gold service. I don’t need it to be subsidised with adverts thanks – and neither do Microsoft. I don’t even mean the usual adverts for games coming soon or available on the XBL marketplace either – actual proper adverts for Sky TV and Virgin Money. If you must have adverts, leave them for the non-paying members, please.

Somehow, in one fell swoop, Microsoft have gone from having the best console-based “store”, light years ahead of PSN, the Wii Shop and the 3DS eShop, to having this crippled form-over-function one. Consider the old store as a sort of virtual Argos catalogue, where everything is pretty easy to find and well presented, and the new store as an online TK Maxx, where nothing is in any particular place, the things they show on the TV ads are in there somewhere (but where?), and half the stuff is strewn on the floor like a WI jumble sale. Nasty.

tl; dr version: New dash looks nice, fixes playing media files, fails spectacularly at usability, screws over users and providers of XBLA and Indie Games, annoys the hell out of everyone, makes deKay cry.

3 thoughts on “The new Xbox 360 Dashboard”

  1. Amen to all that. It’s bloody awful. On the old one, if you wanted to message a friend or compare your Achievements, you went to the “Friends” tab and selected him/her. Now… “Social”/“Friends” (two steps down)/press left/… then I think there’s another couple of steps. It’s a total pain in the arsular regions. As are the carousel panels. What the hell were they thinking? “Hey, there’s a new episode of NeXuS out… f*%$£, missed it! Oh well, games then…”. Pointyhead and SuperKaylo’s ratings are going to drop like a stone.

    Also, I don’t know how this affects normal people (my ‘Box is hooked up to a 19″ “square” monitor), but it’s a lot harder to see what panel is selected now.

    And in the name of all that is sane and rational, why on God’s green earth would I want YouTube, IPlayer, 4oD and Demand5 on my XBox, let alone TwatFace and Bong? Why, Microsoft, why? I have a computer. I have three computers. My Xbox is for videogames. Remember those?

    My impression is that they’ve been talking to Canonical and the Gnome project. The sensation of shiny prettiness getting in the way of what you actually want to do is very familiar.

    I always used to wonder what sort of joyless weirdos selected “autostart” (or whatever it’s called) when you could have all the multifarious joys of the Dashboard every time you powered up your ‘Box. I’m going to switch to it tonight. If I can find the bloody option…

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