It’s that time of year again, when Microsoft blesses us with its best guess as to what makes a good Xbox 360 user interface. In the past we got updates that improved the functionality and navigation, this time we got something different.
Disclaimer: I sold my PS2 to have an Xbox on launch day. I bought an Xbox 360 on launch day. I was an Xbox Live beta tester (with 9 years of Gold) and have been in many of the preview programs. I’m what you would call a heavy Xbox 360 user. It’s on approximately 12 hours a day, playing games a couple hours every other day, watching Netflix and Hulu Plus daily and streaming content from my MacBooks. I would also listen to my iTunes DRM FREE purchased music but MS refuses to fix that bug or remove that intentional block.
I would also watch the hundreds of iPhone 4 recorded 720p videos but they refuse to fix that bug or remove that intentional block. Keep in mind that the iPhone 4 and iTunes are two of the most successful products and services in the industry with no support from the Xbox team. This lack of support is leading me to replace the Xbox 360 as a media device and purchase devices that do it better such as a Roku 2 XS and AppleTV 2. Just as Microsoft is trying to increase the amount of content that can be received on the Xbox 360 I’m demoting it to being a simple game console.
I’ve been following the industry long enough to know that all of the companies lie about the decisions they make. They tell us we’re getting something for one reason which is a lie because we’re getting it for a completely different reason. An example is the lie Sony told about why we didn’t get a Dual Shock controller when the PS3 was released. We all know it was because of the lawsuit, which when settled, we got Dual Shock controllers.
Microsoft started by choosing an HD-DVD add-on over a Blu-ray add-on. They didn’t make that decision for us but they told us they wanted to provide us the highest quality movie experience and chose HD-DVD because of the benefits. Then the HD war between HD-DVD and Blu-ray ended with Blu-ray as the winner. Since Microsoft wanted us to have the highest quality, they immediately replaced the HD-DVD player and gave us a Blu-ray add-on, right? Wrong. Then instead of giving us a Blu-ray player to play HD movies (the only physical medium for HD movies) they started touting that they were selling and renting HD movies from the Xbox Live Marketplace.
The Xbox Live Marketplace was renamed the Zune Marketplace when Microsoft wanted to make us aware of the Zune Player. After a few years the Zune was discontinued but we are still being forced to see the Zune name for a product that no longer exists.
The Xbox 360 Memory cards were more expensive and larger than they needed to be. Microsoft then released an update to the Xbox 360 for USB storage. Many people were praising MS for giving them what they’ve been asking for. They were using us as beta testers for their new USB storage technology. Technology that was included in a new Xbox 360 model that didn’t include Xbox Memory Card slots but instead uses USB storage. Which explains why it’s limited to 16GB. They don’t want us to use it to replace the hard drive.
Now Microsoft is giving us a new Xbox 360 user interface but we’re not getting it because they want to improve the functionality or navigation. We’re getting the new Metro user interface because they want us to be familiar with the interface their new phone has. An interface that was designed for a touch screen not a gaming console.
Metro. So how does this interface work on the Xbox 360? Poorly, very poorly. It takes more than twice the navigation changes to get where you want to go. Before, I could be where I wanted to be by clicking Up or Down for the category I want then Right or multiple-Rights until I reached the content and selecting it with A to enter the content. Now with Metro it can easily be as hard as Up or multiple-Rights then Right or multiple-Rights, Down, Down or Right or Down-Down or Down-Right or Down-Right-Right, selecting the content with A then having more choices that lead you to have do the whole Down or Right selections all over again.
The prior Xbox Experience had its flaws and could have been improved but it was good. It was at least designed for us Xbox users. It improved upon previous user interfaces as it increased features and navigation. The Xbox Guide button still uses the old Blades user interface which was no where near as bad as Metro.
Horrible. That’s one word that describes the Metro interface on the Xbox 360 when navigating with a Remote Control or Game Controller. Metro is attractive to look at but is only being forced on us because they want to sell phones. The new apps or channels available aren’t very good at the moment, leading me to install them, try them out, then delete them because they’re slow and the resolution was very bad on a 1080p TV.
By Metroizing Netflix and Hulu Plus they have essentially ruined what were excellent apps, and none of the channel apps respect the fact that I’ve turned off sound effects because their so annoying. This may be the first Xbox 360 dashboard update that Microsoft isn’t touting as easier navigation.
As far as I’m concerned, I couldn’t be getting a Roku 2 XS and AppleTV 2 soon enough to get away from this horrible user experience. Xbox will be limited to the one or two games that I play.
This is one of the worst upgrades I’ve ever experienced and I used Mac OS X 1.0. Instead of giving one of their most successful product user groups the best possible gaming experience, they use the success of the Xbox 360 as a delivery platform for the other products and Microsoft continues to abuse its Xbox 360 Users.
Update: (Dec. 7th 2011). After publishing my article I saw Phil DeFranco make fun of Bing in the new Metro dashboard. I completely overlooked that as it hides to the left of the Home position. Will I use it? No. It is another example of Microsoft integrating things that have nothing to do with gaming in the XBox 360.
Today Kotaku delivers the bad news about the new Xbox terms of service. Now Microsoft Wants to Stop You Taking Them to Court.
To my surprise Microsoft has delivered an Official Xbox Live iOS app. The app is very attractive and well made but sadly the “friends” list is not the Home screen, it will however stay on the “friends” screen as long as you don’t quit the app. The official iOS app doesn’t support the control features of the Xbox Companion for Windows Phone 7. The features are missing not because the iPhone isn’t capable it’s because they don’t want to share the features. I still have my trusty backup app “360 Live” since it focuses on what my “friends” are doing on Live on its Home screen.
The Xbox 360 has become a game console third, a movie and TV entertainment system second and a Microsoft product delivery platform first.
Disclaimer: I’m not against adding on and improving, I’ve written articles about how great the new phone and consoles are because they can improve and get new life. But this Xbox Metro update is the first time I’ve actually reconsidered that thought process. With this update they turned my Xbox 360 from a great game console with some TV and movie entertainment features into a crappy TV and movie device that plays games.
Update: (Feb. 27th 2014). I pre-ordered my PS4 right after they were announced, one week after I got my PS4 I sold my Xbox 360 & all related peripherals & games. Then I canceled my Xbox Live membership that I had for over 11 years. After 8 years MS released a new console, the Xbox One or Xbone as many call it & it has trouble delivering 1080p graphics. The Metro interface is worse than what was on the Xbox 360 which means they never learned how to make it better and had two years to figure it out. The truth is MS wasn’t ready to release a new console but rushed one anyway. Me & the friends I play games with abandoned our Xbox 360s for PS4s & are supremely happy with our decisions.