Details on the next round of Xbox dashboard updates
A while back, the Xbox team announced that it would be putting in work on some major revisions to the user experience on Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One, and gave some users an early look at those changes.
Things, however, haven’t gone so well. As various people started getting a look at the dashboard changes due to being part of the Alpha testing rings, they (and us, through them) saw a new homepage that had stripped out a number of user customization options we’d previously had, while also forcing a lot of Xbox Game Pass promotional content to the front.
Taking in that feedback, the Xbox team today announced some of the changes that will be coming to the early look at next year’s big dashboard update in an official blog post today. Here are the basics of what’s been said:
- Pin groups, which had previously been removed from the home page, are back.
- You can once again add specific games to your home area, but at least from the example we’re shown, doing so isn’t as feature-rich as it once was, as the club and looking for group options don’t seem to be present.
- The team says you’ll now be able to “browse and watch your media in a new ‘Watch & listen’ spotlight,” though I’m not sure how exactly that’ll work.
- Pinning entertainment apps to the home page will now offer buttons that “quickly link you into collections in the Store to find more apps, movies, and more.”
- Xbox Game Pass and Microsoft Store sections will show games that are “now picked for you using an algorithm and should become more relevant if you share your data with Xbox,” because they maybe weren’t relevant to you before?
The blog posts goes on to say that different alpha testers will get to try out alternate layout styles for the home screen that better group user-picked modules together, and that the team is also giving consideration to the feedback of Xbox owners wanting to see more of their custom backgrounds (which have become more covered up in this latest dashboard version).
While I appreciate the Xbox team taking the feedback to heart and bringing about these changes, here’s the problem: A lot of what they’re giving us in this alpha test update are things we already have. On my Xbox Series X, right at this moment, I can add pin groups to my homepage and pin games there as well.
I defending Microsoft’s choice to keep the same dashboard when the Series X and Series S came out, because I thought retaining all of the features that had been gained over the years was more important than having a new interface just for the sake of making things look new. And now, with these recent changes they’ve been testing for the dashboard, some of that was suddenly taken away—and taken away just so that the company could push more ads for their subscription service on us.
As someone who’s been critical of the Xbox team’s work on user interfaces since the days of the Xbox 360, I actually think things are in a pretty good place with what we’ve got now. And, of course, now that we’ve reached that point, the company wants to change things again and threaten that.
Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI. Check her out on Twitter and Mastodon.