We recently showed you what kind of fashions you can spend about $20 on to make your PlayStation Home avatar look just a little more snazzy. For 49 cents, you too can wear a virtual cowboy hat -- or at least your Home avatar can.

So is this the future? A world of cheap avatar fashion purchases?

Sony seems to believe in it. Microsoft, I've learned, does not.

The day before Home launched I got a (clearly unrelated) briefing from Xbox product manager Aaron Greenberg and I brought up this topic. I asked: When/how/how-often will we see cheap clothing options for our Xbox 360 Avatars available for paid download? Read More...

No one's ever satisfied, right?

During a call that was meant to trumpet the successful recent launch of the New Xbox Experience and certainly had nothing (really!) to do with the impending launch of PlayStation Home, I asked Xbox director of product management Aaron Greenberg about two complaints I keep hearing about the Xbox 360's Netflix service.

People want more movies on them, and they'd like to update their Netflix queue on the 360, instead of only on their computer.

To the first point, Greenberg said:

You can debate whether it says more about me or the Xbox 360, but my New Xbox Experience is very... male.

Since the NXE transformed most of the Xbox 360 dashboards in the U.S. this week, I've witnessed a stark reminder that almost everyone my 360 is connected to is a guy. Or at least they play one as an Avatar.

I have 59 friends on my Xbox 360 friend's list, 50 of whom have made Avatars. All but two of them have made male Avatars. When I flick through the NXE's line-up of my friends' Avatars, it seems like I'm looking at the line for the men's room.

Microsoft's creation of the Avatars has been seen as an attempt to emulate the approachability of the Wii brand and Nintendo's Miis. But the gender balance of my friends' Avatars and my friends' Miis are as different as Microsoft and Nintendo's apparent success at courting more than guy gamers.

Take a look at this:

Xbox's early days were rough. Microsoft was entering a new market most figured they had no business being a part of -- but they did it anyway.

So, there were a few laughs along the way, and Xbox 360's reformed dashboard, dubbed the "New Xbox Experience" subtly honors some of those past missteps.

You'll find them by scrolling through your friends list, as part of the backgrounds for fellow Avatars. The giant robot you'll see is a reference to the original Xbox technology demonstration that debuted at the Game Developers Conference in 2000. The giant "X" was part of a ridiculous E3 prop.

The Xbox 360 NXE versions of these things are shown above. To see their real-life, old-school -- in Xbox years, anyway -- versions, see below.

Microsoft claims that the New Xbox Experience -- that big dashboard upgrade being pushed to all 360 owners on November 19 -- will allow your favorite Xbox 360 games to load more quickly. To enjoy that benefit, a gamer will have to install their disc-based games onto their 360's hard drive.

People keep asking me if doing the installation is worth the trouble. Are loading times that much better?

I tested Microsoft's claim on four games, using my NXE-enabled 360. Above, you can watch the initial loading for "Grand Theft Auto IV," DVD vs Hard Drive. After the jump, check out loading comparisons for "Fable II" and "Gears of War."

(Videos not viewable by users logging in from Canada or the U.K.) Read More...

Readers of gaming blog Joystiq's preview of Microsoft's New Xbox Experience got a pleasant surprise yesterday.

How pleasant?

They got treated to a guest appearance by me (or my "Grand Theft Auto IV" multiplayer avatar, to be more precise) playing a supporting role in their video explaining how the NXE's Party system works.

They explain it pretty well. The Party system is a way for 360 gamers to stay linked together through voice-chat as they hop from game to game or to the dashboard. You don't have to travel together, and you can invite the full party to whatever you're playing at the moment. One detail they don't mention is that your voice-chat can be set to be open to everyone in your party or to just those members of your party who are in the same game.

Keep your eyes peeled, everyone. You never know where your Multiplayer bloggers will pop up next.

Related Posts:
New Xbox Experience Currently Missing My Second Favorite Dashboard Feature
Impressions Of The New Xbox Experience On My Home Console

November's New Xbox Experience mandatory firmware upgrade may add many handy options to the Xbox 360 console, but contrary to early reports from E3, it doesn't quite retain all the functionality of the original 360 dashboard.

While messing around with the New Xbox Experience on my home 360 last week, I had trouble finding my second favorite feature from the old dashboard: Xbox Live Arcade auto-downloading.

That feature allowed me to set my 360 to download demos of every new XBLA game any time I entered my XBLA games library and there was new content available. I was a big fan of the feature, because it enabled new games to come to me rather than me having to know about them and seek them out. Auto-downloading is not in the NXE.

When I was given a demo of NXE last week, I mentioned that I liked auto-downloading almost as much as I liked spying on the gaming habits of my friends on my buddy list. Microsoft v.p. John Schappert turned to me and said, "You actually use that?" He would know better than me how popular it is.

Yesterday, a Microsoft rep confirmed to me that the feature "is disabled for the NXE launch," but added that "it may come back in a future release."

Hours after that meeting with Schappert I got NXE on my own console and, while I still haven't had time to try all its features, like Netflix, my impressions have otherwise been favorable. But I want auto-downloading back. Do you?

Related Posts:
Impressions Of The New Xbox Experience On My Home Console
Microsoft: Photo, Video Sharing Could Easily Be Added To New Xbox Experience
Microsoft: Our Mii-Like Avatars Borrow From ‘World of Warcraft,’ Could Connect With ‘Gears of War’

Earlier this week, Microsoft transmitted a beta version of the new Xbox 360 dashboard -- the New Xbox Experience -- to my home console. I'm not allowed to "review" it for another week or so, but I've been told I can share some impressions.

So here are some initial impressions based on some dabbling I did this week during the few hours I was home in New York:

The transition to the NXE is easy: It took all of one minute to get the NXE on my machine. Another six minutes were required once I logged on to Xbox Live, further updating the NXE. I was prompted to edit an Avatar for myself, which seems to have cost me my old Gamerpic, but nothing else was lost in the transition. My friend's list, downloaded content and settings all carried over. Read More...

One of the early promises of Sony's Home service was the ability to stream media to your friend's machines and watch, listen and talk together.

Since then, Sony has said that's not something that will be part of Home's open beta.

But it is something that Microsoft's thinking about implementing with the "New Xbox Experience," otherwise known as the dashboard update coming on November 19.

Here's a shared video idea I proposed to two Microsoft employees who were showing me the dashboard a few weeks back.


In a little over a month, the old Xbox 360 dashboard disappears, replaced by a completely revamped, rethought dashboard dubbed the "New Xbox Experience."

I went hands-on with the new dashboard a few weeks ago in a hotel suite in San Francisco. As someone who has become increasingly annoyed at the current dashboard -- I've completely switched to the less cluttered PlayStation Store for downloading demos and videos -- my expectations for the new dashboard were high.

And you know what? Microsoft more or less nailed it. Here's what I like (and don't like) about the changes coming down the pipe on November 19: Read More...

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