The Xbox One menu system will look a lot different this November, when Microsoft moves to Windows 10 as the backbone of the console’s software.
Microsoft has tried to emphasize speed in the new interface. A demo from a couple months ago shows the console zipping through menus, jumping into a game, and quickly launching the friends list in a sidebar menu. It seems like a huge improvement over the current interface, which often takes several seconds to load something as simple as an achievement list.
But the design itself is also a drastic change, looking like an entirely different gaming system and taking cues from the new Xbox app for Windows 10 PCs. The old Windows 8-inspired Live Tiles are gone, and so is the confusing grid-based layout that spread out in both directions from the home screen. When users start the console, they’ll instead see a list of their most recent games and apps, along with any noteworthy updates or friend activity for those titles. Common menu items such as friends lists, messages, and settings now live in a dedicated sidebar menu for convenient access.
The Windows 10-based update will also bring some new features to the console. Backward compatibility with certain Xbox 360 games will reach all users in November, and the 360’s cartoonish Xbox Avatars will make a return. Microsoft is also adding a console version of its Cortana virtual assistant, letting users create parties or share video clips with voice commands, and see any reminders that they’ve set on other Windows devices.
The update timing is one of several Xbox-related announcements Microsoft made at this week’s Gamescom expo in Cologne, Germany. The company showed off footage for several new exclusive games, including Forza Motorsport 6 and Crackdown 3, and announced over-the-air DVR capabilities for the Xbox One coming next year.
Why this matters: The Xbox One’s current interface is looking increasingly antiquated as Microsoft tries to distance itself from Windows 8. The fact that it’s slow and confusing to navigate doesn’t really help. Major redesigns tend not to go over well with users, but the Xbox One’s Windows 10 update is looking like a rare exception. It can’t come soon enough.