Breaking Down the Xbox One March Update

Yesterday, I presented my feedback on PlayStation's upcoming system update so I would be remiss to skip providing the same analysis on Xbox's update.

Purchase Xbox 360 Backward Compatible games on Xbox One

Fans have spent more than 30 million hours playing Xbox 360 games on Xbox One and so it’s natural that being able to purchase Xbox 360 Backward Compatible games on Xbox One ranks as one of your top requests. With this update, you’ll be able to do so! Find and purchase Xbox 360 Backward Compatible games the same way you would Xbox One titles and, once purchased, Xbox 360 Backward Compatible content will automatically download to your Xbox One and be ready to play!

As someone who skipped the Xbox 360 generation, this appeals to me in theory. I'm sure there are a lot of great games I missed that I'd love to be able to easily go back to and this functionality affords me the opportunity (at least for the digital titles). But in practice, I'm already backed up on 2016 games and it's only March so when am I going to find time to revisit games from the last generation? Great that it's there, for all of the people who aren't trying to keep up with the latest in gaming for their own websites though.

Include Party Chat in Twitch broadcasts

A top voted-for feature on Xbox Feedback, Xbox One Preview members will be able to broadcast Party Chat when using the Twitch app. If you are broadcasting from your console and in a party, you can invite other people to include their chat audio in your broadcast. If a member of your party declines, they’ll still be able to chat in the party; they just won’t be heard in the broadcast. Additionally, as the party leader, you have the option to mute a party member’s chat audio, even if they opted-in. You can also include party members on Windows 10 PCs in your Twitch broadcast.

This sounds like a great feature for multi-player streamers. Currently, it seems like people have had to jury-rig their way around this idea using Skype and other applications. Having the functionality built right in to the system is incredibly streamer-friendly.

Output your Party Chat to headset and speakers simultaneously

Xbox One Preview members will be able to select their preference for where Party Chat audio is heard: their headset, speakers, or both. To do this, go to Settings – Display & Sounds – Volume.

I would've imagined this would cause feedback issues with the chat from the speakers being pciked back up by the mic but good on Xbox for developing a solution I guess.

Customizable Game DVR recording length

Based on Xbox Feedback, it’s clear that fans want to be able to configure the length of their Game DVR recordings. Currently, Game DVR recording is fixed to a 30 second duration. With this update, Xbox One Preview members can adjust the recording length to 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 1 minute, 3 minutes or 5 minutes. To change the preferences, visit Settings – Preferences – Game DVR & streaming.

I don't really use the Game DVR Recording functionality anyway but customization is always good.

Track Achievement progress in the Xbox One guide

We’re making it easier to access your Achievements by including them in the Xbox One guide. In the new Achievements area you’ll find a quick link to see all of your Achievements and you’ll be able to track your Achievement progress in real time directly in the guide, without having to snap a separate Achievements app.

As someone who has increasingly become interested in Trophies and Achievements (but not obsessively so), I appreciate this little fix. Since, getting my Xbox One, I've been put off by how tricky it is to get to and review my Achievements. I absolutely love that I can track my progress to an Achievement but having to open the Achievements App and snap it to the side has always been a pain.

Video playback directly in the Xbox One Activity Feed

We’ve made improvements to video playback in the Xbox One Activity Feed. Xbox One Preview members will be able to play an entire video inline rather than having to leave their feed to launch it. You can even ‘like’ the video while previewing it by pressing X. Preview members will also enjoy new pause, restart, and full-screen playback options, when they do choose to launch a video from their Activity Feed.

Sounds like we're going down the path of Facebook/Twitter where we can just watch the video directly in app instead of having to open up a separate one. Anything to streamline the experience.

Here’s what’s coming to the Xbox app (beta):

Gamerscore Leaderboard

In the Xbox app (beta), fans will be able to enjoy the same Gamerscore Leaderboard feature introduced to Xbox One last month. Access the Gamerscore Leaderboard in the Xbox app (beta) by navigating to the Achievements section of your profile. See where you stand relative to your friends by comparing total Gamerscore, as well as the biggest gains over a rolling 30-day period. A Leaderboard for game stats will also be coming to the Xbox app (beta). Visit the Game Hub for a title with hero stats, click on Achievements and see how you stack up against your friends.

I live mostly on my PlayStation but I can appreciate occasionally checking through my friends lists to see how we stack up in the meta game. I imagine Achievement Hunters love having the same kind of easy-to-compare experience.

Updated ‘Featured’ section

The ‘Featured’ gaming section below the ‘Recently played’ games area has been updated to spotlight games, deals, community events and more.

Torn here. While I can appreciate the Featured section showing me things I might like based on my interests. Now that the rest of the apps are at the bottom of the home screen below this, I might not exactly enjoy having to go through the extra tiles to get to what I'm actually looking for.

Here’s what’s coming to both Xbox One Preview and the Xbox app (beta) this month:

16-person Party Chat

Last fall, we expanded Party Chat to enable 12-person Parties on Xbox One and the Xbox app. This feature has been very popular with the community, so now we’re enabling 16-person Parties across both Xbox One Preview and the Xbox app (beta) starting today!

I'm barely ever playing with one other person online so chatting with fifteen others seems particularly overwhelming but as games delve more into modes with an ever increasing number of players on a team, this will benefit players in those configurations. 

Xbox 360 Achievements in Xbox One and Xbox app Activity Feeds

Starting this month for both Xbox One Preview and Xbox app (beta) participants, Xbox 360 Achievements will automatically post to your console and Windows 10 PC Activity Feeds. As with Xbox One game Achievements, the Xbox 360 Achievement graphic will feature a description of the Achievement, the game you earned it from, and the Gamerscore associated with it.

Another instance of gaming platforms as Facebook/Twitter-esque feeds...

Follow web links and YouTube videos from Game Hubs

Community managers of Game Hubs will now be able to populate Game Hubs with web and YouTube hyperlinks, making the Game Hubs experience even more interactive and engaging for gamers. For Xbox One Preview members, web links will display in a browser via the Edge app and YouTube links will open in the YouTube app. For the Xbox app (beta), links will open in your default web browser. As with any other item in your Activity Feed, you can caption, like, comment on, and share these links.

And another...

Compare your Avatars

In Xbox One Preview shortly and releasing to the Xbox Avatars app later this month, you’ll be able to compare your Avatar with your friends’ Avatars. You can click through on a specific friend’s Avatar; preview their Avatar’s clothing, accessories and props on your Avatar; and also see how you can purchase or earn the items yourself. Using the ‘Compare Avatars’ feature will help you customize your Avatar leveraging the best of all your friends’ outfits! You can also compare your Avatar with anyone else’s in the Xbox Live community – just select ‘Compare Avatars’ when you are viewing another member’s profile.

Apart from when he pops up when I boot up my system, I pretty much never think about my avatar, let alone anyone else's. But I guess if you see something cool in a friend's avatar that you want for you own, it's pretty cool that this feature will tell you if/how to earn it.

Reputation rating interface changes

The Xbox Live community is comprised overwhelmingly of players with positive reputations, and so, the vast majority of profiles are rated ‘good.’ As a result, we are changing our reputation interface to draw attention only to players who have been rated ‘needs work’ or ‘avoid me’. For Xbox One Preview and Xbox app (beta) members, ‘good’ players’ profiles will no longer feature a reputation gauge, however, gamers whose profiles are tagged ‘needs work’ or ‘avoid me’ will continue to feature the reputation flag.

Probably the slightest waste of processing power highlighting all of the normal players in good standing when they can simply highlight the bad apples instead.

Like the PlayStation update, there's certainly a lot in here to benefit streamers. It's also impressive that Xbox with their monthly updates have been seemingly more substantial than the less frequent PlayStation updates. Likely another testament to how well the Xbox Live network was designed compared to the PlayStation Network's architecture.