Talking About the New Xbox One Experience

Backwards compatibility is a go!

The man of the hour. Well, more like about 20 or so minutes.

The man of the hour. Well, more like about 20 or so minutes.

Last week, I was invited to an event hosted by Xbox Canada to celebrate the launch of the New Xbox One Experience. “From a brand new user interface to the launch of backward compatibility for a wide range of Xbox 360 titles, the New Xbox One Experience will change the way you interact with Xbox One,” said the invite. “As this update enables a more social gaming experience, what better way to celebrate its launch than by getting everyone together to play fan-favourite Xbox 360 titles, talk Xbox and enjoy some drinks.”

Now, not owning an Xbox One (yet; feel free to see the footer at the end of the article if you’d like to help with that), I admittedly don’t know the New Xbox One Experience from the Old Xbox One Experience or even a hole in the ground (though both are functionally practical, I imagine the New Xbox One Experience blows the hole away when it comes to being entertaining). Fortunately, on hand to help walk me through what’s new in the world of Xbox One was Xbox Canada’s very own Platform Marketing Manager, Mr. Jeff Rivait.

After some introductions and my sheepish confession to not yet being one of the ones who have won with One, we got down to business.

Mario’s Hat: So, as you were saying?

Rivait: So at Xbox, we’re really focused on addressing fan feedback and making sure that this is the best place to play on any platform. So what we’ve done, last week we made generally available the New Xbox One Experience, which is a very robust system update that essentially brings Windows 10 to the Xbox One. With that, we’ve added a whole bunch of new features and customizations that fans have wanted to see, but you’re also seeing because of Windows 10 powering the Xbox operating system now. Things like apps loading, multiplayer, match finding, partying up with friends, launching apps a lot quicker and more responsive.

With it, you now see the redesigned U.I. (user interface). We’ve added a new guide that if you’re on the home screen, you go left on your Dpad or your thumbstick and it brings up very quickly all those things that gamers and Xbox fans want very quick access to. So your friends, who’s online, you can start a party instantly with folks who are on Xbox or Windows 10, your messages and your notifications are there, and also your settings, and then anything that you might want to snap to do multitasking.

So you said you could join up with friends who are on Windows 10?

Yeah!

How does that work, exactly?

So in a new Windows 10 device, whether it be a PC, tablet, or mobile phone, we’ve baked an Xbox app into Windows 10. So what that enables now on your Windows device, you have all your activity feeds, your friends lists, now you can get that Xbox experience across any device, including [being able to] stream any Xbox One game or 360 game from your console to that Windows 10 device to play anywhere else in the home with the network.

We’re also going to be introducing games like Fable Legends that are gigantic, but also enable cross-platform gameplay. So I can be playing Fable Legends on my console, and we can party up with other people and play together, and they can be on Windows 10 PCs.

xboxloft02

Two controllers, One console.

Okay, so it’s finally got that cross-platform multiplayer thing…

Exactly. Because of Windows 10, it definitely adds value to the Xbox gaming ecosystem, and this is just the beginning; there will be a lot more to come to make sure that Xbox is the home to your gaming experience, no matter what device that you’re playing on.

You said the New Xbox Experience is running on Windows 10; what was it running on before? Was it a previous version of Windows, or something else?

It was based on a previous version of Windows, yes.

*as he shows me more of the demonstration* Now what you see is a lot of things on your home screen; you have what you were last doing here, some of your more recent games that you’ve played, but also added shortcuts so you can do other things very quickly other than play it. And at the bottom, you have anything that you’ve pinned; you can customize your pins for quick access to games or apps [that you use] frequently.

Then across the top, you have a community page where you’re seeing an update from your friend’s Achievements, content they may have shared, what’s trending on Xbox Live from a gameplay perspective, and then we’ve also brought one guide up to the top where you’re seeing new content across entertainment or gaming apps, as well as app channels that are showing some of the top or customized content across apps or live TV, if you have it enabled on your console.

So it’s all designed to bring things more to the forefront and [having] all those things that you love or customize at your fingertips at any part of the home screen and your dashboard.

xboxloft03

Many tasty treats were scattered about the loft, including Reese Cups and Pieces, Hershey bars, Jolly Ranchers, and Coke, served with the skulls of our enemies.

So something I was wondering about there is that something I use my 360 for a lot is I’ll run Windows Media Player through it so I can watch MP4s and different videos through my computer on my TV, because I work all day on my computer, so I don’t want to watch my home entertainment there, either. I heard the older Xbox One couldn’t, but can the New Xbox One Experience run Windows Media Player, or some equivalent, off your computer?

Not Media Player, but it does enable USB media support and DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) streaming as well through your media stuff on your home network.

So the same basic idea, but a different program to pull it off?

Yeah, so you can plug in any USB device, or if you have a media server on your network, it will automatically search for it, or you can add it to your Windows files.

Okay, but you need Windows 10 on your computer to do that as well, huh?

No, this is Windows 10 and independent.

xboxloft04

Home is where you hang your heavy ordinance. Also: Ooh, Monopoly! I call dibs on the Warthog!

Oh, okay, because I haven’t updated my computer to Windows 10 yet as I’m running really low on space (I save a lot of cat pictures).

*collective laughter* The other cool thing is we’ve added backward compatibility…

Yeah, I’ve heard about that. There was kind of a tease of that with Rare Replay, because that was showing it off earlier, was it not?

Yeah, so we actually announced this at E3, and it was one of the nice surprises when they announced it. It just became generally available last week, [as it] was part of this update. And so we have a hundred titles that are backwards-compatible now, and we’ll be adding more and more every month in the future. The way it works is for any digital game that you’ve played, once that enters the backwards compatibility program, it’s just going to show up here for you to be able to download and play instantly. And if you had it on disc, you put the disc in the tray and it will install it, and you’re good to go.

Do you have to install it, or can it read from the disc?

You have to install it for it to play. So I could fire up Pac-Man (Championship Edition DX), kind of fire up the emulator and then game saves, Achievements, any Xbox Live feature you would have used on Xbox 360 carries over and you can use [it] on Xbox One.

xboxloft05

I forget, which loft are we in again? “Rox One?” That doesn’t make any sense…

On that note about the features: if I remember correctly, when the Xbox One had first come out, I remember what I heard were the Xbox Avatars weren’t a part of it? That kind of disappointed me, because I actually kind of liked my Avatar, and I noticed yours on the icon up there. Are the Avatars a part of the New Xbox One Experience?

Yeah, exactly. So on the console, you can bring up your guide and then go left to your profile and now you can set your Avatar’s gamerpic as your profile, and if you click deeper on your profile, you’ll see the Avatar come more to the forefront again. And then also, over in the Windows 10 app, [it’ll] carry over there so I can bring that up, go to “customize,” and on the Windows 10 app, there’s an Xbox Avatar program, and I can then customize it from there. The store will be back as well for Avatar[s].

The Avatars never really went away, but to your point, it wasn’t at the forefront of the Xbox One. We heard that feedback, and now it’s back for the gamers who want to use Avatars and the Avatar gamerpics for their profiles.

About the backwards compatibility, you said there were how many games available?

We have 104 in the backward compatibility program right now, and more and more every month.

xboxloft06

The TV on the right is where I fell in love again for the first time. More on that later, though.

So I was wondering, what’s the process as far as determining what else gets added to that?

Yeah, we really want to address the games that fans want to see most. We actually have a site called feedback.xbox.com (redirects). Historically, it’s been a site where gamers could add new features or suggestions for stuff they want to see on Xbox in general, and so users have been going on there and voting what games they want to see come to backward compatibility first. Then we’ll work with publishers based off what’s kind of bubbling to the top of that list to try to get those games into the program as soon as we can.

Is it based solely on that, or are there other determining factors going on there as well? Something that maybe somebody who’s interested in casting their vote might be interested in knowing?

Addressing fan feedback has always been crucial for us, and kind of our top priority, so that’s going to be a big one in terms of the ones we’re going to try to get as soon as we can. But then the other ones are ones that just, in our work with publishers, we feel makes sense and adds a lot of value for Xbox gamers. Some of the things that enables us to do is that for the launch of Fallout 4, people who bought an Xbox would get Fallout 3 backward compatible for free. For the launch of Rainbow Six Siege on Xbox One, you’re getting Rainbow Six: Vegas, 1 and 2 for free, for the Xbox 360 versions. Any opportunities like that, that publishers and us feel adds value to Xbox gamers, we’ll work to bring as well.

Now, is there anything to say — not that you shouldn’t vote for it, but something that would be more unlikely to happen? I would imagine, say, like NHL 07 or something is probably not going to be a very high priority.

Yeah, the only real limitations are any game that used Kinect on Xbox 360, the original Kinect, or any accessories that were on Xbox 360 that aren’t compatible with Xbox One.

Guitar Hero, for example?

Exactly, or games that just technically we can’t — won’t be able to get over to Xbox One. But any other game that doesn’t have either of those things is fair game, and we work with publishers to make that happen.

xboxloft07

You can play Fallout 3 on Xbox One! Is that surprise enough for you?

Going back a little further with the backwards compatibility thing, I remember a lot of — not Xbox One, but original Xbox games were made backwards compatible on the Xbox 360. Now, by emulating the 360, do you know if it’s going to be possible to also perhaps go back two generations — essentially be able to play games from all Xboxes on Xbox One?

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s possible at this time. I mean, if that’s something the fans demand a lot, we’ll look at it, but I don’t think there’s anything that we have planned right now to address that specifically.

I just remembered that with Sony and PlayStation, for a while there they were doing the backwards compatibility thing, and you know how PlayStation 3 played PlayStation One and 2, and the PS2 could play PSOne. It was kind of a thing going, and then they just kind of cut that off. You guys took over [that] by the looks of it, so…

Yeah, well the nice part of the backward compatibility on Xbox One is that it’s not a subscription service, it’s free and built in to Xbox One, so if you’ve purchased the game in the past or still have the disk, you’re good to go and you don’t have to pay for it initially on Xbox One.

On that note, you said that your Xbox profile recognizes what you have and will let you know when they become available?

Yeah, for the digital versions, and then we’re always updating the list on Xbox.com or news.xbox.com for new releases every month, so if there’s anything disc-based, you can take a look there as well.

xboxloft09 xboxloft08

A cool chalk collage featuring different games wrapped above and behind the bar.

Now as far as doing new games, I remember there was a big hullabaloo several years ago — again with the Xbox 360 doing Xbox compatibility — a lot of people were really upset that maybe their favorite game wasn’t on there, but this Barbie horse riding or something made it. The explanation, as I recall, was basically that Barbie wasn’t sought out, but there were groupings [where] making one game compatible would also allow other games to be compatible, and that’s how Barbie made the cut. Is it done a similar way here, or are the titles made compatible on an individual basis?

They’re made compatible on an individual basis. I personally don’t have much techno-expertise to know exactly how it’s done — as I mentioned, it’s based off what fans are asking us to do, focus on it first, and then any other ones that we think would add great experiences for fans that we could bring to it.

So it’s not the same “batch” approach that kind of worked before, gotcha.

Any other new features you want to talk about on the New Xbox One Experience?

We talked about Windows 10 on the Xbox and I showed you the Avatars there; what you see is through the app, you essentially have access to your Xbox One or your Xbox Live community, so your friends are there, you can message, chat, start parties as we do more and more cross-platform games. Your game captures and your content [are] also available.

xboxloft11 xboxloft10

Upon entering, visitors were soon confronted with various backwards compatible Xbox 360 games running on Xbox One, including Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Viva Pinata, and Banjo-Kazooie (Banjo-Kazooie was kind of popular).

Oh yeah, stuff like the game capturing — that works on all the Xbox 360 games, all the new Xbox One features?

Yeah, that’s one of the great parts [of having] backward compatibility: you also get some of the next-gen benefits of screenshot capture, game DVR to record and share clips. Then, on Windows 10 as mentioned, your friends are there, your activity feed to see what your friends are doing, any of the content you’ve created or bubbling up in the community… I think one of the biggest ones is game streaming.

So when you’re on the same network, you can initiate game streaming, and then if someone else wants to use the TV, you can stream your Xbox One content to a Windows 10 device, then go somewhere else in the house to pick up where you left off.

Yeah, and the nice part about this is with Windows 10 is Windows 10 is on millions of devices and the app is built-in, so just based off your network, you can take this and carry your gameplay anywhere else in the house.

You say the Xbox app is automatically built into Windows 10? So no hunting and downloading anything?

It’s built in, or if for some reason it’s uninstalled, you can grab it for free from the Windows 10 app store.

Did you have anything else you wanted to add?

All people are really trying to show is just how much value there is for the Xbox gamer. Not just from the platform-level stuff that we talked about with the New Xbox Experience, the connection with Windows 10, the cross-platform features and value that adds.

But when you think on top of that, all the great games that we’ve had launching, whether it be Halo 5, Tomb Raider, Forza 6, Gears of War, there’s never been a better time to jump on an Xbox.

Some neat Halo merch, along with the reflection of some daft, oblivious bloke.

Some neat Halo merch, along with the reflection of some daft, oblivious bloke.

It sounds like Xbox One is [now] more of an upgrade than an addition for Xbox 360 gamers.

Oh, for sure. I mean, if you’ve been waiting to make the jump to next-gen? With all these things, with the New Xbox Experience, being able to expand your gaming experience with Windows 10 on [other] devices, and all of the great exclusives and blockbuster games that we have launching in addition to an incredible line of bundles that we have available. You can get some great value and additional games that come with the console this holiday — I think there’s never been a better time to make the jump from 360, for sure.

Any particular deals or bundles upcoming that you can share?

Well, some of the bundles that we recently launched last week… we launched a 1TB Fallout 4 bundle with a 1TB hard drive, a copy of Fallout 4 for the Xbox One in addition to a copy of Fallout 3 for Xbox 360, we also launched an Xbox One Elite console which has a 1TB solid state hard drive to enable faster loading, but also comes with the Xbox One Elite controller, which is an incredible premium controller that is designed for pro gamers to be able to customize their controller to their gameplay experience.

So it comes with that in the bundle for $549, and then a lot of great bundles on a $399 500GB SKU that comes with Gears of War or FIFA 16. So a lot of great options based off of your gameplay needs or what you’re looking for.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I think that covers pretty much everything.

—-

Thanks to Xbox Canada for inviting me to their event, and to Mr. Jeff Rivait for taking the time to answer my questions for this interview!

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you’re interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.