Microsoft’s Xbox One video game console, is getting a few new feathers and a fistful of fixes in the latest Xbox One Update. One of those new features could just be what Microsoft needs to start pulling ahead of Sony’s PlayStation Network gaming service
Starting today, Xbox One users will be prompted to update their console to the latest software, or what Microsoft is simply referring to as the February Xbox One Update in a post on Xbox Wire. Like all software updates to the console thus far, the February Xbox One Update is free for everyone to download, provided that they have a decent internet connection.
The killer feature isn’t the expansion of the OneGuide app into new localities nor Microsoft’s decision to double-down on personalization by making most of the tiles on the Xbox One dashboard a little transparent. No, it’s something called Game Hubs, and it’s so deceptively simple that most might just blow right past it on their way to the latest games and downloads.
At first glance, Game Hubs work just like Pages on Facebook, the world’s largest and most popular social networking website. Forget, scouring the internet for the latest in news about downloadable content in Internet Explorer or searching the Friends app for anyone who plays a particular game, the Game Hubs in the February Xbox One Update deliver all of that functionality from one interface. From a Game Hub users Xbox One owners can track how much of a game they’ve finished, which of their friends has more experience, look for downloadable content, check out Twitch live streams and clips, and get a list of Xbox Live members who should be watched for their accomplishments. For example, a look at Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Game Hub gives you a list of the four most popular broadcasters of that game through Twitch.
Game Hubs might sound like a basic feature, but they’re the latest thing to indicate there’s a tone shift occurring in the way Microsoft sees Xbox Live. Last year it followed Facebook’s lead and added the ability for users to share their real name on Xbox Live. The version of Xbox Live that powers the Xbox One also separates friends and followers, giving popular users tons more reach. When the Xbox One launched, users couldn’t post text status updates, like other’s videos or leave comments on their achievements. Those are all features already available to users.
Smartly, Microsoft seems to be positioning Xbox Live as more of a social network than a video game service. If it’s successful, Microsoft could leap-frog the PS4’s PlayStation Network gaming service, which has offered somewhat better deals on games and competitive multiplayer for years. A vibrant Xbox Live gives buyers another reason to choose an Xbox One. It’d also give the company some leverage as it expands the reach of Xbox Live to Windows and maybe even other platforms like iPhone and Android.
Beyond Game Hubs and transparent tiles, Microsoft has slashed connection times for the Xbox One controller, made some improvements to Party Chat, added background syncing so that user’s console background syncs between multiple consoles and rolled out the Live TV trends and the Xbox OneGuide into new markets.
To get the February Xbox One Update users shouldn’t need to do much. The Xbox One automatically downloads updates when it’s in low-power mode and connected to the internet. Users who’ve turned Low Power Mode off will need to go into the Xbox One’s Settings app and manually update their controller.
Once the update is installed, finding a Game Hub is as simple as selecting with the left joystick on the Xbox One controller and pressing the Menu button in the center-right.