It’s now even easier for Xbox One owners to see what their friends are up to on Xbox Live. In a move that brings Xbox Live even closer to working as an online social network plus a video game service, Microsoft has updated its Xbox.com website with a new Home area and more.
Starting today, the Activity Feed is available directly on Xbox.com. That’s the part of the Xbox Live ecosystem that lets users purchase video games, browse the entire digital Xbox One and Xbox 360 catalog, send messages and look at achievements.
The New Activity Feed allows Xbox One owners to scroll through all the achievements their friends have earned or messages they’ve posted in reverse chronological order. Users can also add a status update to their own Xbox Live account that’ll show up in the Activity Feeds of others. The whole process is very similar to the way Facebook used to handle status updates on their service. Anything posted on the Activity Feed – like status updates, achievements, comments or videos – can be shared to Twitter and Facebook.
Beyond the new Activity Feed, Microsoft has also added a new suggested Friends area to help users connect with other Xbox One players with similar tastes in video games. Besides users with similar tastes that are already following, Suggested Friends collects VIPs who’ve shared interesting clips or broadcasted games releasing. The Xbox One February Update added support for VIPs to the Xbox One itself. Xbox One owners who’ve done something notable show up directly on the Xbox One game hub.
The new Suggested Friends area sits on the Friends page in a tab that users need to click on. The new Activity Feed is the first thing users see when they log into Xbox.com. Microsoft is allowing anyone who doesn’t like the new Activity Feed to switch back to the old version if they’d like. Presumably, this is for Xbox 360 users who aren’t as interested in the Activity Feed in general.
None of these changes to Xbox.com are new to the Xbox ecosystem in general. In fact, both the Activity and Suggested Friends are available directly on the Xbox One console itself. These changes are important because they’re indicative of a new direction for Xbox Live in general.
Since arriving on the original Xbox.com, Xbox Live has always felt like a gaming service with some pretty basic social networking features bolted on for added effect. Even at the lunch of the Xbox One, Microsoft seemed more focused on connecting players in game than out of one. That seems to have changed sometime last year. Xbox owners have been able to send each other messages and voice chat with each other for years, but then Microsoft added features inspired by popular social networks. On the Xbox One, you can use your real name to make it easier for people to identify you. The Activity Feed was added to give people a real-time look at what’s going on with their friends on the service. Game Hubs now act like Facebook Pages. When an Xbox One owner follows a game they get updates about new content and more added directly to their Activity Feed. It wasn’t until last year that Xbox One owners could actually comment on the video clips their friends post or the achievements they’ve earned. The company even added a Showcase area to profiles so that users could make their Xbox Live presence more personal.
The result is an Xbox Live that not only matches a lot of what’s available on Sony’s PS4, but also stands out in its own right. Microsoft seems to be hoping that making Xbox Live a more social place leads to a sort of halo effect for console sales. In theory, shoppers are more likely to purchase an Xbox console if they have friends who’re already at home on Xbox Live.
The Xbox One is on store shelves now for $349 and $449. It’s the $449 version that includes a Kinect 2 sensor. Users don’t need an Xbox Live Gold account to use any of these new social networking features.