Microsoft’s Xbox One console hasn’t yet conquered territory in the game space held by Sony’s PS4 gaming console, but the company is continuing to reward early adopter’s faith with frequent software updates and feature fixes. Microsoft hasn’t officially announced when it’ll arrive, but at least one new update will allow users to capture screenshots from their games and customize the console’s home screen to their tastes.
To be clear, Microsoft hasn’t officially announced any of these features’ release date just yet. Instead, news of them comes by the way of Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s Head of Xbox. Spencer spent some time discussing the Xbox One and future feature updates during an interview on the TiC Podcast. During the show he’s asked about features users want. It’s at that point that he confirms Microsoft’s Xbox Team is working on delivering more customization saying, “themes and background pics are things we’re working on.” He goes on to note that screenshots are on their way too.
Alone any of these features arriving would be worth celebrating. Take backgrounds for example, the Xbox One is a very personal piece of technology not unlike a smartphone. Buyers fill it with their time and the games they think are worth playing and paying for. They tailor the OneGuide to their interests so it’s easier to get to their favorite television shows and channels quickly. In that context it’s pretty ridiculous that the Xbox One didn’t already have background pictures.
Presumably, themes will sit behind the Live Tiles that now dominate the Xbox One interface. Whether they’ll sync with the Live Tile colors being used on other Microsoft-made products like Windows and Windows Phone isn’t yet know. Whether users background photos will sync from either of these other platforms remains unclear too – that’s something even Windows Phone doesn’t do today. Whether we’ll see premium themes like the ones Microsoft offered Xbox 360 users through the Xbox Store is unknown too.
What we do know is that screenshots simply can’t come soon enough. Every Xbox One that’s connected to the Xbox Live service can record video clips and share them with other gamers. Clip recording is as simple as just saying “Xbox, record that” for those that have a Kinect 2 sensor. These clips can be shared across Xbox Live or even on YouTube and OneDrive for storage. In that context, not being able to get screenshots when you want to show off a particular game or accomplishment sounds like a pretty glaring omission. Sony’s PS4 video game console added screenshot support and the ability to store those screenshots on a flash drive earlier this year. PS4 owners are still waiting for external hard drive support.
Because Spencer left out any information about timing, we can only conclude that the features he discussed aren’t yet ready for prime time. That makes sense given Microsoft’s track record for Xbox One updates lately. So far the company has revealed one major or minor Xbox One update a month. Sometimes these monthly updates come packed with huge feature changes and sometimes they’re only minor. External hard drive support so that users could store games on hard drives other than the 500GB hard drive built into the Xbox One, arrived in a monthly Xbox One update. Late this summer Microsoft revealed that a forthcoming Xbox One update would add support for DLNA media streaming. An update already add a media player that supports audio and video in dozens of formats. All of these updates are free and tested on members of the Xbox One Preview Program before they roll out to regular Xbox One buyers. The PS4 will get themes in the future, but DLNA streaming support and more media features remain missing.
The Xbox One is on store shelves now for $399 without a Kinect 2 sensor or $499 with a Kinect 2 sensor. In the next few weeks Microsoft plans to launch a standalone Kinect 2 sensor for users who purchase the cheaper console. It’ll cost $150. The PS4 costs $399.