It looks like gamers will be able to see a bit more of the backgrounds they’ve chosen to display on the software that powers Microsoft’s Xbox One console. It’s possible that Microsoft has plans to introduce transparent tiles so that people can see more of what they care about and less of the giant squares that now dominate console’s interface.
Microsoft hasn’t revealed any details about the transparent tiles. In fact, we wouldn’t know they were coming if it wasn’t for someone at Reddit watching Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb broadcast from his console this week and picking up on the transparent tiles that his console has.
In the screenshot we see that the tiles for every system app are transparent. Their icons are still completely viewable but each tile’s background blends into the picture that’s on the dashboard. Items being featured on the console, like the deals that are always visible just to the left of the home area, aren’t transparent, neither are games. That makes sense, Microsoft wants to keep a spotlight on those things. The Featured area is how users find out about sales and promotions in the Xbox Store in real-time. We don’t yet know if the tiles for each app will also be transparent.
In the grand scheme of things, getting transparent tiles on the Xbox One sounds like something basic, something that should have been available already or isn’t really a big deal. It is a big deal, and the excitement in the Reddit thread with the leak is a perfect representation of why that is.
The Xbox 360 was customizable, but it didn’t allow so many changes that any person felt the console was their own. Changing the background was about the only thing you could do. When Microsoft showed off the Xbox One before launch it didn’t have backgrounds and it was unclear if users would even be able to change their Live Tile color.
Microsoft spent the last year adding tons of features users demanded. Today, the Xbox One has at least caught up to the Xbox 360 in terms of customization, users can choose a background and a tile color. Apps are also pinnable directly to the Start Screen.Adding transparent tiles is the next logical step in the Xbox One’s design evolution.
Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing when transparent live tiles might be coming in an Xbox One update. Microsoft announced in late November that there would be no December Xbox One Update. As such, we at least know not to expect transparent live tiles in the next few weeks. Microsoft usually makes new features available to members of its Preview Program before rolling them out to everyone else in final form. If Hyrb has the feature now, it makes sense that a January or February Xbox One update will include transparent tiles.
Incidentally, last night Microsoft revealed that its Xbox One console had taken the top sales spot in the United States and United Kingdom for the month of November. In a statement to Polygon Microsoft said, “response to the holiday line of games on Xbox One was incredible, with Xbox One fans buying more games in November in the U.S. than any other generation eight platform.” Microsoft’s decision to aggressively push the price of the Xbox One down to $349 likely had a large impact on those sales numbers.” It’s likely that Microsoft’s commitment to adding new features, like transparent tiles and customizable backgrounds, on an ongoing basis contributed to that ever so slightly too.
The Xbox One is on store shelves and prices start at $349 for a limited time. The $349 version of the console includes a free copy of Assassin’s Creed Unity and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. The $449 version of the Xbox One includes those two games plus the Kinect 2 sensor for motion games, voice commands and live television integration.