By Sunjammer 29 Comments
I think it's pretty fantastic how Microsoft has continuously failed to apply any of the feedback they have received over the years regarding the Xbox 360 frontend. It started out bad but functional, and has become the modern portrait of bloat and design by committee. The crowning achievement of the previous iteration was hiding Mark of the Ninja, a Microsoft published game, behind so many steps of search and scan that people didn't realize it was available to buy, so we'll start there.
Mark of the Ninja was a highly anticipated game. It had generated a significant amount of buzz, and touched on the stealth genre, which rarely receives such lavish attention. It was on my calendar. On the day, I turn on the system, to discover ads for music, film, and DLC downloads for a game I didn't own. There was practically zero discoverability on launch day, requiring users instead to tab over to the games tab (no MotN there either), open the arcade tab, and pick it from there.
The previous dash apparently had no mechanism for delivering actual news, OR the news was curated in such a fashion that even Microsoft published games didn't bubble up to the dashboard front. As far as I can tell the latter is the case for almost every issue the 360 dash has had the past years: An emphasis on advertising over curating content tailored for the user.
It's really cool to go to the game DLC tab and "discover" nothing but advertised DLC for games I don't own you guys!
I can scarcely contain how distasteful I find the way Microsoft has handled the 360. Purchasing an expensive piece of hardware and accessories, purchasing video games at a premium - A "HD premium" of $60, one of the most self destructive things the games industry has ever done - and even paying a monthly fee for online play, Microsoft have milked the 360 userbase in a thoroughly disgusting fashion. It's the culmination of the corporate idea of "games as a service", taken to the darkest place where exactly nobody wins.
Sony offers actual games as part of its PlayStation+ service, an initiative that started out looking like an attempt at repeating the Microsoft cash grab, but has over time shown itself to be a legitimate boon to the users. Microsoft offers puny discounts (really, really puny discounts, like barely discounted DLC for age old games) and still drown you in a barrage of advertising.
Destructoid's Jim Sterling accurately summed up the abominable Kinect as being "built on a foundation of lies", and I don't feel off expanding that notion to Microsoft's entire console strategy. They have exploited every opportunity to squeeze a few extra bucks out of its user base, and their reasoning for doing so is wafer thin nonsense at best, and outright offensive at worst.
It doesn't make things better that the 360 dash, even with the most recent update, is pitiful stuff. It only takes a second to realize that the wide spread of tabs and "tiles" is hopelessly bound by the dogmas of Microsoft's Windows 8 push, and has little interest in actually servicing the user. Even the minute details, like the front-end language, for me, being in Norwegian and the system language being in English, drive the sense that the 360 dash is haphazardly bolted on top of something never intended to carry it. It's not only disrespectful to users who pay Microsoft richly for the privilege of using their games service, but actually disrespectful to the legacy of the Xbox 360 console, a system that has given us some truly amazing gaming experiences.
For me, the 360 will be remembered mostly for how Microsoft drove the user experience into the ground with advertising, and did their best to disconnect me, the owner, from the content running on the system.
I can only say I'm happy Sony and Nintendo still remember they are toymakers and gadgeteers, that they must remain so to stay alive, and that they still operate on the stage of history, and not the fumbling corporate cash grab to see who can get Netflix and Facebook on their "games console" first.
Fuck you Microsoft.
For a company that charges $40k for patch submissions you'd think they gave more of a fuck about their own QA.