The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
The "New Xbox Experience" launched two years ago, replacing the 360's old sliding blade dashboard with a slicker and more colorful interface. While it may have been a visual step up, I initially had reservations about the funtionality of the new format. Over time, these reservations have blossomed into a full-blown hatred that burns like the sun whenever I need to navigate my 360 while connected to Xbox Live.
Excuses like "you just don't like it because it's new" and "they're still working on it" no longer hold any weight. Microsoft should have had this garbage sorted out ages ago, and the fact that they haven't means that it is intentionally cumbersome, intrusive, and frustrating. Plainly put, the Xbox 360 interface is abominable, and I'm surprised more people aren't furious about it.
Here's what it looks like when you're offline. One channel, no ads. Whatever is in your disc tray is front and center. Of course, you can't access your friends list or anything, but at least this is a streamlined approach to using your console. Don't let the "My Xbox" name fool you, though; this channel doesn't give you any way to customize the items it contains.
Now, the second you try to connect to Xbox Live...
...you get this jumbled mess. The default channel changes from My Xbox to Spotlight. I don't know about you, but the first thing I want to do when I turn on my console is watch a bunch of sponsored promotional bull----. Not, you know, play games. Who even watches this stuff, anyway?
I don't know what the difference is between the Spotlight and Inside Xbox channels. They feature redundant content, which mainly includes advertisements, old previews, and useless "tips" for games no one is playing anymore. Also, I already have to put up with ads on TV, radio, and websites...but I feel like it's crossing the line when I see them as soon as I boot up my game console. Did you ever have to watch a commercial when you put a cartridge into your NES?
Isn't that cute? Microsoft thinks people give a crap about Zune. I respect the company's right to hope against hope, but I'd bet the vast majority of users only visit this channel for the Netflix application. If you're not going to make that the first option by default, at least give me the ability to put it there myself and bury the Zune app at the far end of the channel where it belongs. I bet 99 percent of the people who select the Zune thing here do it accidentally on the way to either ESPN or Netflix. I know that's happened to me.
Honestly, I never use the music channel. It's just one more stupid thing I need to scroll through to get where I'm going. I don't understand why I can't hide the things that I don't want to see...
...I know it's possible, since the system lets you hide the Welcome channel, but you're stuck with all of the other ones. Then again, if you were able to hide the Inside Xbox channel, you wouldn't have the opportunity to learn all about Verizon, right?
It's been said many times in many ways, but I can't talk about what sucks about the Xbox 360 without adding my voice to the chorus: Avatars are really, really dumb. I hate looking at them. I hate that I need to have one. I hate that I can't turn them off. I hate Avatars so much that I never use the side-scrolling friends channel. Instead, I just hit the guide button and check out my friends' activity through the old blade-style list.
Let's take a quick look at usability. What happens when you try to do something simple? For example, if I've bought a card for another year of Xbox Live Gold service, how do I redeem that? Maybe in the game marketplace? Nope.
Is there some kind of account management in my profile? Nope. (Side note: I miss the days when people saw Columbo next to my name instead of my stupid Avatar)
You have to hit the guide button, then scroll over to that version of the marketplace. That's the only place I've found where you can redeem codes...buried in some secondary version of the interface.
Or, let's say that I'm watching a movie, and I'm sick of those notifications popping up telling me when my friends are online. How do I turn those off? Settings? Oh, no. Because that would make sense.
Again, you need to press the guide button, scroll over to those settings, then select the "preferences" tab there that, for some reason, doesn't exist in the main interface.
Well, that's my abbreviated rant about why I hate the 360 dashboard. In the interest of not fanning the flames of a console war, I should say this: I don't have any anti-Microsoft agenda . I'm not complaining about the 360 to make the PS3 look good. The only reason I'm not also complaining about PlayStation Home is that I've rarely used it. But at least Sony has the good sense to not impose Home's lameness on every user, whereas every Xbox Live subscriber has to put up with this crap.
Here's what needs to happen to make me happy: Microsoft needs to give me control. Stop forcing me to scroll through multiple channels populated with content I don't care about. By all means, keep all those dumb channels if you have to, but let me move them or hide them so they aren't what I see before the channel I use to play my games on a video game console. On that note, please stop making the system default to the Spotlight channel. No one wants to watch any of that trash. Instead, let me take my favorite destinations, like Netflix and Xbox Live Arcade, and add them as shortcuts to the main My Xbox channel. Let me, not Microsoft, decide how I should be using my Xbox 360.
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.