The New Xbox One Experience rolls out today, offering an entirely revamped dashboard and the introduction of backwards compatibility. Shacknews spoke with Xbox Director of Program Management Mike Ybarra about the development of the new dash, Xbox integration with Windows, and the company's relationship with Valve.
The NXOE looks radically different than the old dash, which appeared largely based on the boxy icons of Windows 8. Ybarra said the goal of integration across devices is to make the development side easier, but this latest update isn't particularly akin to other Windows devices.
"Certainly fans have said, 'hey, here's a list of items that can make my experience better,'" Ybarra said. "Mostly they revolve around making things faster and easier."
To that end, the new dashboard was designed around ease of use and speed, with fewer button presses to get to some of the most common functions. It's such a radical change, in fact, that the team put in contextual shortcut tips to get users accustomed to it. And though this is the biggest update the Xbox One has received since launch, Ybarra says the development pipeline for XBO updates aims to make them occur at a fairly regular pace.
"We're multiple months ahead in how we map features out," he said. "In the 360 era, it really was one update once per year. For Xbox One we made our engineering systems a lot more agile. We release an update once every few months that includes bug fixes and new features, so the agility with which we can update is really fast and we're able to actually release monthly updates. Over the holiday week we limit how much we update because people are engaged in brand new games, but usually every single month we'll release an update with some new features. This just happens to be a big update because we're overhauling the UI."
Also planned for regular updates is the new backwaards compatibility. Though Ybarra mentioned that Games with Gold will now be offering 360 games as part of its regular offerings, he didn't quite commit to a schedule.
"I'd love to do it regularly and consistently so customers can count on it. I can't say if that's monthly or every six weeks or what. A regular basis is the goal."
Meanwhile, development on Xbox-branded PC tools is still ongoing. Ybarra said it's all one team now, and their ultimate goal is to release new features across both platforms using the Xbox Live service. "We have a full plan going forward of features that we want to put on PC that are Xbox related, so we just want to make people that play on their Steam library, and Steam games, a lot easier. It should be simple to take a screenshot or record a game clip."
The mention of Steam led to talk about the relationship between Valve and Microsoft, and how it had grown contentious during the launch of Windows 8. Ybarra acknowledged the strife, mentioning that Gabe Newell was "pretty vocal" about his opinion on Windows 8, but said the relationship is much more healthy now.
"I have hundreds of games on Steam, I use it every day," he said. "I love the fact that Steam exists because it has made acquisition and discovery of games on Windows great for many years. We have our Windows store, we want to give developers another channel to sell their content but I don't say I'm competing with Steam. We meet with them, we work together, and we see gaming as great for everybody. I see it as complementary, not that we're going to go take over Steam. That to me is not a winning strategy.
"What I can say is we're talking more than we ever have, we both have a passion around Windows gaming, and we're going to innovate on that platform as much as we can in a way that makes us both successful. I think there was a time with Windows 8 where that conversation wasn't happening. I meet with them regularly, so I think they feel good about Windows 10 and we'll build on that. It's absolutely an open dialogue now about how we want to approach Windows gaming."