Fall Dashboard Update impressions

2007 Fall Dashboard Update

Today Microsoft’s anticipated 2007 Fall Dashboard Update was sent out to appreciative gamers all over the world. Here’s a quick rundown of the key features:

Xbox Originals

Easily the most publicized feature and announced back on November 13th, now Xbox Live users can buy and download full Xbox games to store on their hard drive for the not-so-low price of $15 (1200 MS Points). The games are direct ports and do not have any enhancements whatsoever, but some users will appreciate the convenience of not having to switch discs, and it also provides an easy way for budding and relatively new gamers to experience some classics from the previous generation of gaming. Stateside launch titles are Halo, Fuzion Frenzy, Psychonauts, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, Fable, and Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge.

Enhanced Parental Controls

Parents are now able to control exactly how much time household members are logging on the 360. Controllable in 15-minute increments, the amount of time allotted can be on a daily or weekly basis.

Social Networking

Xbox Live members are now able to expand their personal profile by entering bio information, which can be visible to only registered friends or all of Xbox Live. Also, new “Friends of Friends” features lets you look at the friends (you guessed it) of your friends. This can be disabled under system settings or on Xbox.com.

While these are all great new addictions to the system’s already robust feature-set, it’s two of the lesser-known features that are going to be the ones people will be appreciating the most as the hype dies down. First up, there’s the long-awaited option to change the Windows Live ID that your account is associated with. There aren’t really any consequences to changing your ID – your Microsoft Points follow you to your new ID! This is an extremely welcome update for anyone who uses the messenger functionality, or for anyone who had to drag out their five-year-old email address while setting up Xbox Live for the first time, and has since created a new Live ID for chatting. It should be noted, though, that this option should have been supported from the start.

Lastly, the 360 now has expanded video codec support including Divx and Xvid. While this comes off as gibberish for some, it’s probably the best news torrent junkies have heard in months. AVI files can now be played directly from an external memory supply, or streamed from a compatible networked PC.

A few other notable additions to the dashboard include the “Inside Xbox” RSS feed which although is not as annoying as the PS3’s ticker, is so far equally useless. Xbox Live Arcade now has Arcade “Hits” not unlike retail games’ Platinum Hits – five of Live Arcade’s best sellers are reduced in price by around $5.

While the Xbox Originals will appeal to a select few, most will probably either already own the games or recognize that you can find them in a local bargain bin or online for significantly cheaper than buying them over Live. Bring in the fact that almost all of the titles have known issues and can cause your entire console to crash and have to be restarted, I think you’re better off buying these classics in disc format for the time being. Besides, why pay $15 for Crimson Skies when less than 10 buys you the disk, case, and all original artwork?

All things considered, Microsoft didn’t leave much out. It’s a jam-packed update that doesn’t leave much to be desired; virtual-console-like game downloads, actually useful video playback capabilities, and extended capabilities of the already user-friendly Live networking. It makes you wonder – what will be in demand for next year’s Fall Update?