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AICN Games: All Hail The New XBOX Experience (NXE)!!

Merrick here...
The next time you turn on your XBOX, you'll receive notification of a "System Update" that'll install an entirely new dashboard/navigational/organizational "experience" into your system. This is called, simply enough, "The New XBOX Experience". Stylistically, the throughline here = (essentially) Apple Cover Flow by way of Wii "cute"/"friendly" sensibility. An example: Player avatars. Where the previous XBOX "blade" configuration offered the ability to chose one of an endless array of preset icons as an avatar, NXE allows you to customize your own avatar (down to mouth shapes, hair styles/color, body types, skin tone, etc.) Users can take a snapshot of this avatar to use as a gamer picture and what not.

"Friends" management has been given an almost complete makeover. "Friends" are now shown in customizable settings, receding into the distance. Users can travel very quickly through this environ to locate the fellow players they're looking for. "Friends" are now identified by the avatars they have customized (as described above). An in-game notification function has also been added; a "Friends playing this game" message pops up when someone on your friends list is playing the same game you are.

The XBOX Live Marketplace has been reworked into a graphically intensive formation (again resembling Cover Flow). Artwork glides past briskly, it's FAR easier to identify TV shows and movies via vivid imagery (as opposed to the infinite lists we dealt with before). I may be wrong about this, but I believe a new Marketplace section has been added for "Independent Videos"; don't recall noticing that on the previous "blade" configuration. Here you can find stuff like "Red v s. Blue", Comic Con reports, and an array of funkier titles .

Netflix. Ahh, Netflix. NXE gives users the the ability to stream their Netflix library directly into their XBOX. The Netflix interface utilizes the Cover Flow-ish mechanism mentioned above, and is extremely responsive. When you jump into Netflix from NXE, you'll immediately access titles from your Netflix queue that are available for "instant" (i.e. streaming) viewing. This list is controllable by logging into the Netflix website ( and managing your "Watch Instantly" queue. I tried this in (more or less) real time - changes made at the Netflix online queue propagate immediately to XBOX Live. Accessing Netflix materials through NXE is very fast; streaming in HD seemed as fast as non-HD streaming in my case - which felt surprisingly fast in itself. A Netflix subscription is required for this; your existing Netflix subscription will work just fine. There is no extra charge for accessing Netflix through NXE. Per THIS PRESS RELEASE from Netflix, 300 titles are currently available for HD streaming (with more to come). Alas, I've found no way to identify what these titles are - seems to be luck of the draw at this point. Someone told me JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING was a streamable HD titles. I tried it out, it was indeed HD, and looked nice. Te image was on par with "On Demand" HD - not a "knock out" picture quality, but completely okay-to-really good. As alluded above, the XBOX Live video store continues to exist as well - with film and television offerings, and more. WOrthy of note: THIS REPORT indicating that Sony titles are suddenly becoming unavailable for streaming via Netflix/XBOX Live. Make of this what you will.

A ton of other features have been interwoven into NXE. Games can now be installed directly onto your system's hard drive. If I understand correctly, each XBOX game is between 6-9gigs - so you'll need a bigger hard drive in order to make this work. Accordingly, you're given the option to play games directly from the hard drive, which is said to significantly decrease load times of many titles (particularly older games). As an anti-piracy measure (and to assure multiple people in close proximity can't launch a game then pass it on to someone else to play simultaneously), the game disc must stay in the tray even if the game is being played from the hard drive. An immediate abort of game-in-progress happens if you're playing from the hard drive and attempt to remove the disc. I detected a noticeable improvement in online game play when playing directly from the hard drive. It felt crisper, more responsive. You now have the capacity to ditch your zero Gamersocre. "Zero score games" can be wiped from your history, thus won't impact your overall Gamerscore average. Photo Party allows multiple users (again represented by their avatars) to converge in the same room for photo sharing, real time chat, etc. And the list goes on... In almost every regard, NXE is an improvement over the XBOX previous interface. It's faster, more responsive, more expansive, more intuitive, and...above all...there's a sense of "fun" about it. Microsoft has always been way far ahead of, say, Sony in terms of navigation - NXE will only distinguish them further. That's what I say...what do you think?

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