In a post on Xbox Wire, Xbox Insider team lead Bradley Rossetti revealed that a forthcoming plan for the Xbox One will include a slight rework of the dashboard layout. The panel structure will remain largely similar to what it is now, but the team wants to create an “easy and seamless experience for you to navigate your console.” And that apparently requires cutting Cortana out of the picture.
The new design will include a much more condensed Home screen, with a lot more panels of information on one screen than before. The company is also moving away from certain design choices they made in the past, to more “cloud-based assistant experiences.” That means that the way in which some gamers interact with their console is about to change.
Once the update is live, players will no longer be able to talk to Cortana through the headset. Those who still want to use Cortana can interact with it on the Cortana app on iOS, Android, and Windows, as well as Alexa-enabled devices.
This has caused concern from some users over the loss of voice command options, as many gamers rely on voice commands for accessibility reasons, but Xbox wants to make sure we understand that Kinect and other similar solutions are staying in place, at least for now. Although some users are worried that Kinect, as it’s not cloud-based, could be eventually phased out as well.
And with the upcoming launch of Xbox Scarlett next year, it’s going to be harder and harder to keep gamers glued to their Xbox One. Microsoft clearly wants to streamline the experience so gamers spend more time gaming, and less time finagling with menus. As someone who really dislikes the Masonry layouts that remind me of Windows 8-era Metro UI designs, I can see why the company would want to move away from such layouts. According to the announcement, “your gaming experiences faster and keeping more of your content front and center,” which is pretty accurate for how the gaming experience on consoles should be.
Part of this strategy revolves around things like the all-digital Xbox One S which was released a while back. I’m in agreement with some who raise issue with the lack of accessibility and restriction to network-based solutions that this move communicates though. One is left to wonder about how far Microsoft is willing to push cloud-based alternatives to already functional solutions.
Microsoft remains committed to improving other areas of gaming though, like rampant toxicity, although this latest move feels like a confusing step backwards to many.
Xbox Insiders in the Alpha and Alpha Skip Ahead programs will begin receiving a test version of the update in the coming weeks, with a full rollout planned for sometime this Fall.