Full Details on Xbox 360 Fall Dashboard Update Revealed

The Xbox 360 Fall Dashboard Update is coming; and with a slew of features, too. DivX support? It’s finally here. Xbox Originals so you can re-live the glory days of the original Xbox? That, too. Social networking aspects, up-to-date news on the latest releases for the platform, plus various other features that’ll ensure an easier to navigate Xbox 360 dashboard. The update will be available, free of charge, of course, on Dec. 4 at 2 AM PST. Let’s get to the specifics:

The Xbox 360 Fall Dashboard Update is coming; and with a slew of features, too. DivX support? It’s finally here. Xbox Originals so you can re-live the glory days of the original Xbox? That, too. Social networking aspects, up-to-date news on the latest releases for the platform, plus various other features that’ll ensure an easier to navigate Xbox 360 dashboard. The update will be available, free of charge, of course, on Dec. 4 at 2 AM PST. Let’s get to the specifics:

Xbox Originals – Following in the footsteps of Nintendo’s Virtual Console and Sony’s PSX download service, comes Xbox Originals. Xbox 360 owners will be able to download full versions of classic Xbox games like Halo, Fable, Crimson Skies and Psychonauts directly to their Xbox 360 hard drives for 1200 Microsoft points a pop. Microsoft has promised that the catalog of titles to choose from will be updated frequently, but they’ve also warned gamers that some of the games will not run perfectly.

Xbox Live Arcade Hits – It’s a dilemma that almost every Xbox Live user knows all to well. An Xbox Live Arcade title looks appealing in concept and has been receiving great word of mouth, but the asking price is just too high. Microsoft is addressing the issue with the Xbox Live Arcade Hits program — a service similar to the Xbox 360 Platinum Hits lineup — which will permanently reduce the price of best-selling Xbox Live Arcade titles. Certain titles like Lumines Live will be marked down to 800 Microsoft points, while others such as Marble Blast Ultra and Small Arms will be sold for the low, low price of 400 points. The lower price points will make it easier for casual gamers to rationalize taking the plunge on Xbox Live Arcade, which will hopefully result in drawing a wider audience to the Xbox Live service and the Xbox 360 in general. That was the whole point of the service to begin with, remember?

Inside Xbox – A great addition to the dashboard, which, in hindsight, should’ve been there since day one. This new service will bring direct news on the latest happening in the world of Xbox straight from Xbox.com to Xbox Live. Keep up to date with game releases, upcoming events, and Xbox Live Marketplace offers with ease.

Enhanced online profile – Get more personal if you please with the enhanced online profile for your Xbox Live account. The expanded profile options allow players to input their real names (or a second, immature fake name as 90% of the Xbox Live community no doubt will), their location, and a short bio about themselves. There’s not enough room to go into any great depth, but how much to you really want to know about all those people yelling racial epithets and spouting homophobia anyway?

Expanded Friends List access – One of those seemingly small features that no one asked for, some are against, but everyone will probably end up using on a regular basis. Obviously inspired by social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace, the new ‘Friends of Friends’ feature allows Xbox Live members to investigate each other’s friends lists. The feature will allow players to expand their social circle more quickly and efficiently by meeting like-minded gamers through mutual friends. Those that would prefer not to have their buddy lists freely available to the Xbox Live populace can adjust their options such that their buddy lists are only viewable by those on their buddy list, or no one at all. Don’t be surprised to see this feature embellished in the future with functions like ‘top friends’ to measure which buddies have the most play time with each other, and of course, a popularity meter.

Enhanced Parental Controls – Another addition to the list of features and options that parents will invariably ignore before blaming video games for their children’s failing grades and sociopath tendencies. The introduction of the Family Timer enables parents to set the amount of time their Xbox 360 can be used on a per-day or per-week basis. We applaud those parents that take the time to learn about the functionality of their child’s gaming console and make appropriate use of them, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t feel a little bad for the children that will have to abide by these new features. How many times did we, as children, sneak in a few extra hours after the parents went to sleep? Too many to count.

New video features – Those that like to stream video files off their PCs and onto their widescreen TVs via the Xbox 360 will be ecstatic to learn that Microsoft is finally adding MPEG-4 Part 2 video codec support. What the hell does that mean? It means all those high-quality compressed files played by codecs like DivX and Xvid will finally be recognized by the console.

Easy-to-use navigation features – Small improvements to the interface have been made to the entire dashboard, but the marketplace blade has received the most restructuring. The options have been consolidated down to four buttons: Spotlight, New Arrivals, Game Store and Video Store. Spotlight contains all the most popular and buzz-worth content on Xbox Live, including demos, DLC, Xbox Live Arcade and movies, and the other three sections are pretty self explanatory.

For the full list of features, check out Microsoft’s official site.