What's Wrong With Microsoft's Xbox 360 Dashboard Update?

Xbox Live Indie Games

Every now and then Microsoft rolls out an Xbox 360 dashboard update that rearranges the furniture onscreen, tailoring menus and streamlining features to make things easier to find and use. Take yesterday's fall update. It updated the Zune Music service, streamlined Netflix searching, improved voice chat quality, and rescaled the dashboard's selection boxes, meaning the ones you scroll through left or right to select stuff.

I'd been previewing the update for a couple weeks without issue. Yesterday I turned on my Xbox 360, signed into Xbox Live, and updated my system to the final version along with everyone else. Well, almost everyone else, if comments from disgruntled Xbox 360 owners who've been unable to download the update aren't outliers.

For me, the update ran without problems and took all of a couple minutes, as it had each time I accepted Microsoft's incremental updates during the beta. A few sites scanned reactions to news stories about the update and posted followups this morning suggesting the update wasn't taking.

Softpedia tallied seven (total) responses to its update story and concluded in a followup post that "already lots of Xbox 360 users are reporting problems encountered while trying to download the update or install it." Does a sample of seven constitute "lots"? For Softpedia, apparently.

On Microsoft public relations mucky-muck Larry 'Major Nelson' Hryb's blog, users claiming the update doesn't work number only a few. But as many as half or more simply don't like the update's changes, complaining about its "bland" color scheme, and in particular, the new white backdrop for the selection squares and "guide" menu.

"[T]his is like getting [W]indows 7 and then setting it to the classic view and at the same time your internet breaks so now you have an ugly desktop and nothing to do," wrote one user.

"The white is hurting a ton of peoples eyes and I'm sure alot [sic] of people would like to beable [sic] to pick what color everything is," wrote another. "Just let us Customize the White and Font color and a lot of people would love the update."

"Yeah too much white and too bland overall," wrote a third, complaining that the tenure bar was "a boring orange" and suggesting Microsoft change it to resemble the "new green wavy band that you see on inside xbox videos."

But what really has a handful of users up in arms is the revamped Games Marketplace, which shunts Indie Games into their own category. Instead of intermingling with Game Demos, Arcade Games, and Games on Demand, Indie Games now shares real estate with Avatar Marketplace and Game Room, arguably a visibility downgrade.

"I'd like to know the rationale behind it," wrote indie game Clover: A Curious Tale's managing director in a "Mourning Thread" on Microsoft's App Hub forum. "[A]t least then the community could try and come up with constructive alternatives, rather than being pushed further into obscurity."

"This is insulting," wrote Matthew Doucette of indie game studio Xona Games. "We are not under the 'Titles A-Z'. We are not under 'Games'. Is XBLIG [Xbox Live Indie Games] not worth the opportunity cost of chewing up marketing space tabs under the appropriate channels? How do we get this changed?"

"WHAT THE $#%^!!! Where's my icon? My Box Art?" wrote Break Limit developer Xalterax, referring to the new graphically unadorned launch box for Indie Games pictured above. "Why do I even bother uploading these? That screen makes Indie Games look like files...akin to an MP3...except those probably at least still have descriptions and artist information. WTB patch, kthxbai."

It's not all doom and gloom. A few on the thread actually see the move as positive.

"Actually this brings more attention the the Indie Games since alot [sic] of people buy Avatar clothing," wrote user ONI5. "I've talked to customers in a store that I work in and have found that most did not know about the Indie Games until the new update."

And Clover: A Curious Tale's managing director circled back later in the thread with a cautiously optimistic note, writing "Thinking about it, people going to the 'DLC' [downloadable content] area will be looking to spend small change. Perhaps the XBLIG section is more likely to get footfall from people willing to make impulse purchases there."

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