Microsoft's Spring Update Turns Xbox 360 into a PC (almost)
When Microsoft announced that it would be shutting down Xbox Live for 14 hours a few weeks ago – enough time for even the most hardcore Gears of War player to feel the warm glow of sunshine – many gamers hoped the delay was the company's much-anticipated Spring Update, rumored to bring a plethora of new features to the service. Instead, it was routine maintenance. Doh.
Well, cheer up Live fanatics, as the Redmond-based company has officially announced the Xbox 360 Spring Update bounty, including expanded instant messaging, refinement of the Live Marketplace, and achievement upgrades. It may just mean the closest a console can get to PC gaming.
Microsoft is billing its instant messaging – via the popular MSN – as the flagship improvement to the Live service. Xbox 360 gamers can now chat directly with those using a PC, while the latter can also check if any of their MSN friends own Xbox Live "gamertags".
To better accommodate the chatting experience, Microsoft also plans on releasing its own custom keyboard for the 360. The QWERTY device will plug directly into the bottom half of the standard controller, in the same plug designated for voice chat.
Quick question: What's the biggest pain associated with Xbox Live Marketplace downloads?
That's right, the waiting. Some of the larger files can take hours, forcing users to leave their 360s on for worrisome lengths of time. Microsoft is helping to fix this, however. Not by reducing download times – a shame – but, instead by offering users the ability to put their console in a low-power mode. The Xbox 360 will have just enough juice to continue downloads while you study or snooze.
Finally, achievements. While the addictive little point scores aren't being drastically changed in any way, they are being made easier to access. In the past, when a gamer won an achievement, he or she were forced to stop playing and navigate the dashboard to see what it was they unlocked, and how many points were awarded. Once the Spring Update takes effect, this will be changed so that players instantly know the achievement name and its value.
Keyboards, MSN connectivity, and efficient downloads. It's becoming clearer and clearer that Xbox 360 owners are creeping ever closer to the PC gaming experience. All that remains is a shared game between the two…opening one hell of a debate over the mouse vs. controller.
The Spring Update will be available the week of May 7.