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Xbox LIVE update: What you need to know

icon_feature1The last major Xbox Live Dashboard update was exciting – it was the NXE after all. There were avatars, community games, avatars, better navigation, did I mention avatars? Now summer’s gone and a new dashboard update took place on 11th August. It’s not a groundbreaking upgrade like NXE, but it does introduce some great features – Games on Demand, Avatar Awards and Marketplace, user ratings, and more.

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Games on Demand

Games on Demand is undoubtedly the showcase of this update. Now you can buy your favourite games right from the comfort of your bean bag and download them to your hard drive. Games can be bought from the Xbox Live Marketplace on the console as well as Xbox.com. The games are locked to your gamertag and console. Your purchase history is saved so you can download the games later for a second playthrough. Manuals are available for the games on xbox.com Marketplace. The availability of games depend on region as does the pricing.

We did a preview of the games available for the Indian marketplace. Currently the following games are available – Assassins Creed, Star Wars: The Complete Trilogy, Call of Duty 2, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, Prey, Rainbox Six Las Vegas, Kameo Elements of Power, and Perfect Dark Zero – all a at price of Rs. 1499 (or 2400 points). The pricing is obviously all over the place. PDZ is available as a classic at Rs. 999 in shops and I don’t see anyone paying Rs. 1499 for COD2. But I wouldn’t mind paying the same for AC and SW:TCS.

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Avatar Marketplace

Your avatar is your alter ego in Xbox Live – hide that paunch, shave the wispy moustache, get a mohawk – it’s all upto you. Now you can customize your avatars with animated props, get awards from games, and spend real world money to buy virtual world clothing and accessories. The first game to implement avatar awards is ‘Splosion Man – gifting you a t-shirt. There are specific channels in the marketplace like Bioshock, Fable II, Steampunk which cater to your personal taste to fritter away money. The items are usually priced at 80 / 150 points. I personally love the Halo 3 t-shirt – unfortunately my avatar might die of shame when it sees my stats.

User Ratings

The beauty of the internet is that you have an anonymous voice. Now you can show your love for Braid by rating it. Every single game item on the Marketplace can be rated. You can check it out right now in the India Marketplace by looking up Assassins Creed in Games on Demand – it’s highly rated (as it should be). Game content can be sorted by User Ratings.

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Other Notable Improvements

  • Your Gamercard now proudly displays how long you’ve been paying Microsoft for the Gold service.
  • If you get disconnected from a Party you will automatically reconnect. This is very useful since in game lobbies get filled by Party members. Party invites have been streamlined as well.
  • Xbox Live Community Games have been renamed Indie Games – giving the indie game development community the recognition it deserves. Without those guys, there wouldn’t be gems like Braid or Castle Crashers.
  • Achievements are easier to track – you can launch games through the browser, see your completed games, and generally be in gloom that your achievement points reach a plateau quickly.

The big update we in India will miss out on is Netflix. The service is not available in India – so now we have a better way of not watching awesome movies on the net. And finally, the fall update promises integration of Twitter, Facebook, Last.fm, and Zune video as promised in E3. I look forward to tweeting with the in-display keyboard.

For a detailed list of features included in the summer dashboard update, head over to xbox.com.

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