Microsoft announced this morning that it will deliver a completely new user interface for the Xbox 360 on November 19, the New Xbox Experience, an update that will result in a "completely new Xbox 360." The company also revealed that it will be extending its most popular game franchise with a new release called "Halo 3: Recon" that will ship in late 2009 and extend Halo 3 with new single and multiplayer missions.
"Our industry is defining the future of entertainment," says Microsoft corporate vice president John Schappert. "When the New Xbox Experience launches in just six weeks, we will be inviting the whole world to play. We will also have the games that everyone will want."
The New Xbox Experience dramatically redefines the interface that users are presented with when they boot up their Xbox 360 consoles. It utilizes a look and feel similar to that of the Flip 3D feature in Windows Vista, where games, movies, TV shows, and other entertainment items live side by side. Users can customize the experience with cartoonish avatars (clearly modeled after the Mii characters in Nintendo's popular Wii console), personal pictures, and music.
Microsoft is also expanding its Xbox 360 service options with a new feature called Xbox LIVE Party, which allows you to create a virtual party on the console with up to seven friends. These virtual parties include voice chat during games, real-time photo sharing, and more, according to Microsoft. (It should be big hit with the shut-ins.) Microsoft is also opening up a Community Games channel in Xbox LIVE Arcade where "students, hobbyists, and average people all around the world" can upload their own Xbox 360 games for others to play. So get moving, average people. We want to play those games.
Hard-core Xbox 360 fans may be more interested in Halo 3: Recon, which will be developed by Halo creator Bungie and ship in Fall 2009. The single-player Halo 3: Recon experience is a "side story" that takes place before the events in Halo 3 and involves a "new hero" (i.e. not Master Chief) in the Halo universe. Halo 3: Recon will be a standalone game that does not require the original Halo 3. It will include single player campaign levels as well as new multiplayer maps and customization options.