Microsoft will blur the line between its gaming console and Windows 10 PCs with the upcoming Creators Update, parts of which are now available for testing to a select group of Xbox early adopters.
The changes are intended to enhance performance and provide cosmetic updates, starting with the Xbox home screen. Gamers have complained that the home screen user interface is overly complex and requires too many button presses, so Microsoft overhauled it to emphasize options for the game you’re currently playing. There’s now a better on-screen balance between the game icon itself and shortcuts to game tools like the Game Hub, your Club or LFG for that game, your Achievements, and others.
In addition to simplifying the UI, Microsoft says the new Home screen also increases overall system performance.
The Creators Update is all about bringing Windows features to Xbox and vice versa, and nowhere is that more apparent than the revamped Guide, which gamers can access by pressing the Xbox controller button from any screen. Updates to the Guide essentially turn it into a hybrid of the Windows Start menu and the notification center from an iOS or Android phone. You’ll now have access to your recently played games and apps, the Home screen, the game store, and media controls when playing background music.
Other Guide improvements are aimed at multitasking and live streaming. Bringing up the guide and pressing “X” or “Y” on the controller will start recording, and will eventually allow instant broadcasting to Microsoft’s upcoming Beam, a streaming service designed to compete with the likes of Twitch. Other features with one-button access from Guide include screenshots and GameDVR.
A Windows-inspired Xbox update wouldn’t be complete without Cortana, of course. Microsoft’s personal voice assistant will be able to set reminders and alarms so you don’t miss gaming sessions, and the company says more Cortana integrations are on the way.
Finally, the Creators Update will get under-the-hood changes designed to make system updates easier (“Our goal with system updates is that you never have to worry about them again,” Microsoft says), as well as new accessibility features and audio settings, including the ability to pass bitstream audio to your receiver for native decoding.
Microsoft says today’s updates are available to a “small subset of gamers, with the rest of the Xbox Insider Program receiving these features in the coming weeks.”