The Xbox One is a slab of impressive hardware patiently awaiting its opportunity to show off. To say that next week’s launch of first person shooter and console exclusive Titanfall is “hotly anticipated” would be a gross understatement. The first project from Respawn Entertainment, an all-star development studio reassembled from the former team at Call of Duty’s Infinity Ward division, is so critical to the console, Microsoft has timed the Xbox One’s first major update to hit just before the game’s launch on March 11.
Most of the Xbox One software improvements, rolling out this week, center around online multiplayer. No surprise there—Microsoft is counting on Titanfall to lure loyal Call of Duty fans into Respawn’s online world, which remixes a familiar multiplayer formula with giant mechs and an alien planet. Here are some of the most noteworthy changes:
- Friends List: You don’t have to dig around as much to find your Xbox Live pals now; your list of friends appears on the homepage. If you’re into voice commands, just say “Xbox go to friends” to make it so.
- Chat: If you join a party, chat will be automatically enabled. You can also chat with your friends who aren’t in your game party (like anyone won’t be playing Titanfall).
- Recent Players: For the times you want to keep track of folks you’ve played with lately. Now they’re all in one place, so you can friend them, report them for being jerks or invite them to play again.
- Twitch: Just in the nick of time, the Xbox One will add support for live streaming to Twitch. This anxiously awaited feature will go live on March 11, so your Titanfall headshots can go down in history.
- SmartGlass: The Xbox One’s companion app is actually pretty handy already, and now it will notify you of new Xbox Live messages and show you what your friends are playing too. You can also manage the One’s apps by snapping and unsnapping them within the app.
- Sound: The Xbox One’s optical out and HDMI port will now play nice with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Setting up a sound bar no longer requires typing in an insufferably long string of digits, either.
This week’s update should placate users who haven’t been thrilled with how the One handles some of Xbox Live’s more social aspects, like friends lists and partying up. Microsoft also announced that it’s hard at work on support for external hard drive storage—a must for a new generation of huge games.
Microsoft admits that its new treatment of Xbox Live’s friend lists isn’t perfect, and they’re still working to improve social notifications—one of the things that makes Xbox Live feel like a bustling, very much alive social platform.
Still, there’s work to be done to bring the Xbox One’s software interface into line with the sophistication of its hardware. If you’re an Xbox One owner unhappy with the new console’s interface decisions, what do you want to see fixed next?
Header image by Taylor Hatmaker for ReadWrite