Microsoft on Xbox dashboard: “No, you can’t have the blades back”

Xbox product manager Ivy Krislov recently joined Larry Hryb on the Official Xbox Podcast to discuss the new Xbox Home experience that’s being tested by Xbox Insiders, and it saw Hryb close the door on a return of the blades UI.

Microsoft rolled out the first iteration of its brand-new Xbox home screen to select Xbox Insiders recently, though it won’t be implemented fully until 2023. To discuss the new “Home Experience,” Xbox product manager Iver Krislov joined Larry Hryb, AKA Major Nelson, on the Official Xbox Podcast. If you’re not a fan of the current UI being tested, you might be pleased to know that there are two other versions yet to be trialled, but it sounds like only the lower portion of the screen will be changed — and we definitely won’t see the blades return.

Microsoft has two additional Xbox dashboard variations to test

“No, you can’t have the blades back,” Hryb said. “They were lovely, they were nice, but you can’t have them back because they don’t scale, as we say in the business, to what we want to do.” The ‘blades’ dashboard originally shipped with the first Xbox 360s back in 2005 and featured the console’s menus on separate tabs bordered by a pair of silver blades, which would make a ‘whoosh’ sound whenever you flipped through them. To this day, it’s one of the most distinguishing things that made the console great.

The new Home experience, while not containing the blades, is designed to give you everything you need on the one screen when you boot up the console, while scrolling down will bring up various curated lists of Xbox Game Pass titles and other games to purchase. The idea is to streamline your browsing experience, such as pulling the store, settings, and search pages and placing them front and centre of the dashboard. “We really consider this to be an evolution of the current Home,” Krislov said. “Taking a lot of the things we did well previously and building upon those.”

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Microsoft’s engineering team has been laying the foundations for this update for the last year, streamlining feedback processes for Xbox Insiders. “Something a lot of Xbox fans might not know; typically, it can take us like three months to test really small features,” Krislov said. “Our hope is that by building this infrastructure we can test stuff, get your feedback, iterate, and come back to you with something even better.”

The current version being tested by Insiders is the first of three planned dashboard versions, and Krislov’s team isn’t expecting to have the final version ready until “towards the end of this calendar year,” so a lot can change in that time depending on feedback — “the feedback we’ve gotten so far with the test has been that the top row is obscuring dynamic backgrounds a little more than some customers would like,” Krislov said. “We have a meeting set up for tomorrow (September 17th) to go look at all of that feedback.”

When discussing what is shown when you scroll down on the home page, Krislov notes that “today, most customers have their default content blocks, like Store, the Community, Game Pass, etc, and then they’ll have maybe one or two pinned games that they really care about.” Other content blocks like Clubs and Friends are used far less often, and due to most people not utilising the lower portion of the dashboard, Microsoft is looking to make better use of the space.

“People don’t scroll down that often because they’re going to be jumping right into games from the top of Home, which makes perfect sense,” Krislov said. “We’ve started by building the infrastructure where we can put different game channels with curation, with personalisation, and with customisation in front of the customer. As we progress through these tests, which right now we’re in the first one but we have two more planned, [we’ll be] adding different content types in, so for example, for customers who use their console to watch TV, we’ll be adding a media experience — one on the most common pinned groups on Home is people pinning apps that they want to watch TV with.”

The next dashboard test is planned to roll out in October for Xbox Insiders, so we’ll see the changes that the team has implemented then, based on the feedback from the Insiders program. We recently wrote about some of the fan-made concept pieces of other dashboard variants and ran a poll to see what you thought about the one Microsoft is currently testing. Of the 1,156 votes we received, 482 (41.7%) of you voted to ‘put it in the bin,’ while 25% of voters think it’s ‘okay.’

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Are you looking forward to watching the project grow throughout the rest of this year? Drop a comment below and let us know!

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