Internet-connected Xbox 360 owners saw big changes Wednesday, when the New Xbox Experience was downloaded onto their machines.
Gone are the old interface's cramped, text-heavy menus, replaced by eye-catching, 3-D displays of all the games and movies that you've stored on your console.
In a nod to Nintendo's beloved Mii characters, you also can create your own personal avatar. Microsoft has made it easier to play with your friends, letting you set up eight-person parties that can move from game to game. And you're finally able to copy entire games onto your hard drive, a relief to players who still haven't gotten used to that whirring from the disk drive.
Finally, Netflix members can choose among 12,000 movies and TV shows, including some high-definition titles, for streaming through Xbox Live. And more offerings, including community-developed games and exclusive downloadable game content, are on the way.
Microsoft's goal was “reinventing the entire product through software,” said Xbox 360 director of product management Aaron Greenberg. “It makes it easier for current owners and more accessible to new gamers.”
I've been playing around with it for a couple of weeks, and I don't miss the old Xbox experience at all.
EA's version of Wii Fit
The success of Nintendo's Wii Fit certainly hasn't gone unnoticed by other software publishers. Even Electronic Arts, whose EA Sports titles (including Madden NFL and NBA Live) let couch potatoes pretend they are superstar athletes, is trying to get gamers on their feet with a new game for the Wii.
EA Sports president Peter Moore calls the company's planned fitness title, EA Sports Active, a “somewhat radical departure from the normal game experiences we provide customers.
The game is expected to ship in the spring and is compatible with the Wii balance board.
It also will take a more Western approach than Wii Fit, focusing on higher-energy cardiovascular exercises and less on the yoga routines that make up the bulk of Nintendo's product.
EA isn't the only publisher catching the fitness bug. Majesco has brought out Jillian Michaels' Fitness Ultimatum 2009, and Ubisoft is pumping up My Fitness Coach. And if you want a really fun workout, there's always our old favorite, Konami's Dance Dance Revolution series.
EA Sports' Madden NFL franchise is in the middle of a fight between the NFL Players Association and retired pro football players. A federal jury in San Francisco ordered the NFLPA to pay $28.1 million to the retirees for failing to include them in marketing deals with EA.
For years, Madden has featured classic teams of the past in its annual updates, but it used look-alike characters in the games in place of the veteran players. Only active players received a cut of the union's lucrative deal with EA, so the publisher didn't have the rights to the images of the retirees.
Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley, who filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of 2,056 retired players, said after the verdict, “I won three Super Bowls, and this feels better than all of them combined.”
NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler responded, “It's an unjust verdict, and we are confident it will be overturned.”