MattHeston.com

The day in which I Twittered my Facebook friends with Xbox.

So recently, the Xbox 360 received an update. This is relevant to me because I own one of these machines, just as it’s relevant to the thousands of families across the country. But to those without a keen enough eye, some important new features may slip by them completely unnoticed. I know that many parents are still unaware of the parental controls available, as I could play Halo 3 at two in the morning on a Tuesday and still deal with a handful of preteens squeaking out rancorous trash talk. So, for the tech illiterate and parents with Xboxes, let me run down some of the features now available and the features soon to be.

1. New Stuff to Buy-
Microsoft went all out in increasing it’s virtual marketplace. More movies are available through netflix, full Xbox 360 games are available for download, and now premium items are being sold for your online avatar. Along with the fact that all of these features are now even easier to use, I’d forewarn impulse buyers and parents to keep the credit card far from your console. But for those who have a stash of Microsoft points laying around, this is an early Christmas.

2. Ease of Use-
The last update provided a much smoother interface, but there was still some difficulty in navigating through all of the Xbox 360′s functions, and Xbox Live still had a number of quirks. This seems to be fixed with the latest update. Netflix is a lot more intelligent about how it organizes it’s content, the Xbox can auto-detect the display so it can always run at the highest resolution, and the dashboard has a number of new shortcuts to the most important features. But the cleverest new features, I think, are the ability to download game manuals and a new rating system for Arcade games. This means it’ll be easier and faster to find great games and learn how to play them.

3. Socializing-
This was the aspect of the update Microsoft was most proud of, if their press releases were any indication. Multiple party invites can now be sent at once, dropped connections are now fixed automatically, and now Netflix will let Xbox Live friends watch some movies together. Its just like watching a movie together with actual friends, except without the ‘together’ or ‘friends’ part.

Oh, and facebook, twitter, Last.fm, and Zune will be available soon. That alone caused many excited squeals and annoyed groans.

Please, Xbox owners and parents of kids with Xboxes, I implore you, take a look at what’s going on with this. There are only going to be more updates, and soon this gaming console will be able to do hundreds of things you never expected.

Oh, and to the parents of L33tBR- stop giving your kid caffeine. It’s doing him no favors.

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