Microsoft's Xbox 360 may not be the belle of the ball in Japan, but that didn't stop the publisher from selecting the Tokyo Game Show as the time to announce the arrival date of the New Xbox Experience. Beginning November 19, Xbox 360 gamers will receive the free dashboard update to Xbox Live, which will include an avatar-based community system, integration with Netflix's on-demand movie service, and the ability to install games to the console's hard drive.
It will also require 128MB of storage space. That capacity is a pittance for those who have purchased a 20GB/60GB Pro or 120GB Elite 360, and Arcade owners will be able to manage thanks to that SKU's included 256MB memory card. But what about those who purchased the Arcade's predecessor, the HDD-less Core model? According to Microsoft, they need not worry.
"While we expect the majority of consumers to download the New Xbox Experience without a problem, a small percentage of Xbox 360 owners do not have enough memory to accommodate the update," a Microsoft representative told GameSpot in a statement. "To help ensure all Xbox Live members are able to download the New Xbox Experience and enjoy its new features, Microsoft will be offering storage solutions to the Xbox LIVE community. We are not sharing details of this offering yet. Be sure to check Xbox.com for more details in the coming weeks."
[UPDATE] Just hours after speaking with GameSpot, Microsoft launched the official "Xbox 360 Memory Upgrade Program Website." The Xbox.com page leading to the site strongly urges 360 owners who haven't bought a hard drive to do so, and saying a hard drive is necessary to "enjoy everything the new Xbox Experience has to offer." (Emphasis added.) It also advises those with full hard drives to "either clear some space by deleting unused saved content, or see if you're eligible for a special memory upgrade offer."
What exactly is this "special memory upgrade offer"? Those visiting the Xbox 360 Memory Upgrade Program Web site can find out by entering their 360 hardware ID and serial number, found via the dashboard (system > console settings > console info).
[UPDATE 2] After obtaining a Core 360 unit manufactured in 2005, GameSpot accessed the Upgrade site, which gives qualifying console owners two "limited time offers": a refurbished 20GB HDD for $19.99 bundled with a three-month Xbox Live Gold subscription, or a free 512MB Xbox 360 Memory Unit. The site heavily pushes the hard drive option, warning that merely grabbing the gratis memory unit "will not allow you to participate in some of the new Xbox 360 experiences" mentioned above. The offers are not consistent, however, as an attempt with a second Core unit (also bought in late 2005) only brought up the $20 HDD/3-month XBL option.
(The Xbox.com page also revealed that, besides requiring an active Netflix subscription, the Netflix on-demand video service will require an additional 8MB of memory, bringing the total install size to 136MB.) [END UPDATES]
In other New Xbox Experience news, one of the features touted when the upgrade was announced will apparently no longer be included in the November 19 update. Speaking to MTV, Xbox senior strategist Rob Gruhl said, "If we wanted to do movie sharing, build an app, party enable it, drop it in. Really, itís [the new dashboard] just laying the foundation for our next wave, our next step. Continuing to fill it out, continuing to build it."
That statement runs contrary to claims made by Microsoft interactive entertainment business VP John Schappert, who said during the company's E3 2008 press conference that Xbox 360 gamers would be able to share Netflix movies and TV shows with friends through Live Party. The sentiment was quickly echoed by Xbox Live director of programming Larry Hryb on his company blog, where he said gamers would be able to "create a party of up to eight friends, and stay with them from one game to another, or watch a Netflix movie together, or share a slideshow of your personal photos." (Emphasis added)
In a statement provided to GameSpot, the publisher noted, "With regards to movies, the New Xbox Experience is a long term initiative; what we are rolling out in November is only the beginning! With the New Xbox Experience we will have the flexibility to roll out features and updates dynamically, unlike in the past where we were on a more biannual schedule. So, there are a lot more exciting features, including Movie Sharing that will be coming soon."