Microsoft today unexpectedly delayed the release of the February 2014 Xbox One System Update to later in the week, but it did throw gaming enthusiasts a few treats to make up for the disappointment: It provided more details about the March 2014 System Update and announced some new accessories that will also ship next month.
There's no word yet on why the February 2014 update was delayed. But you may recall that Microsoft had previously provided a peek at some—but not all—of the features expected in this third Xbox One system update (which Microsoft curiously claims is the "first" Xbox One system update), as well as a high-level overview of a March update, which would be delivered earlier than usual in the month to accommodate the coming release of "Titanfall."
Today, Microsoft provided more details about this coming March update, which is all about improving the multiplayer and party experience on Xbox One. Coming functional changes include:
Friends list "front and center" on the homepage of the Friends app. This will help you get to your friends faster, Microsoft says. Just click the Social tile on Home, or say "Xbox, go to Friends" to see who's online and what they're up to. From there you can quickly send messages and get into a party.
Party chat will be turned on by default. When you start or join a party, chat audio will be turned on by default.
Chat with friends playing different games. Party chat will be separate the game you're playing, so you can now chat with friends who are online but elsewhere or with everyone playing the game.
Invite friends to game. Microsoft says it is adding an "Invite friends to game" option to multiplayer games. It will work like a similar feature in Xbox 360 games and will appear inside a game's menu and offer a simple and quicker way to set up your multiplayer battles. Selecting "Invite friends" will let you invite friends to your game and party.
Recent players. Microsoft is adding this list that so you can see which Xbox Live members you've recently played with, making it easier to stay in touch with people, or add new friends after your multiplayer battles.
In addition to these changes, Microsoft also announced two new Xbox One hardware accessories that are also shipping in March. These include:
Xbox One Stereo Headset. This $80 unit will offer a "premium audio experience" for both game and chat audio, Microsoft says, with a unidirectional microphone for clear voice capture and over-the-ear speakers. It comes with a detachable Stereo Headset Adapter which offers various microphone and volume controls.
Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter. This $25 adapter is for gamers who already have a set of gaming headphones, and it adds just the Stereo Headset Adapter bit from the full headset. Just plug the adapter into your controller and connect a stereo headset, and you're good to go.
I'm eager to see this month's update, especially since I'm hoping for a few much-needed changes beyond the short list Microsoft previously provided. More soon.