Mike Ybarra reveals several new Xbox Live features that will be heading to consoles this year, including an official competition mode that allows players to enter tournaments.

During the Microsoft E3 Press Conference, Xbox Head of Platform Engineering Mike Ybarra took to the stage to announce several upcoming Xbox Live features, all of which are slated to arrive either later this summer or in the fall. Some of the updates are pretty significant, with one allowing gamers to register for official tournaments and compete both in groups and by themselves.

This summer, gamers will finally be able to play background music as they browse around menus or even play different games. It was an oft-requested feature, and is essential for a console which was touted as a media entertainment centre. The console will now be language region independent as well, so users can switch the console to a different language regardless of region. It’s an accessibility update that is probably long overdue, as the language needs of global gamers don’t always match their location. The last summer update will be the inclusion of Cortana voice recognition, which will certainly improve the way users interact with Kinect and navigate menu.

However, the truly big features are due to come this fall. Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the new Xbox Live features which are sure to be head turners:

  • Clubs on Xbox live: Players can create communities of gamers, and meet people with similiar interests to play with.
  • Looking For Group On Xbox Live: Described as a ‘Want Ad for Multiplayer’, players can now directly search for players to play with.
  • Arena on Xbox Live: A competition platform on Xbox Live which lets players directly compete in both group and solo multiplayer

The latter fall update is likely the largest addition to Xbox Live out of the new additions, as it will allow gamers to compete on an official level. Games like FIFA and World of Tanks will support Arena on Xbox Live, and we’re excited to see if the e-sports community will rally behind the new functionality. Players will be able to register in a variety of tournaments, though Microsoft hasn’t yet stated how this process will work – especially with games that may work in tandem with Xbox Play Anywhere.

The specific release dates for all six Xbox Live updates have yet to be announced beyond their fall and summer windows, but we’ll keep you posted as more Microsoft news pours out.

Gamers can check in on the Microsoft E3 Press Conference as a whole here.