As Microsoft prepares for the launch of the Xbox One on November 22, 2013 in North America, they have slowly been upgrading many of their current-gen features and services for the next-gen. Just yesterday, they detailed the revamped version of Xbox Live Rewards, and today have explained how the next iteration of SmartGlass will improve gamers’ experiences.
While the verdict is still out on the viability of second screen experiences, and whether gamers actually benefit from them, Microsoft is trying to make SmartGlass a useful and additive app for the Xbox One. And that includes when the gamer is away from their console as well.
An interview with Microsoft GM Ron Pessner, further details SmartGlass’ improvements for Xbox One, including better syncing with the console, the ability to use a SmartGlass device as a controller, and access to your Xbox Live account from anywhere. Many of the features were promised when SmartGlass launched a year ago, but apparently they have been improved for the Xbox One.
Unfortunately, many of the features that Pessner discusses are only theoretical. Yes, the SmartGlass app syncs with the Xbox One in only four seconds, and yes gamers can send and receive messages from friends via the app, but there’s currently no concrete use-case for the app as a controller. In other words, there are currently no games that use the SmartGlass app as a controller.
He also revealed that up to 16 instances of the SmartGlass app can sync with a single Xbox One at a time, but we can’t see how that will be useful except for big families or tech-obsessed gamers. Even the fact that the Xbox One can support up to 8 controllers at one time doesn’t do much for us if it doesn’t have any real-world application.
Where the app will come in handy, though, is as a Game DVR viewer for Xbox One replays and highlights. That way, if a friend catches a particularly impressive moment using the Xbox One’s game recording capabilities, you can watch it the second it goes online.
As well, Pessner revealed that every game developer will be required to build functionality for the “Xbox Help” option that is available on the Xbox One console and the SmartGlass app. By touching the help button on the app, or simply by saying “Help” at the Kinect, gamers will have access to context-specific manuals that will assist them with their problem. It could be as simple as finding a settings menu, or if the developer allows it, outlining a puzzle solution, SmartGlass will presumably have a solution.
Overall, what Microsoft is bringing to SmartGlass for Xbox One sounds like it has a lot of promise. While it was fun to fiddle with the app when it first launched, Microsoft and most third party developers didn’t make great use of it. However, with second screen experiences becoming a major bullet-point feature for the next-gen – case in point: almost all of Ubisoft‘s upcoming slate from Watch_Dogs to The Division – that could very easily change in the next-gen.
Do you think that Microsoft will make SmartGlass a more viable app in the next-gen? How would you like to see the app improve the Xbox One experience?
The Xbox One releases November 22, 2013 in 13 territories including North America.