We take an early sneak peek at the Summer 2009 Xbox 360 dashboard update.
The thin selection of customizable clothing options for the 360's Mii-like avatars always hinted at a pay-to-play future for the system. The options we saw in the new Avatar Marketplace ranged from 80 to 320 Microsoft Points, and included clothing and accessories. Currently available were collections built around games such as Halo 3 and Fable 2, as well as some themed sections, such as "steampunk."
Using the Netflix viewer on the Xbox 360 required you to log into your account via a PC to add movies to the Netflix queue. With this new update, a list of recent movies and TV shows are now available right from the Xbox 360, letting you browse and watch without getting on your computer.
With the Netflix Party mode, other people on your Xbox friends list can join a group movie-watching session, complete with voice chat and a theater-like setting for your avatars. Everyone in the party needs to be both an Xbox Live Gold member, as well as a Netflix subscriber.
Here, MTV's Russ Frushtick and I catch a little of Orson Welles' 1962 adaptation of Kafka's The Trial. Note the tiny Netflix envelope and Xbox 360 sitting on a table to the right of the movie screen. The view can be switched to full-screen, but a handful of films are not currently available for Party mode viewing -- Microsoft blames rights issues.
Another small but notable update. Checking the hard drive, you'll find that saved games now incorporate time and date stamps, which may be useful if you're looking to transfer a certain save, or want to go back to a specific point in a game.
The Games Marketplace has had downloadable games from indie developers for some time, but it was somewhat confusingly called the "Community Games" section. Now, it has the more appropriate "Indie Games" title.