Microsoft Bulks Up Xbox Live's Social Gaming Features

By Pedro Hernandez  |  Posted 2016-09-09 Print this article Print

The company is making it easier for Xbox One owners to finding squad mates or adversaries with the new Looking for Group and Clubs features.

Games are fun with friends, but sometimes life gets in the way, making it tough to gather one's buddies for an evening's worth of epic adventures. For those times, Microsoft this week rolled out two new features, Looking for Group (LFG) and Clubs, for participants in the Xbox One preview program.

Available now on Xbox One, and soon for the Windows 10, iOS and Android companion apps, LFG and Clubs are an expansion of the platform's social features, enabling users to organize play sessions and further engage with the community. LFG, for example, allows gamers to post a "want ad" of sorts, said Scott Henson, Xbox Partner Group program manager at Microsoft.

"You'll be able to add certain requirements to make sure that you're finding the right gamers," said Henson in a Sept. 6 announcement. "You can specify the game, the game mode, how many people you need, rules like no trash talking or casual friendly, and any other in-game requirements like level, gear or character type."

Clubs, on the other hand, is a community-building feature. Created and managed by gamers, clubs enable their members to set up groups for multiplayer games and share content. Club members can keep in touch using Xbox Live's voice communications capabilities or text chat.

Club admins have access to management tools that help ensure "everyone is having a great time and help create a lively and inclusive environment," Henson said. He also recommended that users interested in setting up a club reserve their desired club name as soon as possible; once claimed, a club's name is unique.

Other recent updates include a snappier, more responsive Gamerscore Leaderboard on Xbox One and the Xbox app for Windows 10. Taking a new "clean slate" approach, the app clears the leaderboard at the beginning of each month rather than display the rankings on a 30-day rolling basis.

Microsoft also hopes to share more information on its upcoming online tournaments platform called Arena in the next few weeks, added Henson. Finally, the company is adding emoji support to the Xbox One's virtual keyboard.

The updates come as Microsoft faces a renewed push by Sony as the Japanese electronics maker looks to cement its leading position in the current-generation video game console market.

Competing with Apple and its new iPhone 7 for the attention of gadget enthusiasts, Sony took the wraps off a new slimmer PlayStation 4 (PS4)—which had been widely leaked weeks before—and the 4K-capable PlayStation 4 Pro on Sept. 7. The latter "enhances PS4 games by supporting the latest in imaging technology through 4K resolution and High Dynamic Range (HDR), as well as smoother frame rates. Games that already look extraordinary on PS4 will look richer and more detailed, thanks to the more powerful GPU and faster CPU at the heart of PS4 Pro," said Andrew House, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, in a statement.

The PS4 "Slim" goes on sale Sept. 15 ($299.99), and the PS4 Pro hits store shelves this fall, on Nov. 10 ($399.99).


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