Weird Xbox quirks I want Microsoft to fix before the Xbox Series X launch

Xbox Series X Reveal
Xbox Series X Reveal (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox Series X is an upcoming beast of a games console, sporting hardware-accelerated ray tracing, up to 8K resolutions, and a monolithic design.

We don't know a great deal about the Xbox Series X's finer details, however. Save for some highly-probably spec leaks, approximate size, and some of its officially-announced capabilities. Yes it will play UHD blu-rays, yes it will run all previous Xbox One games (including backward compatible titles), and yes, it will probably blow up your bank account.

In any case, the Xbox Series X will go head-to-head against Sony's PlayStation 5, in an era of potential upheaval in the industry. Subscription services like Xbox Game Pass are becoming the norm, and various major tech companies are trying to enter the industry with streaming services, like Microsoft's own Project XCloud. Microsoft is well-placed to weather the storm that's ahead, having invested heavily in first-party content, while leveraging the power of Microsoft's Azure cloud platform for game streaming.

As an Xbox fan and user, though, there are some weirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd and neglected aspects of the Xbox platform that I'd like to see addressed. I wrote about the platform's poor localization across the globe recently, making me wonder what other areas really need some love before the Xbox Series X drops in 2020.

Can't controller typing be better somehow?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One thing that remains kind of painful in 2020 is using the keyboard via your controller. Navigating that huge QWERTY grid with a joystick, slowly, tediously entering Xbox game codes, sending messages to friends, or typing within games that support it is a damn pain. Now, you can use any USB keyboard compatible with Windows 10 on your Xbox One, but who really wants to stuff a keyboard down the side of their living room sofa for those occasional times you might need it?

Microsoft previously patented some radial-style keyboards specifically for joysticks, but they never saw the light of day in real life consumer scenarios. My Samsung QLED TV software keyboard handles inputs fairly well, predicting the next letter you might pick for rapid and easy inputs. I can't help but feel like there must be a better way here.

XCloud ergonomics

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I already had started writing this before CES 2020 rolled around, which may have actually potentially maybe possibly solved my worries here.

Project XCloud / Xbox Game Streaming will allow you the ability to play Xbox games anywhere with a stable internet connection, streamed via the internet. This tech could prove a renaissance for low-power devices, such as cheaper laptops, Windows tablets, and indeed smartphones, which are constrained both in terms of battery power and graphics for producing console-level visuals.

We've been using Microsoft's streaming services for a while, and have found them to be extremely promising even in their preview state. Microsoft is hard at work on optimising the service, but there are a few problems from an ergonomic level that need to be solved.

Gaming on a touch screen with games not designed for touch screens is a total pain. Microsoft has teased APIs that allow developers to make special touch screen controls for their games, but they haven't materialized just yet. For now, you have to use a controller docked to your phone using a plastic clip, which isn't a particularly great experience.

Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

The Razer Junglecat solves some of the issues with its Switch-like docking controller, and the firm already announced a successor, the Razer Kishi, which will support almost any type of smartphone. However, that doesn't solve things like text being too tiny to read on smaller displays, as well as other UI constraints. Even things like the camera being zoomed out too far can make a 3D game more difficult to play.

I've been enjoying XCloud primarily on tablets for this reason so far, but the market share for Android tablets is so small the possibility of getting decent peripherals to compliment the experience seems remote. I'm hoping Microsoft will lead the way when it comes to showcasing how to improve user interfacing for smaller screens, while also making accessories that circumvent touch screen issues. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Xbox Store is sloooooooooooow and confusing

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Microsoft has done a fair bit of work to improve their digital store over the years, but it's still a bit of a pain to navigate and use.

Since the entire storefront on Xbox is web-based, loading in each and every element, then navigating back and forth between them is such a slow, tedious experience that the urge to impulse purchase often subsides before I've finished putting in my payment data.

Each individual store page isn't just slow to load, the Xbox itself can barely handle it, visibly slowing to a crawl when each page is laden with screenshots and auto-playing video (which should be disabled by default, not as an option). It also feels like the store is split into separate "app" experiences, between the Xbox OS shell itself and the section where you actually make the purchases. Why can't it all be inside one experience? Surely the Xbox Series X hardware will help out with these issues but, is there no universe where the Xbox One store can't be fast and fluid?

Remember Xbox Clubs?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Remember Xbox Clubs? No? You'd be forgiven, since Microsoft has barely spoken about them for quite a while now.

Xbox Clubs were supposed to be Microsoft's answer to Discord's community tools, and Steam's community pages for developers, connecting games directly with their fans. Over time, they've become a bit stagnant, with Microsoft neglecting to include them in both the Xbox (beta) app on PC for Xbox Game Pass, and the new Windows Key+G Xbox Game Bar.

Considering Microsoft is investing a lot in building communities on Mixer, and has one of the largest gaming social networks in the form of Xbox Live, the fact that Xbox remains so far behind Discord, and even services like Battle.net for community interactions is a bit odd to me. No gifs, no file sharing, no channels. Weirdness.

What's going on with Upload Studio?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Speaking of neglected Xbox features, remember Upload Studio?

In the early days of the Xbox One, Upload Studio was an app for creating videos out of your gameplay clips. Over time, it evolved to incorporate unique filters and transitions for various games, and became smarter and more intuitive for building content. At some point though, it was put on indefinite hiatus, and hasn't been updated in like, forever.

Microsoft generally sucks at making default tools for basic media creation. I still hear iMovie and Final Cut Pro as a reason people are unable to give up Apple's Macs, since Windows has no real intuitive equivalents that don't cost an Adobe-arm-and-a-leg. The Photos app on Windows 10 has some rudimentary features for editing clips, but it's pretty awful for any even vaguely serious content creation.

This is perhaps more of a Microsoft-wide issue of hoping UWP developers will step in to make up for its shortcomings, but it would be nice if Microsoft put a little more effort in here, even if it's only on the Xbox side.

Family sharing of subscriptions

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Another complaint I get every now and then is the lack of family sharing features for Xbox digital content across the board. Nintendo Online (admittedly, notably worse than Xbox Live in almost every sense), allows you to share a single subscription with several family members. Xbox Live only allows you to share access to multiplayer on the console you're signed in on, which defeats the whole point of "roaming" with Project XCloud and other streaming services. Even Netflix and Spotify have family sharing options, it seems odd that Xbox Live is so inflexible on this front.

Although this may be down to licensing, it would also be nice if Xbox had something akin to Steam's family sharing library, or even Android's. On those platforms, you can choose digital games you can share with friends and family, without having to be presently signed in. You can't both use the same license at the same time, of course, but it's the digital equivalent of lending someone a disc. Seems odd that Xbox is behind on that front too.

What do you think?

These are just a few of my own personal pet peeves with Xbox as it stands in 2020. Microsoft has fixed mountains of problems with the platform over the years, improving the dashboard, streamlining features, and improving integration across console and PC. There are too many neglected features though, and that's without going into more complicated matters like poor localization, outstanding accessibility needs, and so on.

What do you think Microsoft still needs to address with the Xbox platform? Hit the comments, let us know.

Xbox (opens in new tab)

Main

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

39 Comments
  • I agree about the subscriptions. When the Xbox One was announced, this was a key feature. But people whined so much about the always-on Internet, that they removed it. There are 3 of us in our house that have Xboxs. It would be nice to share everything. I would go completely digital if that was available. Right now, I can share with my son because I set his console as my home console. So he gets pretty much everything I have.
  • I'm in the same boat except with 4 people. Rather than getting 3 xbox's, I went with a PlayStation pro only because of the limitation. Being able to run 2 is still better than before and much better then steam where you can only run one game.
  • MS had one work around for the keyboard. The keypad that connected to the Xbox 360 controller was a great idea. However, it needs an update in design and how it connects.
  • There is one for Xbone too. It is quite useful
  • I've got the Xbox One Keypad, it's an absolute godsend because I hate using the onscreen keyboard (and it bugs me when apps don't utilise the Keypad).
  • the xbox dashboard will change to be faster for xbox series x and i im sure they will fix all of this its a better system ram will help this
  • i would not worry im sure they will fix it
  • As mentioned by another poster, the "same house" sharing is handled by setting the Xbox another member signs into as the Home console, and then sign in on a second. I want them to figure out how to convert Disks to digital! This would help multiple members of the house play co-op(see first point) but also allow use of thousands of dollars of disk based games to be used on the Xbox S All digital Edition and a potential Xbox Series X all digital version(lower price of entry)
  • The big issue in my household is we have three Xbox systems, but only two adults with accounts. Since you can’t use any streaming services without logging in, it’s incredibly frustrating. Also you don’t know which user is signed in on other Xbox devices, so I’m constantly being logged out on the middle of watching something. My idea of only using Xbox for all streaming has not been working out well.
  • That would involve some kind of trade in, or whatever, as they couldn't write data to the disc to no longer make it usable.
  • For keyboard, we have a few MS Chat Keypads that plug into the controllers (Elite 1, 2, or regular). They work great.
  • My biggest concern with the new Series X is that it looks like they might take away the HDMI-in and IR blaster. For me, that would be a HUGE step backwards. I take my gaming seriously and love it, and plan to grab the Series X as soon as I can... unless it destroys my TV watching experience. I want everything to go through a single device, like we have now with the One X (and the One before it). If that capability is lost, I can't justify the downgrade for the whole family, just to get better looking games. Plus, we probably watch 3-4 times as much TV as we spend time gaming.
  • Yup. Same here. I turn on my Xbox a hell of a lot more than my PS4 precisely because the Xbox also includes the TV, I can do it via my PC and control it that way, it's just convenient.
    If I have to go back to remote controls and TV boxes and switching inputs on my TV, then there's really no point in buying the Xbox X over any other console.
  • Definitely agree on family features and improving the store, though I don't think the Store is that bad now (maybe because I'm on the One X?). I certainly don't have trouble finding the games I'm looking for and haven't noticed it stuttering on my relatively slow Internet connection out in the woods. Still, faster and more intuitive UI across the whole system would obviously be an improvement.
  • I agree with these suggestions. Would also add the under utilized revamped avatars. They serve literally no purpose anymore. Personally I see this as a missed opportunity. Aside game integration it would be cool to actually see it integrated into the interface (optional?). My avatar should greet me upon booting of the console! And I find browsing the store fairly chunky and full of bugs.
  • I have 2 Xbox one X's and I cant stand that I can only sign into 1 at a time. If my wife is watching Disney+ I cannot go in the other room and game. It disconnects her and signs me in and vice versa. This is stupid. Also the HDMI in not being available kills me. And don't say they have data that shows nobody is using it. They had the same date for the Xbox One X. they still added it to that. So please Microsoft if anything fix those 2 if you want people sitting around at the house using your New toy. I use SKYPE a lot so Microsoft should partner with a TV company to insert a camera into the TV like phones since they don't want to build another kinect. I would be in for that.
  • Couldn't your wife create her own Microsoft account to watch Disney+? I don't understand why it would disconnect you unless she is using your account also, which is a pretty simple fix.
  • Am I the only one that hates ads in the current interface? For that matter am I the only one that thinks the Xbone interface is hot trash? Seriously the entire thing is confusing, slow and clearly built by nerds that don't have any interface experience. I mean it is criminally complex compared to Sony and Nintendo. Make games front and center and get all the other crap out. So basically get rid of 80% of the interface
  • No. You're most definitely not. I've been saying that for year here and to Microsoft.
    Their UI is awful and got worse with every single update and the fact that I get spammed with ADS front and centre of the interface even though I pay for a f*cking Gold subscription, it's downright insulting.
  • I don't really have an issue with it, but I like the fact that there is always a link to the current Games With Gold on the homepage and my games and apps are a couple button presses away. I rarely, if ever, move away from the main screen though. I feel like the PS4 does its media screen better than the Xbox One, but then again, I don't think I ever use the media screen on XBO as I just go to my app list and open whatever I want.
  • They should really bring back Smartglass-like functionality, which allowed you to connect your phone to your Xbox at will and just use that to type as if it were a controller itself.
  • I miss the SMARTGLASS keyboard too, it was so useful.
  • If I remember correctly, you can use the Xbox app for this purpose now instead of the SmartGlass app.
  • Oh nice, can confirm this works! Jez Corden oughta try this out, typing from your phone must be far easier than any controller-based patent.
  • Nope, because it involves having a seperate device, and not only that, but unlocking said device and then going to the app required to type with.
  • 'A separate device' it's your freaking phone lmao. Absolute non-issue.
  • You said typing from a phone is easier than a controller based solution, that is false, I have a chat pad on my controller, it is significantly easier than getting my phone out of my pocket, unlocking it, opening the xbox app and then selecting the on screen keyboard. Honestly I would have my message typed before I put my first word on the phone. Sure it might be better than using the standard keyboard interface that exists now, but it'd be so easy to create something more versatile that trumps using a phone, that's the point.
  • How about letting the main home screen tiles actually be user customizable
  • Microsoft should give a look in what Sony did with the PlayStation 4’s virtual keyboard. It is, by far, the best I ever tried. If it is not patented, it should be immediately copied by everyone. Family sharing is a must. Any family with multiple users need it. I guess there is a licensing problem but Microsoft could allow this with their own games.
  • - the store should be uwp native and not web based
    - and please bring us usb-c everywhere it's 2020!!!
  • We can develop social experience with Clubs and others (avatars, discord …), giving the necessary tools, and the loop is closed
  • Weirdest thing to forget in this article is the lack of Mouse Support for Apps. Even Microsofts own browser EDGE has to be navigated with the left controller stick, which is a pain in the ass. But what is even weirder is that Microsoft doesn't allo Devs to add mouse support to their Apps, which was confirmed for me by the Monument Browser dev some days ago.
  • Why do you want to improve controller keyboard entry at all? I say leave the awkward qwerty on screen KB, it's fairly standard across CE devices. The one thing that is also fairly standard across CE devices that Microsoft (ironically) HASN'T DONE is make a legitimate companion app. My roku offers me a remote control options with *gasp* the ability to type searches into my roku device using my phone keyboard. Why hasn't MS done this? Also why is there no dedicated store app for Android? Perhaps they're trying to ensure you always get the same experience regardless of whether you are using android or ios but that kind of idiotic thinking got Cortana all but killed. Stop it. Lets just admit that the Android Microsoft experience already is better than the iOS one and always will be, lets just release all the snazzy features on Android and come as close as apple lets you on iPhone. So release a **real** store app for Android please.
  • Microsoft *has* done this. See my comment above. Download the Xbox app then connect it to your console.
  • Except when the Xbox app doesn't work and no amount of reinstalling it fixes it. Used to be fine, but now it just can't log on.
  • My app works great on several devices. But that is the problem with baked in apps if they fail. There has to be a way to force it to reinstall and actually clear the problem, but it may involve some steps in config files.
  • Tested it literally yesterday and it works fine. Can't speak for your personal issues though.
  • Yeah, it should work, and it used to. I think it was when they released the xbox (beta) app (the white icon), after having the original one (green icon). I installed the beta app and after a while neither of them worked, they refused to log in, even if I uninstalled and reinstalling it still wouldn't work. Might try installing again now as there has possibly been a patch or two that's fixed it. I should mention this is the phone app, don't have any issues with the PC app, beta or otherwise.
  • You know I get that certain things maybe aren't amazing when using them but I would hardly call them awful, I feel ppl are way too harsh when it comes to anything Microsoft makes more so than any other company, Google gets SO many passes and to hell with them!