Next major Xbox One updates will (hopefully) pack avatars, backward compatibility and more

Xbox One Controller
Xbox One Controller (Image credit: Windows Central)

Following the release of the Xbox One fall update, the console has seen a huge range of new features that not only improve existing devices but also lay the foundations for the Xbox One X launch. Among the update's biggest changes are a new user interface influenced by Microsoft's "Fluent Design System," a redesigned modular Home and a snappier Guide menu with tweaks for improved efficiency. Further expansions of the Xbox One's content creation tools, social experiences and other new features have made this one of the biggest refreshes to the platform since its launch.

Although some notable changes have been made, Microsoft is already laying the foundations for the next update in the pipeline. Another major update is now expected to drop before the end of the year, delivering a second wave of highly-anticipated features to all Xbox One consoles. Here's everything we're expecting later this year as a part of future Xbox One updates.

Original Xbox backward compatibility

As first announced at E3 2017, the backward compatibility program is set to expand in the months ahead, with the inclusion of original Xbox titles. After two years, support for Xbox 360 games has proven to be one of the Xbox One's most popular features and now a new generation of games is being ushered into the console's library.

Little has been discussed since its brief announcement at E3, but ultimately the functionality will remain the same as its Xbox 360 counterpart. While physical disks will be usable to play supported titles, digital versions of these classics will be up for grabs through the Microsoft Store. So far, "Fuzion Frenzy" and "Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge" are the two titles confirmed to be among the launch library.

We recently had the opportunity to get hands-on with Xbox backward compatibility and based on our session, games run seemingly identical to their counterparts on original hardware. Although a drop in visual fidelity and a 4:3 aspect ratio might be startling for some, this only keeps the emulation true to the original experience.

Speaking at the Brazil Game Show in October, Xbox head Phil Spencer said original Xbox backward compatibility is still on track for this year and is "really close."

Xbox Avatars get a major redesign

Avatars were a major component of the Xbox 360 social experience and served as one of the primary methods of self-expression over Xbox Live. These customizable digital characters eventually became tightly integrated into several aspects of the Xbox platform, with numerous appearances across social features and even games. However, with the Xbox One's release, Avatars were pushed to the background and all but abandoned in the OS.

As showcased at E3 2017, Avatars are also set to see a major overhaul later this year. Built from the ground up in the Unity engine, the second generation of Avatars comes with hugely increased flexibility. Among the improvements are enriched emotions, diversity, and customization, which each give players the tools for true individualism. Hoping to encompass a larger demographic of games, Avatars will be able to portray disabilities, style preferences, different backgrounds and more.

Following the Xbox fall update, original Avatars have made a return across some parts of the dashboard, including the new "Idle notifications tray" and redesigned social features. With Microsoft now providing more incentives to customize an Avatar, this makes it a smart time to launch the redesign.

First look at Microsoft's gorgeous new Xbox avatars

Microsoft Store digital game gifting

Expanding on the Xbox One's digital ecosystem, the next Xbox update will also add the ability to gift games directly through the Microsoft Store. Previously, gifting digital games proved to be challenging via third-party retailers. However, this will soon be a native feature of Xbox Live.

There are some minor differences as a part of the checkout process when using gifting, but for the most part, the process is identical to buying games for yourself. Prior to completing a transaction, you'll be asked to identify the recipient before a redeemable key is distributed via email.

Bringing the functionality to Xbox One should further add to the offerings of the Xbox Store – a marketplace that already improved massively in recent years. While we still haven't heard of other highly-requested features, such as an Item Carts and wishlists, these could also be potential additions in the pipeline.

Digital game gifting is already enabled in the Microsoft Store for select Xbox Insiders using consoles on the latest preview build.

How to gift digital Xbox One games over Xbox Live

What would you like to see?

Soon we should begin to see more of these features being made available as a part of the Xbox Insider Program. While we already have an idea of the major additions in the next Xbox One update, there's still some time for new features, tweaks, and fixes to be implemented. Let us know what you'd like to see in future releases in the comments section.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.