The Xbox user experience is coming to everyone, even if you don't own an Xbox

Microsoft's expansion plans continue

Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Microsoft)
Quick Summary

Microsoft is extending Xbox console features to the web and, eventually, Smart TVs as it expands the user experience beyond the console.

Xbox Insiders now get a browser UI much more like the Xbox Series X dashboard.

Xbox has announced a welcome update to the interface for its cloud gaming platform, bringing it far closer to the full-fat console experience.

Where Xbox Cloud Gaming was great for single-player fun, its social features had lagged behind those you could get on an Xbox Series X or indeed a PC, which should now be close to fixed.

With the latest update that it's making available to Xbox Insiders, there's a persistent social option while using Cloud Gaming, which allows you to join and create party chats just like you would on a console. 

Some parts of this will be easier to access on different hardware at first, according to Xbox. For one thing, the party chat system is all designed around web browsers right now, so it won't come to Smart TV apps at first. 

The update means some other welcome additions, including the ability to view both notifications and achievements on your games, and being able to send messages to friends (or indeed to send friend requests to new contacts).

A lot of these options were technically already available while using Xbox Cloud Gaming, but only once you were in a game – you could then use the Xbox interface as you liked, but when you quit that given game everything would end.

For example, being able to have persistent party chats that don't disappear if you swap game is a pretty major addition that could make Xbox Cloud Gaming a way more practical and reliable option for social gaming.

The caveat to all of this is that Microsoft doesn't always rush to move things from the Xbox Insider programme out to everyone else, so it could be a little while before this update is fully rolled out. 

Still, it's clearly another step towards the "every screen is an Xbox" plan that was detailed at the start of this year by the Xbox leadership team – a goal that most of its decisions in the last couple of years can be viewed in light of. 

There's no doubt that Xbox Cloud Gaming is a big part of that ambition, alongside the new willingness to put out first-party games on PlayStation and Nintendo consoles. 

Max Freeman-Mills

Max is a freelance writer with years of experience in tech and entertainment. He's also a gaming expert, both with the games themselves and in testing accessories and consoles, having flexed that expertise at Pocket-lint as a features editor. He has tested all manner of tech too, from headphones and speakers to apps and software.