Next gen UI

Overhaul vs continuity – PS5 and Xbox Series X’s differing approaches to next-gen UI

We’ve now seen both the devices that will play host to your titles over the next generation. But the design of the interface, and the placement and design of the store in particular, will be of far more interest to developers and publishers than the shape of the console’s plastic casing.

So it was interesting to see some, unofficial, updates on both devices lately. That make very clear the stark differences between the approaches of the two platforms.

First up is Matt MacLaurin, VP of UX Design at PlayStation, who made a number of comments (now deleted) in response to questions posed on Linkedin (thanks to Resetera user Toumari for these).

MacLaurin noted that the PS5 will come with a “100 per cent overhaul of PS4 UI and some very different new concepts”. He noted that his team was “largely cleaning up core functionality, but some key new bets [bits? or beats?] that you’ll see soon.”

“As it’s UI it’s practical first, but it’s a while new visual language and a complete rearchitecting of the user interface… very few pixels left from PS4 gen,” MacLaurin continued.

All we’ve seen so far of the new PS5 UI

It’s not a huge surprise to discover that Sony is creating a new user interface for the new console, after all it reworked the user interface between the PS3 and PS4 (previously there wasn’t much UI to speak of really). However, given the greater continuity, with broad backwards compatibility, it was possible that the UI would be more gently evolved, that doesn’t now seem to be the case.

At present the PlayStation Store sits largely outside of the rest of the interface on the PS4. It’s neatly sectioned away, something that a number of publishers have complained about to us in the past, thinking it should be better integrated into the UI, in order to promote new releases and offers without players having to navigate to it, and/or it should load far faster.

“A complete rearchitecting of the user interface… very few pixels left from PS4 gen”

Whether those wishes come true for the new console, as we are far further down the road of digital adoption, remains to be seen, but it would be number one on much of the industry’s wishlist for a new PS5 UI.

Over on the Xbox side, we have a tweet from The Verge’s Tom Warren, that looks to confirm what we long suspected, that the Xbox UI will be unchanged for the new console.

“I can confirm the Xbox Series X dashboard will be the same as the Xbox One. Microsoft is adding some additional stuff in for the console features, but the UI and dash will be the same. Speed and perf[ormance] will also be improved… I think it’s a good thing that the Xbox dashboard is aligned on Xbox One and Xbox Series X. There will be improvements in the coming months, and there’s a new Store app on the way. Things have been gradually improving on the dash, and will continue to do so.”

Microsoft’s adherence to a continuity approach is unsurprising given its service-driven approach with Game Pass and Xbox Live, along with its early and strong stance on backwards compatibility and forward compatibility with Smart Delivery. Moving from one Xbox to another, even in say your own household should feel seamless.

The Xbox has in the past better-integrated its store into the UI, and the new version, which has been previewed on PC, but Microsoft seem unwilling to speak about at all at present, has a simple button to access it, but it loads instantly, as you can see here (video starts at the right point).

I don’t think there’s a right approach here, both Sony’s revolution and Microsoft’s continuity approach make sense for their own strategies. That said, as with so much in the run-up to the next-generation, Microsoft has put me at ease by showing what it intends, while the placement and integration of the PlayStation store remains a mystery for now.

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