It’s a big update week for Xbox One and PC gamers who are part of the Xbox and Windows Insider Programs. Starting later this week, these gamers will see and experience new features from the Windows 10 Creators Update on PC, with additional features expected to hit console soon after. Earlier this week, select Insider members saw new features such as the updated Home, Guide, and refreshed multitasking for Xbox One. The next update includes some big new additions for PC gamers, with a few more features releasing for Xbox One owners soon. These new features are releasing to a subset of Insiders starting tomorrow, with more Xbox and Windows Insider Program members receiving these in the coming weeks.

Here’s a look at the new features reaching select Xbox and Windows Insiders coming this week:

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  • Built-in Beam streaming (Xbox One, Windows 10 PC): Beam is the easiest and quickest way to stream gameplay, and it’s part of Insider builds coming later this week on your Windows 10 PC, with Xbox One functionality releasing to preview soon. For the creators out there, we wanted to make it easier for you to start your live game streams without any delays so you can quickly connect and engage with your viewers no matter where they are. On Beam, streams have under one second of delay; using our brand new streaming protocol dubbed “FTL”, you can interact with livestreams as if you were in the same room as the caster. What’s more, any stream can incorporate simple interactive features such as sound boards. Coming later this week on Windows 10 PCs, you can start Beam broadcasts by pulling up the Game bar — Windows key + G. And coming soon on Xbox One, you can also begin streaming directly from inside the Guide. The ability to manage your Beam broadcasts and interact with fellow gamers on chat will appear as overlays.

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  • Game Mode (Windows 10 PC): Last year, we set out to make Windows 10 the best Windows ever for gaming. With Game Mode, it’s our goal to now take things a step further to make the gaming experience on Windows even better. Our vision is that Game Mode optimizes your Windows 10 PC for an improvement in overall game performance. The upcoming Windows Insider build represents the first step on our journey with Game Mode. To enable Game Mode for your Win32 or UWP game, pull up the Game bar (Windows key + G) and click on the Settings button. There you’ll be able to opt the running game into using Game Mode. We’ll have additional details about Game Mode to share throughout Insider testing, so stay tuned.

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  • Gaming section in System Settings (Windows 10 PC): Later this week, inside the main Windows System Settings, a new section is being added: Gaming, identified with the Xbox logo. When this update releases, you’ll find settings for Game bar, GameDVR and broadcasting in this new Gaming area, with Game Mode coming in a future update. We’re also beginning to consolidate some system and user settings for gaming in this unified location, where PC users are accustomed to accessing their settings. We’ll continue to develop and deploy Gaming settings over time, as we continue to gather gamer feedback.

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  • New Cortana gaming enhancements (Xbox One): In the coming days, we’re adding additional Cortana updates to enhance your gaming experience even more, such as voice controls for Party commands and using Cortana to play music. We’re streamlining the UI and improving things behind the scenes to make your experience better. In case you missed it, we also added for select Xbox Insiders a few new Cortana updates to Xbox One earlier this week, including setting reminders. Now, by using a simple command such as “Hey, Cortana, remind me to start the Destiny Strike at 7 p.m.,” gamers can ensure they never miss out on a match with friends again.

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  • Screen time (Xbox One): Parental controls are a huge priority for us at Microsoft, as we strive to offer the most comprehensive and customizable family features possible so gamers of all ages feel safe and secure when using our platforms. That’s why the family timer we know and love is coming to Xbox One as screen time, updated for today’s digital family. Parents familiar with screen time for Windows 10 will find a similar set of controls for Xbox. Set daily time allowance and limits on the web for each child—your Xbox will pick those limits up and enforce them whenever the child is signed in. Screen time for Xbox One will be available soon. To prepare, head over to microsoft.com/family, sign in with the account you use for Xbox Insider access, and make sure your children’s accounts are all set up as a part of your family. When Xbox screen time is available, you’ll be able to manage it there.

That’s all for this week, but like we’ve said over the past few weeks, there’s plenty more to come for gamers on both Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. There’s more with Beam, Arena, and new social features, just to name a few. We look forward to your feedback as you test out these new features and we’ll keep you posted as more are readied for Insider releases.

Today, we’re beginning to ship the first wave of Xbox One features for the Creators Update to the Xbox Insider Program members. As Mike Ybarra shared last week, the Creators Update is packed full of new features for gamers who play on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs – in fact, we’re targeting hundreds of improvements across the board, noticeable by gamers and under the hood. Today’s update will start rolling out to a small subset of gamers, with the rest of the Xbox Insider Program receiving these features in the coming weeks.

For gamers, the Creators Update is about performance, people, competition and streaming – getting you to the things you care about most as quickly as possible. Today, that will mean a faster Xbox One experience than ever before, connecting you with the applications, games, and of course, friends, that you enjoy most. Check out the updated Home and learn how the newly-designed Guide works and is meant to simplify your experience. There’s lots more, too. As part of our commitment to enhancing gaming for everyone, we’re opening up new accessibility options to ensure great experiences for all gamers when playing on Xbox.

Here’s a look at the new features reaching Xbox Insiders today: 

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  • An updated look at Home: One of the first things you’ll notice is a new look for Home. Through the Insider program, we’ve received feedback from Xbox One gamers that the UI can be complex and for certain tasks, can require too many button presses. Our goal is to simplify the UI and increase overall system performance, and that starts with updating Home based on what you care most about for the games you play. To do that, we’ve optimized for speed and are surfacing to you the most valuable content for your games. You’ll notice the main tile for what you’re currently playing has changed. Now, you’ll see a smaller icon for the game and a few options to dive deeper into the Game Hub, interact with your Club or LFG for that game, view your Achievements, and more. The updated Home also celebrates the game you’re currently playing with hero art in the background when you’re not using a custom background. 

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  • Faster and more intuitive Guide: The next thing you’re likely to notice is that Guide has been updated. With one press of the Xbox button on your controller, you can pull up the newly enhanced Guide as an overlay on the left side of your screen, no matter what you’re doing. With the Guide, we’ve added new features and functionality. You’ll notice that there’s a new start page. This page is designed to get you to the content you care about most, including your games and apps, Home, Store, your recently played games and apps, and your top Pins. It also features quick access to your media controls when playing background music.

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  • New way to multitask: In addition to adding a new start page to Guide, we’re also evolving our multitasking system. To simplify discoverability and to make it much quicker to get to the things you care about most, our multitasking features will also be designed to work well with the new Guide. In addition to quick access to music, screen shots and GameDVR will be one button press away. You can bring up Guide and press “X” or “Y” on your controller to record your favorite gaming moments. We’ve also added a new achievement tracker which allows you to track your favorite achievements and play at the same time. The new Guide is also where you will be able to broadcast instantly to Beam when we roll that out to Insiders in the next couple of weeks.

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  • Cortana gaming enhancements: There are a series of new Cortana updates to make your Xbox One smarter. In this update, you can set reminders and alarms so you don’t miss gaming sessions. In the coming weeks, we will be releasing more Cortana updates to enhance your gaming experience even more as well as continued performance and reliability updates.

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  • Improving system updates: Our goal with system updates is that you never have to worry about them again, and to make it clearer when a system update is available. To enable this we are updating the interface so the steps are easy to understand. We’re also going to enable every Xbox One owner to keep their console, games, and apps up to date independent of which power mode they have chosen. 

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  • Enabling Xbox One to be accessible for everyone: One important area for us with this release is to enable Xbox One to be able to be used and played by everyone. Take for instance our new Copilot feature which allows two controllers to act as if they were one. This will help make Xbox One more inviting to new gamers needing assistance, more fun by adding cooperative controls for any game, and easier for players who need unique configurations to play — whether that is with hands apart, hand and chin, hand and foot, etc.. We are also adding new enhancements to Magnifier and Narrator, as well as giving more options over audio output and custom rumble settings on a controller, which was previously reserved for the Xbox Elite Controller. You can find these accessibility options, and more, in Settings > Ease of Access.
  • New spatial audio output settings for developers: To enable more immersive experiences for Xbox One, we have added a number of audio output features in Settings. If you are a developer on Xbox One, the new settings will allow you to add Dolby Atmos for Home Theater, Dolby Atmos for Headphones, and Windows HRTF support to your streaming media application or game. For Xbox One owners, hang tight and soon you’ll be able experience even more incredible audio on your console.
  • Blu-ray player bitstream passthrough beta: The Blu-ray disc player on Xbox One now supports a beta of bitstream passthrough, which allows your receiver to decode audio natively. All bitstream formats are supported, including newer ones like Dolby Atmos.

This is the first series of updates, and there’s more to come. Beam, Windows Game Mode, Arena, updates to Cortana, and plenty more are on the way. Thank you to gamers and Xbox fans near and far, for your continued support—and above all else—for sharing your thoughts and feedback that enables all of us at Xbox to continue giving back.

 

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Mike Ybarra, Head of Platform Engineering for Xbox gives an update on a number of features coming to Xbox One and Windows 10. Read the story here:


2017 is going to be a monumental year for gaming at Microsoft. Whether you play on Xbox One, a Windows 10 PC, your mobile phone, or anywhere you sign-in with Xbox Live, we’re going to make your gaming experiences easier, more social, and better with innovative hardware and software features throughout the year.

We’re focused on feedback from our fans and innovative, new ideas from our engineering teams that will enhance gaming on the Xbox One and will make Windows 10 the best operating system for PC gaming. In October, as a part of the Creators Update, we announced that Beam, gamer-created tournaments, and other fan requested features would be coming. We’re kicking off 2017 by introducing some of these features next week, with more updates to share in the coming months.

These updates are about four key themes: Streaming, Performance, People, and Competition. We’ll make it easier to stream than ever before, by making Beam a feature on Xbox One and Windows 10. We’ll improve the performance of your PC games through the all new Windows Game Mode. And we’ll release Arena on Xbox Live, where you can play in organized tournaments or create your own, making eSports available for everyone.

Instantly stream to Beam on Windows 10 and Xbox One
We’re building Beam as a feature of Xbox One and Windows 10, making Beam one of the easiest and quickest ways to stream your gameplay.

Beam will connect to your Xbox Live account, making it easy to stream your favorite games to Beam and your Xbox Live community. No extra software is needed and viewers anywhere will be able to watch your streams and interact with your broadcast. On a Windows 10 PC, press Windows + G to pull up the Game bar and click the broadcast button to start streaming. On Xbox One, you can start streaming with one button press from inside the Guide.

Increased performance in gaming
Our goal is to make Windows 10 the best Windows ever for gaming. With the Creators Update, we’re introducing a new feature called Game Mode. Windows Insiders will start seeing some of the visual elements for Game Mode this week, with the feature being fully operational in builds shortly thereafter. Our vision is for Game Mode to optimize your Windows 10 PC for increased performance in gaming. This is a big update for Windows; we’re looking forward to Insiders getting their hands on this new feature for further testing, and we’ll have much more to share on what it is and how it works soon, so stayed tuned.

In addition, every Xbox One will see an update coming to the Guide that will make it faster to complete common tasks. Through one press of the Xbox button on your controller, you’ll be able to pull up the newly enhanced Guide as an overlay on the left side of your screen no matter what you’re doing. In addition, we’re rebuilding the most popular multitasking experiences for speed and ease of access. For example, you’ll be able to start recording your GameDVR clips, adjust your recording length, and access your captures directly in the Guide. We’ll also add a new Achievement tracking overlay, Gamerscore Leaderboard, a new Cortana design, and controls for background music, making these features easier and use.

Better ways to find, stay in touch, and share with your gaming friends
We’re improving the ways you can stay in touch with friends on Xbox Live by making it easier to connect with people you care about on other social networks. We’re also adding updates to the Activity Feed, so you can connect and share more with your gaming friends. With additional improvements to Clubs and Looking For Group (LFG), like better moderator tools for Clubs and the ability to share LFG posts in your feed, we’re making it even easier to seek out players for any game on Xbox and Windows 10, and join communities of gamers like you.

You define the rules of competition
New tournaments are coming to Arena on Xbox Live, including those from professional tournament organizers like ESL and FACEIT. And starting with “World of Tanks” and “Killer Instinct”, you’ll be able to create your own Arena tournaments, with more supported titles coming over time. Once your tournament is created, you can invite your friends and members of your club can see it and join. And when the tournament ends, the results will be automatically recorded so you can share them on Xbox Live and across your social networks.

As part of the Creators Update, we’re just getting started. We have a few surprises on the horizon and more features to share with you soon. Get excited, stay tuned, and see you on Xbox Live!

Mike Ybarra
Gamertag: Qwik
Twitter: @XboxQwik

Spencer Hooks, Director of Gaming, Dolby Laboratories, talks about how Xbox will be the first game console to feature Dolby Atmos and how bringing Dolby Atmos support to Xbox One and Windows 10 gaming next year will bring you even further inside the action and sound of your favorite titles. Many of you know how particular I am about audio, so this is welcomed news for me. Read the rest of his comments below:

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“Justice rains from above!”

If you play Overwatch, that sentence may give you nightmares. It’s Pharah’s catch phrase as she hangs in the air and lets loose a barrage of rockets that destroy everything in their path. Pharah’s attack is so effective in part because you may not be able to tell where it’s coming from.

But I have a secret weapon to defend against Pharah’s barrage: Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos is sound so precise you can pinpoint exactly where Pharah is and avoid her wrath. And the great news is that starting next year, Dolby Atmos will be coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs and tablets.

With Dolby Atmos, sound moves precisely all around and above you. You can hear where your allies and enemies are in three-dimensional space. Snipers on the roof? You’ll hear them over your left shoulder and know where to aim to take them out. The same goes for an attacker with a jet pack hovering behind you.

Beyond its tactical advantages, Dolby Atmos also makes your experience of a game much more intense. You’ll feel like you’re inside the action as the voices, sounds and music move all around you.

Xbox will be the first game console to feature Dolby Atmos and game developers are excited about using the new capabilities to make their games richer and more engaging. Atmos support for the Blu-ray app on Xbox is already available in Preview and will be released to GA soon – and we’re very excited now to offer Atmos support to games on Xbox One and Windows 10.

You’ll be able to experience Dolby Atmos in your home theater, assuming you have a Dolby Atmos enabled speaker system or soundbar. But you don’t need to have that kind of equipment – it will be possible to enable virtually any pair of headphones with the Dolby Atmos experience.

Mike Ybarra, Xbox’s Head of Platform Engineering, had this to say on our exciting partnership: “At Team Xbox, we are all gamers first, and bringing Dolby Atmos support to Xbox One and Windows 10 gaming next year will bring you even further inside the action and sound of your favorite titles. A big thank you to the team at Dolby for their partnership; we’re excited to share more with the Xbox community next year.”

Of course, Dolby Atmos is great for more than just games. The technology began in the cinema and many of Hollywood’s top films are available on Blu-ray disc or streaming with Dolby Atmos sound. With Dolby Atmos, you’re immersed in the movie like never before, with sounds moving all around you, just as it does in real life. You’ll get that immersive experience whether you’re playing a Dolby Atmos film on your Xbox One or a Windows 10 PC or tablet.

Xbox Blu-ray Bitstream Pass-Through

This week Xbox also announced that Blu-ray Bitstream pass-through, which includes Dolby Atmos support on Xbox One and Xbox One S, would be rolling out to Xbox Preview members. This feature enables all Xbox consoles to pass Blu-ray audio data untouched to a user’s audio equipment, allowing your audio receiver or other audio device to produce a high quality, immersive sound experience.

A top fan-requested feature, it enables Xbox users who have invested in pro-audio set-ups to experience the best possible audio from their Blu-ray movies. To use this feature, you will need to have your console connected over HDMI to a compatible audio receiver which supports decoding of popular Blu-ray audio formats.

If you’re an Xbox Preview member, here are some helpful tips on how to enable:

  • Ensure your console is connected via HDMI to a device that supports decoding of Blu-ray audio formats.
  • Make sure you have the latest Blu-ray player by checking the “Updates” tab under “My Games & Apps.”
  • Enable “Let my receiver decode audio (beta)” under the “Disc & Blu-ray” settings page.
  • Insert your favorite DVD or Blu-ray disc.
  • Kick back and enjoy the highest quality audio from your movies and TV shows.

For more info for Xbox Preview Members, you can visit the forums here.

Dolby and Xbox will have more to share next year on timing and availability of Dolby Atmos for gaming audio. Enjoy!

 

💬 Larry Hryb @majornelson

More @majornelson on Twitter

Content: ABZU
Check price and availability in your Xbox LIVE region

Game Description: From the artistic mind behind Journey and Flower, ABZÛ is a beautiful underwater adventure that evokes the dream of diving. Immerse yourself in a vibrant ocean world full of mystery and bursting with color and life. Perform fluid acrobatics as the Diver, using graceful swimming controls. Linger in epic seascapes and explore aquatic ecosystems modeled with unprecedented detail. Descend into the heart of the ocean where ancient secrets lie forgotten. But beware, dangers lurk in the depths. “ABZÛ” is from the oldest mythologies; AB, meaning water, and ZÛ, meaning to know. ABZÛ is the ocean of wisdom.

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Product Info:
Developer: Giant Squid
Publisher: 505 Games
Website: ABZU
Twitter: @AbzuGame / @GiantSquidology / @505_Games

We’re celebrating the 15 year anniversary of Halo and Xbox this week and to promote the special occasion we’re adding a number of new images to the Xbox One gamerpic gallery. These new images are starting to roll out over the coming days but may take some time to appear in all Xbox Live regions. To change your gamerpic, go to Settings, About Me, Customize profile, Change gamerpic (this may vary if you’re a Preview Program member with the New Xbox One Experience).

Browse the gallery and you should see the new Halo And Xbox 15 Year Anniversary images – shown below:

You can download a .ZIP file containing all of the images here: Halo And Xbox 15 Year Anniversary

With the latest Xbox One System update, we have added Clubs as one of the many new features. I wanted to let everyone know that based on the feedback received from our Xbox Insider audience and the data collected, we have adjusted the maximum of invites each club can send and go unanswered. Most clubs won’t notice any changes. But if you are one of the few clubs that has reached that maximum, when you try to send new club invites, only a subset will be sent. The other invites will be dropped silently. To avoid hitting the club maximum of unanswered invites, ensure that:

  • You direct future members of your club to hit “Request to join” instead of sending them an invite
  • You send smaller amount of invites to only future members you know will be interested in your club

If you are in the Xbox Insider program, be sure to file feedback on this or other features as that is the best way to sent ideas/feedback to the product team.

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Clubs and Looking for Group (LFG) on Xbox Live will be launching to the broader community soon on Xbox One and the Xbox app, giving you access to more people to play with and more choice in how you play. To make sure you hit the ground running and make the most of Clubs and LFG, we sat down with two engineers on the Xbox team to share walkthrough tutorials on the features and chat about their experiences helping bring them to life.

Clubs on Xbox Live | Jasmine Lawrence – Program Manager

Q. Before we dive in, can you tell the readers a little about yourself?

A. I’ve been working on team Xbox for three and a half years. I started here as an intern on the team and came back right out of college to help launch the first Xbox One console. My Gamertag is ‘Iam Full of WIN.’ I am a very competitive Achievement hunter that spends most of my time playing puzzle platformers or indie games.

Q. So what is Clubs on Xbox Live?

A. Clubs are gamer-created and managed groups that can help you meet people and grow communities of gamers who love the same things you do. Anyone can join or create a Club, and you’ll probably see a Club for just about anything. It’s a way for gamers to connect and have fun with other people that share the same interests. I think Clubs are important because they create communities that you can go back to again and again to hang out with similar people, which makes your gaming experience even better.

Q. What was your most memorable moment working on Clubs?

A. The most memorable moment for me was when we first released to Preview and within days there were thousands of Clubs. It was amazing to see people using the feature and getting great feedback on what we could do next.

Q. What was the most challenging aspect of helping bring Clubs to Xbox Live?

A. The most challenging aspect of Clubs was scoping the feature set or picking what we would build out for the feature’s launch. There are literally hundreds of suggestions from gamers, our research team and even fellow gamers on Team Xbox on what we could do for this holiday. It was tough to pick the right ones to release for our Xbox Holiday Update.

Q. Where do you and the team see Clubs going in the future?

A. Clubs has incredible potential to change the way people play. In the future, we hope to integrate more with features like Arena and the Gamerscore Leaderboard, and provide even more opportunities for gamers to share and advertise their Clubs to friends and potential new members.

Q. Does Clubs look different from what the team originally envisioned for the feature?

A. It’s not too different from what we imagined Clubs would look like, but we have been surprised by the trends in how people have been using them. We are proud of the diversity of the type of Clubs that have been created. From the ‘Anime’ Club and ‘Awesome Screenshots’ Club, to the ‘Meeting New Gamers’ Club, people are coming together on Xbox Live and connecting to play their favorite games or share content based on their interests.

Q. Any tips for gamers using Clubs for the first time?

A. If you’re new to clubs, I would recommend checking out our Club Discovery area to find a Club based on games you are currently playing or check out the Clubs your friends are in by going to the ‘Following & clubs’ section on their profile. I’d also encourage users to make a Club that fosters the culture they want if they don’t find what they’re looking for via search. There are millions of gamers out there and Clubs is a great way to bring people together.

 

Looking for Group | Keith Kline – Program Manager 

Q. Can you share some of your background with the readers?

A. I started at Microsoft in 2000 right after I graduated from Penn State with a degree in Computer Engineering. I’ve been on the Xbox Live team for almost 10 years now, currently on the multiplayer team. My Gamertag is Kramer, which I’ve been using since the original Xbox Live beta launched. I play a lot of different game genres varying from FPS, sports, platformers and puzzle games. If it’s on Xbox Live, I’ll probably try it. One of my favorite gaming moments happened a few years ago, when I was crowned the Super Bowl champion of a Madden tournament among the Xbox Live team (32 team members played through an entire NFL season and playoffs).

Q. Can you explain what LFG is?

A. Looking for Group, also known as LFG, helps you quickly find other players that you want to game with. It’s essentially like posting a gaming “want-ad” to the Xbox community. Whether you want to Achievement hunt, play a co-op campaign for Gears of War 4, or do a daily quest, with LFG, you can set the requirements you want to get the right group together. And it works for all Xbox One games, all Backward Compatible Xbox 360 games, and a growing list of top PC games.

Q. What was your most memorable moment working on LFG?

A. I would say both the community reaction to our E3 announcement and when Preview members started to use the feature. The feedback was very positive, and seeing it used in the different ways we intended it to be used for was extremely satisfying. The stories we’ve heard from gamers who’ve had great LFG experiences are priceless.

Q. What was the most challenging aspect of helping bring LFG to Xbox Live?

A. We wanted to make sure this feature could be used for all games on Xbox Live, not just the newest and most popular games. Making it easier to group up for the latest games, while also giving gamers tools to breathe new life into their old favorites was a goal of ours. Finding that balance was difficult, but we feel the end result delivers a powerful feature on top of something most gamers are already comfortable doing.

Q. Where do you and the team see LFG going in the future?

A. Some of the things we’d like to do is acknowledge great LFG hosts, improve scheduled LFGs with more options, and give hosts access to more data when vetting applicants. But the highest priority improvements will be the ones the gamers ask for, so keep the feedback coming. The community has been great about providing feedback while LFG has been in Preview, and we’ll continue to listen and evolve LFG once it’s available broadly.

Q. Does LFG look different from what the team originally envisioned for the feature?

A. I think if you look back at the goals we had in mind when deciding to build this feature, the team did a great job of executing on that vision. Like most healthy teams, compromises and tough cuts had to be made. But I think for the most part, the final result is something the whole team is proud of and is really giving gamers a great way to find people to play with. Of course, we are not planning on stopping here, so we will continue to add features to LFG.

Q. Any tips for gamers using LFG for the first time?

A. If you are new to using LFG, I would suggest searching for an LFG to apply for rather than hosting your own. Go to the Game Hub of the game you want to play, and find an LFG that matches what you want to do. Get a feel for your experience when joining someone else’s LFG, and then use that to decide how you might want to control your own experience.