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Kinect Dashboard: The beginning of the end?

Opinion: Tom Pakinkis feels like he's losing his 360

Is it wrong to let a Dashboard worry me? Should I really let a superficial, skin-deep tweak play on my mind?

I've always been an over thinker, maybe it's just me, but my beloved Xbox has changed.

Why have, bright, solid, green and yellow ribbons replaced the orbiting of a newly born, Planet Xbox eclipse on start-up, for example?

Where are her subtle curves? What's happened to the attention to detail and the way menus slide neatly behind each other and stretch back to the horizon?

Instead of a sleek, sexy, inviting welcome, now when I boot up my 360 I get bright but sharp-edged, straight, shallow hello. Something's up.

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I know, I know, it's still the same machine it was yesterday. Today's Dashboard update doesn't change the fact that it can still play Gears - and in a couple of weeks I'll be hitting Black Ops with the rest of the world - but don't tell me it's just a backend. It's not.

It's the first thing I see when I boot up my console and it sets my gaming mood. Ok, up until now it was probably a subconscious thing, but you know what they say about not knowing what you've got 'til it's gone.

I'm not saying Microsoft has paved paradise exactly, but the Dashboard re-design has bigger implications than you might realise.

A console's boot-up menu is its shop floor, its front garden. That green gallery is the hotel reception of the 360. It reflects a brand; it's symbolic of the experience you can expect as an Xbox owner.

It's the same for the other two consoles. I can remember touching my PS3 to life for the first time and being intrigued by the operatic swell, the wave of light, flowing like a ribbon across the screen and a sophisticated, logo-less "Sony Computer Entertainment" fading in on the right of the screen.

I thought I was being lead into some sort of Hollywood movie but no, that's just the entrance to the XMB.

At first it struck me as odd but the more I thought about it the more sense it made. The PS3 is pitched at that slightly older section of gamers as more than a video games console. It wants to make the leap from the kids' bedroom to the living room as multimedia hub.

The PS3 XMB backdrop, with its standard jet black set-up, looks more like a Jaguar advert than a gaming portal.

The Wii dash is the exact opposite; pristine, solid white surfaces, baby blue trim, a nice big round button for mail. Every option is spread out in front of you across a wall of mini-screens for simplicity.

You don't need me to tell you that the Wii is going for a different type of gamer to the PS3 but look how the Dashboard reflects it. It's clean, friendly and Gran doesn't have to worry herself with tricky sub-menus.

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The Xbox 360 has always sat in between the PS3 and the Wii. Of course, as a hardcore console its snuggled right up against the PS3, but where Sony's console might play more Blu-rays in some households than it does games, the 360, by and large, stays with the gamer.

It's one for the FPS lover, the racing nut, the football fanatic. The 360 is about the lads and lasses who gather round to compete. Sweeping generalisation? Maybe, but the 360 Dash of old pitched itself at gamers.

It was shiny and slick but it didn't take itself quite so seriously as the PS3. It was sophisticated but grounded in fun.

Of course, back when the dashboard I'm currently sticking up for was first unleashed, I did do a mini-sick in my mouth when I saw what were essentially Miis jumping about my screen.

I got over that, but this latest update seems like phase two of the move towards Wiiville. It's just too stark and simple.

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