Microsoft’s new Xbox Home UI feels like a giant Game Pass ad

Microsoft started testing a new Xbox Home UI last month that will arrive in 2023. I’ve managed to try an early version of the Home UI this week, and while there are some much-needed improvements, the home section of the Xbox dashboard is starting to feel like one giant Xbox Game Pass ad.

The main interface now replaces the larger tile for the most recent app or game, with six tiles that are now all the same size across the top row. These are the latest apps or games, and I’m glad to see that Microsoft has removed apps like Settings and the Microsoft Store from appearing in this recent list given you can easily access both from the new Xbox Home UI.

While most Xbox users have been asking for a less cluttered UI on the home screen, this aging tiled interface does nothing to show off the dynamic backgrounds and wallpapers available on the console. Thankfully, the main section now has only two tiles reserved for ads instead of three, but once you scroll down you’ll notice this home screen is one giant promotion for Xbox Game Pass.

In the area below the main home screen, there’s a section for recently added games to Xbox Game Pass. This alone feels like a good addition for Game Pass users, but scrolling further down and it’s clear that every section is simply an extension of Game Pass or the Microsoft Store to encourage you to download or buy games.

I think this is fine as a default for new Xbox users, but the biggest issue is you can’t customize this interface anymore. On the current Xbox dashboard it’s easy to hit a button or dig into the settings and re-arrange sections, remove them altogether, and prioritize your own pinned apps. This new Xbox Home UI is still in early testing, so I assume this will return but right now it feels like a giant ad without that customization.

I’m hopeful that Microsoft has many more changes planned. While the Xbox maker has redesigned the Xbox dashboard plenty of times over the past decade, it has mostly matured to the point where the Xbox Guide is fully functional and most fans have been asking for improvements to the home screen and Xbox DVR instead. Microsoft has also been adding plenty of features to its Xbox dashboard over the past year, with some impressive additions like Discord integration, a night mode, and even a 4K dashboard.

I’d like to see Microsoft go much further on the Xbox Home screen and offer up the type of customization and simplicity we see elsewhere. There are plenty of Xbox fans that have mocked up potential home screen interfaces over the years, and many show a clear desire for a home screen that puts more focus on your own pinned apps or games and the background wallpaper.

Microsoft isn’t planning to roll this new Xbox Home UI out until 2023, so there are many months ahead of testing and I’m sure plenty of tweaks and changes, too. Hopefully Microsoft listens to the community’s desire for a different type of home screen here, but with Xbox trying to unify this UI across Xbox Cloud Gaming, TVs, and Xbox consoles, it’s a far more difficult challenge than throwing together a mockup in Photoshop.