Microsoft debuted the SmartGlass app for Xbox 360 as a way to dip its toes into the world of second-screen and companion-app gaming. As it turns out, the company isn’t just launching a new Xbox One console this November, it’s also changing Xbox One SmartGlass to be an all-new app designed specifically for the next-gen system. That updated SmartGlass app, which enables up to 16 devices to connect to a single Xbox One, will support matchmaking as well as several other new features.
Xbox Live General Manager Ron Pessner today revealed that the downloadable companion app is getting a complete reboot for Xbox One, to the point that it’s an entirely separate download from the Xbox 360 version. There are several reasons for this, perhaps none more important than Microsoft’s revelation that it plans to support the Xbox 360 for three more years, thus requiring an app that works seamlessly with that system. But just as important, says Pessner, is that changing Xbox One SmartGlass was an outright necessity, because the Xbox One was designed with SmartGlass in mind.
“Xbox One was designed from the ground up with SmartGlass in mind, and an immediately noticeable difference with Xbox One SmartGlass compared to Xbox 360 SmartGlass is the connection speed and performance,” said Pessner. “…SmartGlass is about three-and-a-half times faster on Xbox One than its Xbox 360 predecessor.”
So what will SmartGlass actually do with that newfound speed? Enable matchmaking for multiplayer games, as well as multi-user inputs, among other things. “[G]amers can use SmartGlass for matchmaking on Xbox One,” said Pessner. “If you’re in the middle of game on your console, you can begin matchmaking for a multiplayer session through SmartGlass and you won’t interrupt your action on the big screen.”
While that’s a nice touch for multiplayer games like Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4, what about Xbox One owners who have multiple people in the same room? You probably think as fondly about all those Halo LAN parties as we do. Well, those parties had 16 people — a seemingly magical number when Microsoft was changing Xbox One SmartGlass as well.
“You can now have up to 16 SmartGlass devices working with an Xbox One so there are more people connecting to a game experience—that’s four times as many as Xbox 360,” Pessner said. “An interesting implementation of this would be playing poker with friends or maybe an MMORPG where there can be lots of hands in the pot.”
Other new features of the Xbox One version of SmartGlass include using a mobile device as a controller if the game warrants it, using the mobile device as an extension of the Xbox One Dashboard when you’re away from the console itself, change channels on your set-top box, and even control the volume of your television.
With Microsoft going to such great lengths in changing Xbox One SmartGlass, there’s surely more to the company’s Nokia acquisition than a simple Windows Phone play. We’ve already asked an analyst for feedback in that regard, and we’ll publish the interview shortly. Until then, let us know in the comments what you think of Microsoft changing Xbox One SmartGlass to add this functionality. Is it enough to inspire you to download the free app when the console launches Nov. 22?