Xbox Live, the undisputed jewel in Microsoft’s online gaming crown, is getting a lot more personal. At its E3 press conference in Los Angeles on Monday, the company announced Clubs, a new feature that’ll allow players to form close-knit online groups of like-minded folks.
Clubs are Microsoft’s attempt at making Xbox Live more attractive and palatable for gamers otherwise intimidated by its broader, 46 million-strong community. Club membership can be tweaked on a granular level — Club managers have the ability to allow anyone to join, require invites, or even exclude uninvited members entirely — and club members can set profanity filters, age restrictions, and even boot members who don’t play nicely with others.
“If you went in and befouled the club or somebody’s house, [you would expect] that there would be some personal consequence to it,” she told the Wall Street Journal. Clubs, she said, will ideally be “the bar or the house that you would return to the next day.”
The aim is to create welcoming micro-communities bound by common interests, professions, and gaming habits, said Microsoft’s Engineering Lead for Clubs Ashley Speicher. Everyone from “Porsche fans who play racing games” to “office colleagues looking to bond after work” can create clubs. That’s not to say all Clubs will engender the same spirit of generosity — “Will you have close-minded clubs? Yes,” Xbox chief Phil Spencer told the Wall Street Journal — but Microsoft points out that all Xbox Live members agree to abide by its Code of Conduct, which prohibits hate speech and other forms of bullying. And Xbox Live has tools in place to report abusive behavior to Microsoft community moderators, Spencer said.
Clubs will encourage socialization — they’ll let members chat persistently across Xbox One apps, for one. And they won’t be bound to Microsoft’s ecosystem of gaming hardware — the company will soon debut an app for iOS and Android that’ll let you manage Club settings and chat with members on the go. “We want to be on any device that a gamer has,” Microsoft’s Director of Program Management at Xbox Mike Ybarra told The Verge, “whether that’s a competing platform or our platform.”
In addition to Clubs, Microsoft’s introducing a new feature, Looking for Groups, that will allow Xbox Live members to find in-the-moment companions. If you’re having trouble completing a raid in Destiny or need team members for a quick Battlefield match, for instance, you’ll be able to post a call-out to the respective games’ hub pages for all to see.
Both Clubs and Looking for Groups will launch as part of the Xbox One’s October update.