Microsoft next week will offer a slew of new system updates for its Xbox 360 console and its Xbox Live online gaming service, the company said Friday.
The downloadable enhancements -- most of which will show up in the console's on-screen control dashboard--include access to Xbox Originals -- a service through which Xbox Live users can buy classic titles like Crash Bandicoot, Crimson Skies and the original Halo.
An updated version of the 'Friends Playing Now' feature is designed to help users locate buddies available for online play and is no longer limited to Xbox Live Arcade games, Microsoft said.
Social networking enhancements for Xbox Live include an updated 'Friends List' tool that lets players see lists compiled by other players, in addition to their own. Also, online players can now post expanded bio information that can be made available to friends or to the entire Xbox Live network.
Users of Windows Live -- an umbrella of Web-based services offered by Microsoft -- will now be able to use their current Windows Live IDs in the Xbox Live environment, even if they originally signed up with a different ID.
Additionally, new parental controls allow parents to set limits on the amount of time their children can spend playing Xbox games during a given period.
In updating its Xbox console and online gaming environment, Microsoft is looking to fend off competition from Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii platforms. On Thursday, Microsoft said it sold 310,000 Xbox 360 consoles during the Thanksgiving shopping week, trailing Nintendo but outselling Sony.
The Xbox 360 and Xbox Live updates are set to be available starting December 4, according to Microsoft.