Microsoft announced that they would change the Xbox One Preview Program to the Xbox Insider Program a couple months ago in an attempt to make it closer to the Insider programs that run on the other branches of Windows 10, and the switch finally happened earlier today. This doesn’t mean the Xbox Insider Program is exactly like the regular Windows Insider Program, though. In fact, one could argue that the way it’s being handled is a hybrid between the old Xbox Preview Program and the regular Windows Insider Program.
The main way this manifests is in how rings are handled. On Windows 10 (both PC and mobile) users have access to a couple different rings. There’s production for non-insider builds, release preview for testing basic patches, and then both slow and fast rings for regular new builds to test. All of these rings are completely open, and anybody can join in as long as they have a Microsoft account. The old Xbox Preview Program was a different world entirely – you had two options: Preview builds or production builds, and access to the Preview Program was invite only. Users who contributed feedback were usually the first to get invites, and they would then proceed to invite some of their friends.
The Xbox Insider Program is a move to the center of the spectrum. There are four rings for testing: Alpha, Beta, ring 3, and ring 4. Alpha users get cutting edge updates, usually at least two or three times each week. Beta is similar, although they’ll usually receive a maximum of two builds each week. Both of those rings are far faster than even the fast ring for the PC Windows Insider Program, although both ring 3 and ring 4 are more traditional, with ring 3 acting as a fast ring equivalent (2-3 updates per month) and ring 4 acting like the slow ring (a single update per month).
This sounds similar to the regular Windows Insider Program, but then the biggest difference of all comes into play: you’ll need to regularly submit feedback to access any ring other than 4. In Microsoft’s own words, the other rings open up to “the most active Xbox Insiders”. Microsoft lists a couple suggestions for activity, which include completing quests, surveys, polls, and ratings in the Xbox Insider Hub, as well as reporting bugs and submitting feedback. You’ll also be able to participate in game and app betas from the Hub to count for activity, but the final suggestion is the easiest of them all: simply using your Xbox One regularly.
While we don’t know exactly what content will go into the Alpha and Beta rings, it’s easy to assume that Microsoft will be making the biggest changes – and needing the most feedback from dedicated Xbox users – in them.
What do you think of the Xbox Insider Program? Do you think more rings should be open to more people, or do you think the Xbox team’s plans for quality over quantity will work out in the end? Let us know in the comments below!