What’s in store for Xbox and what, in this journalist’s humble opinion, needs to be done to ensure that they stay on top of the hardcore heap?
Rumors already abound about the rumored successor to the Xbox, dubbed by the net Xbox 720. While I somehow doubt that’s what they will call it there has been rumblings about the name the Loop, though that’s all just heresay right now. Many sites report that the console will be smaller and even cheaper then the current 360, which is extremely unusual for an electronics release to say the least. In addition several sites think that there will be a suprise annoucement made about the Loop or 720 at the CES show in January. Personally I think that’s a bit of a stretch seeing as that would blow an announcement that would rock the hinges off E3 2012 and easily lead to them “winning” the show in the minds of gamers. Usually when a new console is shown at an E3 it does tend to garner much more anticipation. Some sort of cloud functionality will also be reportedly added to 720 though what that entails is shady at best. A feature promised by Microsoft for it’s current system is cloud saving, the ability to save your games or profile on Microsoft’s server. Further confirming the rumors about a 2012 launch date for the system is the fact that several developers are supposed to have their hands on PC’s fitted to the 720’s specs so they can began development.
All these rumors point to one thing though, the follow up to the successful 360 is on it’s way sooner rather then later. Further speculation on the features of the console I’ll leave out of this article, but I’d like to share a few things I think the new console needs to be successful. PlayStation 3 is right on the 360’s heels right now lagging only by a million or so purchases. In order to continue winning the hardcore gamers hearts and keeping Sony from capturing marketshare they need to do a few things just a little better.
First of all the console needs to be essentially bulletproof. Microsoft cannot afford to slip up with a device that has such a catastrophic failure rate as the original versions of 360. All signs would point to the fact that Microsoft has learned their lesson, as the current versions of the console are much higher quality, but time will tell. If they did come out of the gate with a system that had high or even moderately high fail rates it would tell people to steer clear of the next generation console due to reservations from the last generation.
Secondly, Microsoft has to stop relying on third party games to sell it’s system. When the Xbox 360 first came out it had a slew of exclusive titles that would excite any gamer. The problem is outside of Forza, Gears of War, Halo and Fable not many of them were actually owned by Microsoft. In fact Gears of War itself is actually owned by Epic so if they choose they could go to other consoles with the series. In the past they relied on third party exclusives like Mass Effect, but the game industry is changing. Exclusives outside of third party are going the way of the dodo and so each console to stand out NEEDS to put out games that they own the ip to. This is the place where currently Sony beats Microsoft.
By leveraging buying power and establishing several strong name brands Sony has the strongest exclusive lineup out there, mostly because they own them all. It is true that the PlayStation brand has a longer past to draw characters and series from but that just means Microsoft needs to work all the harder. Really they need to bring back titles they already had established, ones I myself miss. Brute Force, while flawed, was fun and nowadays would be a killer addition with four player online co-op. Crimson Skies was one of the best online titles I’ve ever played and had a fun single player campaign to boot. Why series like these that Microsoft owns aren’t already out on the 360 is beyond me. Perhaps they are saving them for their next console?
Third they need to either add additional value to their online package or drop the price to a wallet relieving free. Though personally I have no problem paying 5 dollars a month or so for a fantastic online service with cross chat and many other features competitors lack, being free is one major selling point for PlayStation. Honestly though, I don’t see even PSN lasting as free come next generation because in order to truly compete with Xbox Live they need those fees to update and maintain servers and bring those qualities. Still adding more value, such as their upcoming tv to the Xbox Live Gold package would do a lot to silence naysayers either way.
Fourth and what may be most important, don’t pull a Nintendo. While the Kinect is great and I’m glad they are supporting it, especially lately, it seems as if they are beginning to abandon their core crowd the same way Nintendo had. I understand the need to push for casual gamers and the vast amount of gaming dollars that they represent, but with the last E3 many, including myself, saw a lot more Kinect casual shovelware then we were entirely comfortable with. Again I think the Kinect has merit, I greatly enjoyed Gunstringer, but with no buttons to support it hardcore games are difficult to make for the system to say the least. Microsoft needs to be careful not forget the gamers that got them here in the first place. This may be another reason to expect 720 though, perhaps they are holding on to game annoucements for their follow up system?
Overall I’m just excited to see a new console and I hope that Microsoft makes the Xbox 720, or whatever it will be called, a fierce competitor. How do you feel? Is Microsoft heading in the right direction? What features do you hope the new system will have? Did we miss some super secret details that only you know? Hit us up in the comments below.