After many years, it seems as if the seventh console generation is finally coming to a proper end; all the cards have nearly been played. Nintendo began things with the Wii U last year, while Sony ushered in the PlayStation 4 name with their press conference earlier this year. Then again, being last to reveal comes with a few advantages. For one, they can’t make the same mistakes that Nintendo made with its post-launch lineup. They also can’t possibly make the same mistake Sony made in their press conference, as Major Nelson famously had a dig at the company’s missing console by tweeting, “Announce a console without actually showing a console? That’s one approach!”
Microsoft’s plans are currently a mystery at the time of writing, but if we were to ask the company for what we would like to see, what would we say? What lessons could they learn not only from their competition, but also their past experience?
It’s All In A Name
Let’s just recap on Microsoft’s console history for a moment. We’ve had the Xbox, which when announced sounded new and refreshing. We currently have the Xbox 360, which sounded like an evolution of the Xbox concept. These names vaguely make sense. The names that are largely being called by journalists everywhere are either “Durango” – the project’s current codename, or “Xbox 720″ – which is a stupid name unless it is 100% dedicated to extreme sports games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. The main philosophy behind the naming of the Xbox 360 that has been shown over the years is that it is a “revolution”. To name it “Xbox 720″ would mean that it is a double revolution, which sounds completely ridiculous. Another name I’ve seen is “Xbox Infinity” (using the ∞ sign), which also sounds silly as it leaves them no room for the next-next-gen.
Whatever the name though, it needs to reflect the console well and the past names for products, including Kinect, have certainly done this well. We can all agree that PlayStation 4 for Sony was a predictable choice for the most part, while the Wii U doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue quite as well as Nintendo would like, so the name of the Next Xbox is vitally important to understanding just what it is they are planning. Certainly not a deal breaker if it is called “Xbox 720″, but one could never take it too seriously.
Make Sure It Works
During the Xbox 360 reveal, Robbie Bach – the then President of Entertainment & Devices Division at Microsoft, went to turn on the Xbox 360 for the first time in public. The unit in question didn’t play ball and didn’t work. Thankfully they had a backup unit on standby, but it set a precedent for things to come. Given that the Xbox 360’s launch was plagued by the now infamous “Red Ring of Death” (RRoD), this was small death knell for claims of reliability. I still know people to this day who experience the RRoD.
Build quality has been lacking in the past few generations, mainly because of the fact that each generation introduces more complex technology which is naturally more prone to breaking. We want reassurance that the next Xbox is a more robust machine that won’t break as soon as a tiny feather lands on top of the box.
Must Be Obviously Competitive With PlayStation 4
The technical stats for the PlayStation 4 were, to the untrained eye, a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo with encouragement of sharing your gameplay with others [Ed - but extremely promising to those who understood it]. We certainly appreciate the transparency with regards to the stats, but we need a demonstration as to what that all means.
Maybe Microsoft should demonstrate this by having a game that is capable of running on Xbox 360 as well as the next Xbox, showing them both off side by side with in-game footage that doesn’t turn out to be just pre-rendered garbage. Plenty of games will be developed for both consoles by third parties, including the likes of Watch Dogs. In order to attract us to the next generation, we need to see the advantages compared to the current generation. They get but one shot at this before launch, so we hope they take the plunge.
First Impressions Are Important
If there is one thing we pretty much agreed on with the PlayStation 4 reveal, Knack probably wasn’t the game that Sony should have opened with to show off the graphical fidelity of the new console. Looking at the numbers and the revelation of the X86 architecture for the PS4 was nice, but unless we’re wowed in the first few minutes that looks cool.
Of course, the easy way out would be to just stick on Call of Duty: Ghosts or Halo 5 and eat cake while the demo reel playing, but we’d rather see something exciting and new – like Halo was before the Xbox came out. A new IP by an established Microsoft owned/partnered developer would fit the bill quite nicely.
Also, revealing the console and how it works would be nice. There’s a rumour that Blu-ray discs will only be used to install the games. If that is the case, make sure you don’t fully negate the pre-owned market as a result, since Sony has stated that they would not do so. If you’re looking to go make more of the Games on Demand feature, it needs to be priced competitively or it will not be attractive enough. Either way, first impressions rely on a number of things: console cosmetics, in-game looks, and the list of features. Make it attractive.
Make Xbox Live Gold Membership Worth The Subscription
Personally, this is my biggest bug-bear with Microsoft. In recent years, Microsoft’s Xbox Live has not been worth the money. All you get is the ability to go online, chat to your friends, the ability to watch stuff you could watch for free elsewhere, and maybe some money off certain titles. You are also bombarded with adverts for stuff you probably never want. What do Sony offer with PlayStation Plus? Free games – and big name titles at that.
Xbox Live is currently not value for money. We would love to be able to game for free online and pay the subscription to get free games – exactly what we can currently get on PlayStation 3. Even Nintendo have wised up and made online gaming free on the Wii U. For a company who prides on innovation, it’s baffling to see Xbox Live be behind the times so drastically.
What we are currently seeing now is what the standard Xbox experience should be, without a subscription. Being able to game online, chat to friends using Xbox Live Party chat, and even watch TV based apps shouldn’t be something we need to pay for as gamers of next-gen consoles. we’d rather see a world where adverts and product placement in consoles is obliterated, but that is a pipe dream for a Microsoft console which I am assuming will never happen. If they do get rid of the adverts completely, they’ll certainly be thinking of customer convenience as opposed to corporate greed, which is a step in the right direction.
Then of course there’s the highly unpopular “always-on” requirement that has been rumoured. Microsoft: Don’t do it. Simple.
Let Rare Do Something Other Than Focus On Kinect
How the mighty have fallen eh? From the hey-day of being the studio that brought us such classics as Donkey Kong Country and Banjo Kazooie on the Nintendo 64, their move to Microsoft has brought only a few good titles. Perfect Dark Zero was an unfortunate setback for the Xbox 360 launch, but we’ve seen how Viva Piñata as a franchise retains the family friendly style that Rare are known for, while also giving decent gameplay.
We’d love to see Rare be a big part of the next Xbox launch, but not with Kinect. Sure Kinect Sports probably sells well, but it’s far from what we expect to see from the studio. Killer Instinct is a bit of a no-brainer, since the franchise has laid dormant for decades with repeated teases from the UK-based developer, but we’d also love to see them take on something new. They’ve tackled various genres in the past, but they’ve never developed any RPGs before.
Also Let Lionhead Studios Develop Something New
Face it, Fable has been milked dry, with recent games in the series deviating so far from what made it unique. Fable: The Journey was not exactly the best thing to come out of the mind of Peter Molyneux, and Fable Heroes was somehow worse than its Kinect counterpart.
Since the departure of its creative mind, Lionhead Studios has been in limbo. No development of new games, not even an announcement. Two things spring to mind here. The first is that they’ve been shut down, which seems unlikely, but the second is that they’re up to something involving the next Xbox. A new game perhaps? We sure hope so!
Only Feature Third Parties If They Have Something Worth Saying
Sony probably should have vetted Square Enix’s micro-speech before they went on stage. All they did was show a trailer we saw last year, then cruelly tease a new Final Fantasy announcement at E3. They weren’t the only guilty ones as Capcom only demonstrated a new game engine running on the console, but then again, Jonathan Blow’s The Witness not only had a nice balance of a game reveal and footage, but showed that Sony cared about the indie developers that they work with.
Not to say that Microsoft wouldn’t do the same if they had the right encouragement, but that’s besides the point. They really need to make sure that nobody wastes stage time. Activision have already set the stage by announcing first gameplay footage of Call of Duty: Ghosts will be shown at the press conference, which is a good start. Hopefully the likes of Square Enix will only be allowed on stage if they show something new!
That is of course what we’d like to see from Microsoft, but what about you? What would you like to see in the Xbox reveal? As for the conference, we will be bringing you all the juicy details from 18:00 BST (10:00am PST).