On May 21st at 9AM Pacific, Microsoft plans on revealing the next-generation Xbox console to replace the Xbox 360 as Microsoft’s flagship console. Xbox 720, Xbox Fusion, Xbox Infinity, or whatever it winds up being called, will be Microsoft’s first steps into the eighth generation. I already have a Wii U, and I plan on buying a PS4, but have my reservations about picking up the next Xbox due to blunders this generation such as the Red Rings of Death. But I can be won over. And here’s how.
The list is numbered five to one, but there’s no real particular order here.
5. Pricing is everything
As Sony found out this gen, pushing a console out of the gate with the outrageous price tag of 599 US dollars is absurd. The PS3 finally did gain traction, but with the hyper-competitive gaming industry, such a bonehead move moving into the eighth generation could be a death wish. $499, I feel, is the sweet spot for not only the 720, but the PS4 as well, so that they can offer their high-end visuals and new technologies at a price that won’t completely break the bank. Plus, they can also say, “Hey, it’s cheaper than the PS3 was back in the day!” With Blu-Ray technology being cheaper than ever before (and with the 720 reportedly using Blu-Ray), competitively pricing their console is the key to Microsoft’s success with their next-gen system.
4. Rare is the key
Rareware is one of the most talented developers in Microsoft’s surprisingly small roster of development team. Rare made its fame on Nintendo consoles with the highly influential and successful titles it released on Nintendo 64. When Microsoft purchased Rare to work on the Xbox, it seemed like a brilliant move, but Rare has failed to meet the same success with the big M. I wrote a top 10 list featuring numerous Microsoft properties, but for the sake of this editorial, I’m going to bring them up again.
A traditional Banjo-Kazooie platforming game will win over the hardcore gaming crowd, plus I’d love to see Rare breathe new life into Perfect Dark or even the hugely underrated Kameo. My dream project for Rare to work on is a sequel to Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and maybe, just maybe, one of those “big surprises” Microsoft has planned for Tuesday is a sequel to that beloved N64 classic.
3. Always-on – NO!
One of the most ridiculous ideas I’ve heard about the next Xbox is that it will require players to be constantly connected to the Internet just to function, even for content that normally wouldn’t require an Internet connection to work. These rumors came to a head when a Microsoft employee took to Twitter with his ramblings about vacuums in favor of always-on that caused such an outcry with fans the fellow wound up losing his job over the matter. Hopefully Microsoft heard the message loud and clear and, if they ever had plans for always-online, they ditched them.
2. Traditional controllers
A new rumor I read about the next-gen Xbox is that it will feature new “flat” controllers. I’m not sure what this means. When I imagine a flat controller, I imagine a weird tablet or something with buttons on it. But with Sony and Nintendo making more gimmicky controllers, Microsoft should stick to their guns with their hugely well-received Xbox 360 controllers.
Yes, it’s neat what Nintendo is doing with the two screens, and Sony’s PS4 controller will probably do interesting things, but at the end of the day, Microsoft’s controller design this gen has proved to be hugely successful. The simple design has provided the perfect gaming tool for playing the most popular this gen, like FPS games, while also providing well-designed controllers for pretty much other genre out there. The only real problem with the Xbox 360 controller is the d-pad, and that should be what Microsoft announces as the big change for its next-gen controllers. A better d-pad. Make a giant banner for it and drape it across the convention center during E3 week. It will make waves in the industry. Plus, having more durable controllers wouldn’t hurt either.
1. You CAN take it with you
Sony’s reveal of the PS4 was met with mostly positive reception. But one of the biggest complaints from people was the lack of backwards-compatibility, and the inability of the PS4 to access content that you already have on PS3. This was a huge bummer for gamers everywhere that have amassed huge collections of PSOne Classics and PSN games. Sure, the PS4 is planned to provide streaming services that will allow players to access these games, but who knows when that will be available.
One way Microsoft can really pull one over on Sony is to promise players access to their digital libraries that they amassed on Xbox 360. One of the biggest concerns as we move forward into a medium that is becoming more digital by the day is losing the digital collection of games. This is Microsoft’s chance to win over the naysayers of digital distribution, and also provide a big selling point when it comes down to people deciding between Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s 720.
Or, you know, whatever it winds up being called.