News Article

Feature: Unveiling 720 - What Microsoft Needs to Do

Posted by Ken Barnes

Some hints for the big show.

After Sony’s unveiling of the PlayStation 4, it’s clear to see that many people were left with a lot of questions. Too many, some would say. How does that controller work? Will the machine definitely play used games? When will Gaikai’s backward compatibility measures come into play? How much will the console cost? When can I reasonably expect to get my hands on the machine? Will I have to pay to access the PlayStation Network in the next generation?

And on it goes.

We think that after Sony fired their opening salvo, there are a number of things that Microsoft can take from the Japanese electronics giant’s presentation in order to ensure a successful showing of the next generation Xbox – something which will apparently happen in April. Here are just a few of them…

Get to the games, and make them good!
We don’t need to look very far in order to see that games make or break a console. The Wii U is a great machine, but with a distinct lack of high-quality software being made available for it, it’s floundering. Go back through time, and you’ll see the same issue repeat itself time and again. (RIP, Dreamcast.)

Sony’s conference was – for the greater part – a humdrum of executive speak and nonsense, up until Mark Cerny took to the stage to show off the first game for the machine – the somewhat lacklustre looking Knack. That was some 20+ minutes in, and a lot of people had already fallen asleep by then. Knack may well turn out to be a stellar game, but it isn’t the sort of title that you want to show first when you’re trying to get gamers excited about your new machine.

Microsoft needs to attack the audience from the get-go, with footage from games we can expect to play on the machine from day one. Big franchises, multiplatform titles, and console-exclusive releases – we want them all! Not making mountains out of molehills would be a great idea too, as we don’t need a repeat of the “Oh my! World of Warcraft is coming to consoles? Oh no, wait…it’s just Diablo III” debacle that took place at Sony’s show. Avoiding abstract displays such as the one involving Media Molecule would be a good idea, and we’ll probably fall out of our seats with amazement if they drop the heavily-rumoured PGR5 on us. That franchise sold us our Xbox 360s, and it can sell us the next version, too.

Get the Pacing Right
Sony’s conference was packed full of flat spots. You’d get excited for a game, and then somebody would come out and use the word “experience” thirty times before ambling off stage again.

If Microsoft can hit the ground running with a big title, and then keep the pace up by showing us hardware, functionality, and more games, all the while weaving bits of information in as and when needed, and then close things off with an absolute boomer of a title that nobody expected – they’ll take the spoils. They have to keep people interested. The fact that folks have turned up and are watching online just isn’t the final word.

Pricing
It’s highly unlikely that Microsoft will come out and say “The Xbox 720 will be out on September 28th worldwide, and will cost $399 in the US, and £379 in the UK. Games will be $60 a pop, and an extra controller will cost $60 as well” – but it would be mighty nice if they did. Again, people with responsibilities have to plan to make big purchases, and when you consider that they’ll want to be picking up a couple of games and an extra controller on day one, that £379 console could suddenly run them in the region of five or six hundred pounds. That’s a decent chunk of change, and one that will need to be planned for. Sony might come out and undercut the price, which is just one of the reasons that it’s unlikely that Microsoft will fire first, but maybe it would be worth the risk?

At least define the release date...
By defining the release date, you begin to build the hype for that day. People will be booking time off work to play, kids will know that they can put “Xbox 720” down on their Christmas list and at least have a chance of getting one, and gamers with other responsibilities can start putting the pennies to one side in preparation for that big day one purchase. Retailers can prepare their advertising and marketing (to an extent) and most importantly – people can begin to get excited.

The vague “Holiday 2013 in North America” release date that just sort of appeared on the screen at the end of Sony’s conference was a little bit tough to swallow, as we all knew that the machine would be launched this year in at least one territory. But what about Europe? What about Japan? Are we talking the retailer definition of “Holiday” (which starts in June and runs through to February) or are we talking about real people’s definition - Christmas Day and Boxing Day?

Microsoft needs to not be stingy with the details, here.

Show the Machine
When it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter what a games console looks like. We aren’t staring at it 24/7 when we’re trying to focus on the screen, and we know that it’ll probably be a black hunk of plastic with some sort of rounded edges. But that doesn’t stop us from wanting to know what our means to an end looks like, all the same. We all want our desire mechanisms to be triggered, and at this stage, there’s no excuse for not showing the hardware – be it a mockup of the final machine or otherwise.

Answer the Burning Questions
Aside from the release date and pricing, Microsoft needs to answer the burning questions – especially those that are still unanswered by Sony. Are you going to block used games? Will the price of Xbox Live go up? Is the machine backwards compatible? Does it definitely have a Blu-Ray drive? Will retail titles be downloadable on day one at a reasonable price? If just half of the gaming public’s questions are answered, it would be an improvement on previous shows.

Cut the Trash – Speak to Gamers
This is a matter of opinion – clearly - but for us, the Sony conference seemed to be aimed more towards corporations, advertisers, parents, and retailers, than the people who will be buying the machine itself on day one – early adopters on the bleeding edge of technology. Executive claptrap was spouted at every turn, and even some of the games shown were absolutely unintelligible. Were they games? Are they tech demos? In some cases, we were left wondering – and that isn’t good enough. Microsoft, if you drop the word “experience” from your presentation, you’ll go far. We bet that you won’t though, and we’re lining up the shots already so that we can play a few drinking games during your show.

Show Kinect
We know that Kinect is going to be a big part of the next generation for Xbox. Given the overly negative feeling that surrounds the device right now – just head to any forum and run a search for “Kinect” to see what we mean – this is something that has to be worked artfully into proceedings. Show us what Kinect 2.0 can and WILL do. Not what you want it to but that it can’t. Ditch the pre-recorded game demonstrations and show people using the device live. Tell us what the improvements are. In short, Microsoft has to show the naysayers that there’s a point to the device and that it can improve the gameplay experience, rather than just being a gimmicky add-on – which is something that they undoubtedly failed to do first time around.

Skip the Living Room
We know that Microsoft will want to position the next Xbox as the one device that you need in your living room. But the simple fact is that we already know that Netflix, LoveFilm, and several on-demand TV services will work with it either at launch, or shortly after. Also, Xbox Music and Xbox Movies will be there from day one. It’s just a given. For this reason, there’s very little reason for Microsoft to spend 20 minutes of their show reconfirming that all these things will be available. The bleeding edge consumers that will buy the machine the second it launches are generally not going to be the sorts of folks that don’t already have access to all the streaming media that money can buy – so we reckon they should skip it. Maybe a brief touch upon the subject just to confirm that they haven’t forgotten about it completely, but that’s all we need.

Show Us the Controller
The Xbox 360 controller is a marvellous device. It doesn’t get in the way, it has nice triggers, it doesn’t contain an expensive gyroscope that’s only used in 0.01% of the console’s game library, it’s responsive, and everything appears to be in the right place. There’s undoubtedly going to be a new revision with the new machine, so Microsoft has to show us what it’s come up with. They can show off the greatest game in the world, but some of the more sceptical gamers (and there are a lot of them) will be convinced that they’ll be controlling it using Kinect and a stick if Microsoft don’t prove otherwise.

Give us the 411
We know something’s going on with EA. We know that they didn’t show up at the Sony conference. We know that there’s some sort of exclusivity deal going on somewhere. Is it the traditional “DLC will appear on Xbox 720 first” deal, or is it something huge, such as “FIFA 14 will only be available on 720 for the first three months” or even an entirely platform-exclusive title release?
We know a few million gamers that could probably be tempted away from other machines in order to get their FIFA early - so shedding some light on this subject is a must.

If Microsoft follows our trademarkably brilliant guidelines, we’re in for a heck of a show, and we’ll be happy gamers. Of course, we want them to leave SOMETHING on the table for E3. If Microsoft has nothing new to show in June barring some new footage of some games that they announced two months before, the ball will be firmly in Sony and Nintendo’s court once again. With that said, it wouldn’t take a great deal to show off more than Sony did a few weeks ago, so we think there will be plenty to go round across two presentations.

All we know is that even if Microsoft totally ignore all we’ve said, we’re far too excited to care. April can’t come soon enough.

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User Comments (10)

Tasuki

#1

Tasuki said:

Great article, and I agree with everything. The ball is in Microsoft's court. The Wii U is out and Sony made their announcement so MS knows what not to do. I agree totally to the game library has to be good cause hardware is only as good as its software.

I only have room and funds for one "other" system and that place is for either PS4 or Xbox 720. I have heard what Sony had to offer and quite honestly I am not impressed but before I make a decision I want to hear/see what MS has to offer. Dont fail me Microsoft.

XD375

#2

XD375 said:

Dreamcast had an unbelievable amount of software for its short lifespan. I'm not understanding exactly what that part about Dreamcast actually means.

SuperKMxAdmin

#3

SuperKMx said:

@XD375 The Dreamcast had a lot of software, but a very low percentage of it was high quality.

Plus Word forgot to save my edit that included the phrase "high quality" - so I've added it again now. :)

DarkNinja9

#4

DarkNinja9 said:

i agree they really need to bring it and not be so cocky like sony or not even showing the console it self wth? but hope they show something good i rly wanna see the controller though more then anything

Gamer83

#5

Gamer83 said:

I actually think you guys haven't given Sony enough credit for its showing. As stated in the article games are most important and without a doubt the PS4 has them. Killzone and inFamous both look fantastic, Diablo was a nice addition and Watchdogs was big news as well. Then there was Bungie showing off Destiny. Considering Bungie's past ties to the Xbox brand it was huge seeing them on stage at a Sony show . Bottomline, MS has to come out swinging and the games it shows better be stuff like PGR, Halo, Alan Wake, and something from a big name third party. If it goes out there and it mixes in Kinect required crap and takes the focus of 'core' gaming, the early round goes to Sony easily.

Now even with all the rumors and speculation I still have high hopes for both systems and I know I'm going to get both eventually its just a matter of which I get first, the PS4 conference is a tough act for MS to follow but who knows maybe they'll end up blowing it out of the water. The next few months are going to be a wild ride.

SuperKMxAdmin

#6

SuperKMx said:

@Gamer83 I disagree that we (me, in fact) aren't giving Sony enough credit. Killzone and inFamous DO look fantastic. Drive Club looks ace, too. Knack was a poor choice to kick things off with - as it doesn't look a million miles away from tons of PS3 games. Diablo is a game that came out in May 2012 and won't hit PS4 until early 2014. If you wanted to play Diablo, you probably have. Destiny was revealed two weeks before the show, and is multiplatform. If Bungie had gone platform-exlclusive to PS4, then we'd have something impressive.

Microsoft have to show big titles, but they also have to show Kinect. It will be in the box at launch, so they have to show what they're going to do with it. Not everyone thinks that Kinect is "crap" - a good percentage of the 15million+ Kinect 1.0 owners would say that they're happy with what they've played, but that they want more high-quality games for it and less dross. The only people that slate Kinect week in and week out, are core gamers, as far as I see it.

There's room for everyone, and there HAS to be room for everyone. Wii won the last round SOLELY based on the fact that they had products that catered to non-core gamers - Wii Fit being the main one - as well as having the core gamers covered with Mario, Zelda, and the like. DS/3DS did the same, and obliterated - and continues to obliterate - the opposition in the dedicated handheld space.

If games are going to become a more accepted, more acceptable, and a more widely understood medium, then the "core" gamers need to accept that they aren't the only ones that can pick up a controller and play.

Gamer83

#7

Gamer83 said:

Well, to clarify the Kinect itself isn't a piece of crap, it's great when they mix it in with the controller for stuff like Ghost Recon or Mass Effect, however the majority of Kinect-focused games are not very good. It seems like for every excellent game like Dance Central, there's 10 games that are just poorly developed.

Just to touch on your last point, I wasn't trying to come off as elitist because I've always accepted since I started gaming that people like me who play very often aren't the only people who pick up the controller or use the Kinect or whatever, that said, we do spend as much money, or more, on this industry as others and I don't like that MS takes the majority of its conferences off of stuff for us gamers and makes it more about apps like ESPN and other nonsense. Then when they do show something for the 'core' it's another Halo, Gears or Forza. That has to change if MS is going to impress me. I don't mind it showing off the other stuff as long as there's an even balance and there's more exclusive content than just three franchises that while great are starting to get over used.

armoredghor

#8

armoredghor said:

If EA sports went exclusive with xbox it would workout. The gamers on xbox would probably appreciate it and it would help fill their niche

SuperKMxAdmin

#9

SuperKMx said:

@Gamer83 Oh no - I didn't think you were coming off as elitist. My response was more to the general Kinect hatred that I see around the net. Pretty much every big forum has a core of gamers who think that any topic about 720 needs to have a first response of "If they show Kinect, I'm not buying it" or somesuch nonsense. :)

SuperKMxAdmin

#10

SuperKMx said:

@armoredghor From an Xbox site editor's point of view, that would be fantastic. As a gamer in general, I'm not so sure. I don't think it would happen anyway - far too many sales of FIFA and Madden would be lost from those who would refuse to buy a 720 - unless Microsoft comes up with several hundred million for EA as a sweetener, of course. :)

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