Over the last few weeks, Josiah and Angelo have explained why they think the Playstation 4 and Wii U will come out on top of the next console generation. They made some good points for sure, but they’re wrong.
You could argue that the Wii “won” this generation, but while it may have accrued the most console sales, those sales eventually fell off a cliff. Truth be told, the Wii was just the “Wii Sports Machine” to a large number of its owners. There were a few third-party successes here and there, Carnival Games and the like, but ultimately software was not the Wiis strong suit.
As for the folks at Sony, they stumbled into this gen with a console that was priced ludicrously high and, despite its better technical specs, was notoriously hard to develop for. Pair that with setbacks like PSN getting hacked and the abysmal user experience and numerous system/game updates, they’ve still got a ways to go.
That’s enough about the competition though, let’s talk about Microsoft’s Xbox 360. It was almost seven years ago now that Microsoft made the decision to essentially kill the original Xbox. The company wanted to focus solely on the next gen, which meant the Xbox 360. Released a full year before its competitors the 360 was immediately snapped up by gamers eager for something new. It’s had a few dips here and there, but right now it’s outselling Wii and PS3 monthly and with pretty impressive sales for a console that is seven years old. So with that in mind, here’s why I think the next Xbox (it won’t be called 720, let’s be serious) will be next gen’s top dog.
5. Kinect 2.0
No matter what you think of the games that have been released for it, there’s no denying Kinect is a cool piece of tech. It’s no secret that the hardware released falls short of the vision Microsoft had when they originally revealed the hardware as Project Natal. You can bet they won’t make that mistake with the next iteration of Kinect, especially when it’s rumored to be bundled in with every console this time around. With a boost in processing power, both in the Kinect itself and the console, the possibilities are endless. All those Kinect hacks we’ve seen can become a reality, and games will finally have the accuracy and fidelity we expected from the first Kinect. With that, our living rooms will come that much closer to Minority Report.
It won’t just help games either, one of the better uses for the current Kinect hardware is menu navigation and voice control. With an all around more accurate system, there’s no reason more apps and games can’t use this, especially if everyone will have one.
4. Xbox Live Arcade
It’s fair to say Microsoft has made some fumbles when it comes to XBLA (and most definitely in regard to Xbox Live Indie Games/Community Games), but that doesn’t take away from the strides they’ve made for downloadable games on the console. Even before Minecraft sold four million, games like Castle Crashers and Trials HD were selling two million copies and beyond. There are some high profile disc-based games that struggle to sell that much. Microsoft nailed it with XBLA. By doing things like making demos standard and introducing promotions like Summer of Arcade they ensured XBLA is the top downloadable platform on consoles.
There’s plenty to improve on of course. Microsoft knows that better than anyone, so you can bet they’ll be taking everything they’ve learned on the 360 and use it to make something even better on the next Xbox. Heck, even if they kept the platform as it is now it’d still be miles better than what Sony and Nintendo will have to offer.
3. Xbox Live is a brand now
Xbox Live is no longer tied to your console, with the launch of Windows Phone 7 Microsoft turned Xbox Live into a brand. You can now use the same profile from your Xbox on the go, even to get achievements if that’s your bag. When Windows 8 launches this month Xbox Live will make the jump to PC (which will no doubt mean the end of Games for Windows Live). There’s even an official Xbox app for iOS and Android, showing that Microsoft is moving away from their old ways.
Skulls of the Shogun will launch alongside Windows 8 and have cross-platform multiplayer, allowing players to face off against friends on PC, Windows Phone and Xbox 360. It’s not too hard to imagine a next-gen scenario where this becomes more common, heck maybe there will even be Xbox-Live-enabled iOS and Android games. This could do wonders for the Xbox brand, especially since Microsoft has at least a year to sell the idea to everyone.
2. Staying connected
Why do third parties do so well on 360? Xbox Live, players are already hooked into the system–whether it’s simply because they pay for it or just because it’s better than anything else out there. It’s absolutely baffling that the Xbox 360 is the only console that allows cross-game chat, it seems like such a fundamental feature but apparently it isn’t.
Come next gen, Microsoft is starting with a solid base that’s almost 10 years old. All they can do is make it better, whereas their competition will be struggling to catch up. Playstation Plus and Day-One Digital downloads of retail games are all for naught if I can’t jump online, talk to my buddies and easily setup a multiplayer game.
1. The Call of Duty effect
Let’s take the Forzas, Gears of Wars and Halos out of the equation and talk about third parties. The Xbox 360 has been the third party platform, I’m not just talking sales here either. For the vast majority of this generation the 360 was the lead platform for most big third party games, for the simple fact that it was easier to make games for. Of course the fact that those games also sold more on 360 than other platforms was probably a factor too. Call of Duty is without a doubt the biggest third party franchise out there, and a lot of the time you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for an Xbox exclusive. It may have begun as a PC franchise but it now sits firmly as a 360 game in many gamers minds, and that will make all the difference when it comes to choosing which console to go for next gen.
You can bet Microsoft is doing everything in their power to keep the deals they already have in place, so expect timed (or complete) exclusives on new Call of Duty maps, Elder Scrolls VI DLC and lots more. Third party publishers have seen how strong the Xbox brand has become and they’ll want to stick with it, which will no doubt lead to a strong launch line-up and a ton of support in the future.