May 21st, 2013, is the day the next-generation console wars will officially begin. Microsoft will finally unveil the successor to the wildly popular Xbox 360 and the video game industry as a whole will be changed forever. In anticipation on the upcoming #XboxReveal, I think it makes sense to gather all the rumors and discuss one final time what we all hope to see tomorrow.
- Xbox Infinity - This one makes sense in the fact that if you flip the "8" in Windows 8 you get the infinity symbol. Also, according to International Business Times, sources close to development of the console confirmed this will indeed be the name.
- Xbox Fusion - Fusible has reported that Microsoft owns a few domains that fit the Xbox Fusion moniker. This could be true because Microsoft's whole mantra is having this system become the "center of your entertainment center." A Fusion, if you will.
- Xbox Durango - Unlikely. Durango was the codename used internally.
- Xbox 720 - 360 squared.
- Xbox - Simple and elegant. Bring it back to its roots while truly bringing it forward.
The Box and Controller
Does this even matter to you? As the old saying goes, "Isn't it what's on the inside that counts?"
Even still, the box should be nice to look at. If it's going to be the "Pièce de résistance" of your living room, it has to look sleek and modern.
As for the controller, not much needs to be done. The 360 controller does its job very admirably and changing it too much could do more harm than good. You could, as with the box, make it more sleek and maybe add a button or two, but the form factor is pretty sound.
When it comes down to it, the next generation consoles will be very similar internally and what will sell them will be what differentiates them. The buzz going on around the industry is that Sony is in it for the gamers while Microsoft wants to capture it all. If they go to broad and alienate the gamers that made their systems great, it could backfire and cause some serious damage.
That being said, at the #XboxReveal we will get our first look at Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Ghosts. This franchise spreads like a wild fire. Last years entry, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, sold $1 billion in just 15 days. For comparison, Avatar reached $1 billion in ticket sales in 17 days. This brand is huge and if Microsoft can secure exclusive and/or timed content, along with some fresh and enticing titles, they may just be in business.
The entertainment and inter-connectivity of media is great, but this system needs games and let's hope they don't forget that.
One of the other main problems with Kinect was that it was optional. Why would you, as a developer/publisher, want to spend all of your time developing software for an add-on that doesn't capture your whole market? It just doesn't make good business sense and unfortunately caused Kinect to stumble.
With Kinect 2.0, the technology will most likely catch up to the potential and truly give us a sense of one-to-one feedback, as well as be included with every console. Where this technology could really shine, however, is with voice recognition. Playing Mass Effect 3 while giving commands to your squad or even just navigating Netflix works surprisingly well. If they could take this and push it further, say, to power on or off your Xbox or bypassing countless sub-menus to get to the games you want to play, it could make interacting with this system that much easier and enjoyable.
Let's say you want to check the score of your favorite team while you are in an intense death-match in Call of Duty. During rounds you could just speak aloud,
"Xbox, Turn the TV to ESPN"
Once you see what shape your team happens to be in, you can then speak once again,
"Xbox, Switch back to Call of Duty."
All seamless, all integrated. That is the power of Kinect.
Xbox Live and Achievements
Achievements are another factor that Microsoft must handle with care. We all know those people out there who must do everything possible in a game and raise their Gamerscore to astronomical heights. Be it for bragging rights, personal accomplishment, or some other reason, these achievements are very important to Xbox gamers. Whatever form the next Xbox Live ends up taking, they better make sure all of our previous achievements carry over, or they may have more than just a console war on their hands.
One other thing to consider. With Sony's acquisition of Gaikai, they established a true advantage over their competition. They acquired a company that knows about cloud gaming and sharing content, and if used correctly could truly be a game changer. You will be able to automatically share your game footage, play demos without the need to download them, and even jump into other's games to help them through a tough segment. Their have been rumors that the next Xbox has some of these features, but without an industry expert like Gaikai, it will be interesting to see what they have done on their own or with help we don't yet know about.
This stems from the fact that the used game market is hurting the industry. In turn, developers are looking for ways to combat that and ensure the maximum amount of revenue. This, however, takes it too far. The fact remains that not everyone in this world has access to broadband. It also holds true that we, as a society, are still affected by power outages. These two facts alone warrant enough consideration to ensure that this isn't a reality.
Former Xbox Creative Director Adam Orth didn't see it that way though. He took to Twitter and got himself in a lot of trouble by tweeting such sentiments as, "Sometimes the electricity goes out. I will not purchase a vacuum cleaner." Then he proceeded to post the following picture, which caused major uproar.
Luckily, An e-mail that was sent to employees working on the next Xbox seems to debunk all these negative rumors,
“Durango is designed to deliver the future of entertainment while engineered to be tolerant of today's Internet. There are a number of scenarios that our users expect to work without an Internet connection, and those should 'just work' regardless of their current connection status. Those include, but are not limited to: playing a Blu-ray disc, watching live TV, and yes playing a single player game.”
Adam Bankhurst is one of the co-hosts of The Gamer's Advocate. Send him all your thoughts or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him @adambankhurst