I’ve been a die-hard Xbox gamer since about 2002. I didn’t get the console in its first year because I was afraid of the Dreamcast effect where an existing player would change market directions, cause a big stir, and proceed to fail miserably. However, with my first round of Halo: Combat Evolved, I was hooked.
I am a Nintendo and Sony gamer as well, though the Xbox 360 sings to me in ways neither the Wii U nor the PlayStation 3 can. I love my Mario and Zelda and LittleBigPlanet, but the Xbox has always been closest to my heart in the home console world.
So with that said, I’m probably most excited about tomorrow’s reveal than I was about either Nintendo’s Wii U unveiling or Sony’s PlayStation 4 three months ago (to the day, coincidentally). Rather than give you my predictions for the console – you can find those on Episode 28 of the 8 Bit Awesome podcast – I thought it might be more fun to go toe-to-toe with Brent and his lessons for Microsoft’s next foray into the console market.
Brent’s Lesson #1: Make sure the damn thing works before you launch it!!
You know, the Xbox 360 did have this whole red ring of death thing that went around like the plague, often striking when people brought home a copy of Halo 3 or Gears of War, just to spite its owner. However, I’m not sure I agree with the assumption that Microsoft doesn’t test their units. Sure, 54% of units were sold defective, but Microsoft not only had one of the most advanced consoles on the market, they did it earlier than anyone else.
Fine, that’s not a reason for Microsoft to get out of the fact that they had a major issue with their consoles. However, they spent over a billion dollars in a replacement program that acknowledged and fixed the issue. I don’t know what the percentage of red ring units are still out there, but I haven’t heard a single issue in the last five years about it.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Xbox 360 had the most advanced operating system, wealth of features, and most sophisticated online structure of any console. It may even be fair to say that the 360’s initial software is still ahead of Sony’s PlayStation 3 user interface and the Wii U’s menu screens.
Brent’s Lesson #2: You can’t sell a console on Halo alone!
Yes, you can.
No, but seriously: Halo is not enough to sell a console. But that statement almost makes it sound like Microsoft doesn’t have any other titles. Like Forza. Or Gears of War. Or Fable. Or Dance Central. Or Amped.
Hey, wait. Whatever happened to Amped? They should really bring that back.
Brent’s Lesson #3: Sweeten the pot for Xbox Live Gold!
You know, when Sony announced they were going to have a subscription service for gaming, people thought that was the end of Sony’s free multiplayer offerings as the company would be facing off directly with Microsoft’s paid Xbox Live offering. When that service was announced to have nothing to do with multiplayer games and everything to do with sweet rewards and an amazing instant game collection, Sony began an amazing thing we now know as PlayStation Plus.
I can’t argue with Brent on this one. While I’m totally fine to pay for an Xbox Live Gold membership because I know how it helps Microsoft maintain networks that actually stay live (ahem, Sony), it’s hard to argue with an amazing collection of games being thrown at me by Sony.
In the last year alone, I’ve been essentially given triple-A titles like WipEout 2048, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, and Virtua Fighter 5. In the last month, Sleeping Dogs, which still retails for a penny under $50, became mine for free, as did LittleBigPlanet 2, inFAMOUS 2, and recent hit The Cave. This is all for $50 per year, when these games would have easily cost me well over $250.
Compare that to my Xbox Live Gold membership which, again, I do love, and you can’t help but see some room for improvement from Microsoft. Especially because I’ve had tenure with the service for almost a half-decade at this point. At what moment in history do you begin rewarding the people who have stuck by you the longest?
Brent’s Lesson #4: Find a better use for Kinect!
Another point I can’t argue with. Kinect is awesome. I like it more than PlayStation Move and even more than the Wii remote in a few instances. But outside of those few experiences, Kinect needs to be realized in a better way as a platform changer.
I’m upset that the technology seems to have been developed first with its applications tacked on as an afterthought. There is time for Microsoft – plenty of time – to show us just how Kinect can benefit us more than it has. Maybe the Xbox team has some time tomorrow, say around 10:00 am Pacific?
Brent’s Lesson #5: By God, FOCUS!! Xbox is a gaming brand!!
This used to be what I’d cry out every time Microsoft spent entirely too long touting entertainment and video features of its console at E3. Recently, however, a gear has been turning in my head that makes me think Microsoft really has the ability to turn the entertainment world on its head. They have a solid strategy for getting into the living room (or at least the gaming room), and they’re doing it with a high-definition platform that is connected to the internet and knows all about you already.
I love Xbox games. They’re (for the most part, anyway) well-built, engaging experiences that I simply don’t get on other consoles in the same way I do on Xbox 360. But if Microsoft could somehow make the reason to turn on my Xbox more compelling than to just play Halo or tune into Netflix, I think they have a real shot at turning the television world on their head. And it’ll be an amazing thing if they can pull it off.
Non-gaming experiences, in fact, are what I’m most excited about from tomorrow’s event. But don’t pull back on Halo, if that’s what you’re planning, Microsoft.
For those interested, Brent and I have a wonderful editor-journalist relationship. He’s an amazing writer, and understands wholly that the comments I’ve made above, while honest, are written in a way such to spark a discussion about what will happen and who seems to be right. Stand up for your own opinion in the comments and on Twitter and Facebook!