Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal has split gamers right down the middle. While some are excited by the new technologies underpinning the machine and can happily wait until E3 for the consoles game line-up, just as many are worried by the companies multi-media focus and lack of clarity on pre-owned and online functions. After being the market leader for so long, we look at what Microsoft needs to do next to keep gamers happy and onside…
Games, Games, Games
The Xbox One still has gaming as its main focus, says Microsoft. Lots of gamers disagree. The best way to change people’s minds would be to show them. It’s that simple. Their upcoming E3 conference should be all about the games; any other strategy or partner link-up can surely be announced via press-release from this point onwards. Microsoft have been criticised over recent years for giving too much time to non-game issues at E3 and cannot fall into this trap again. Phil Spencer, Xbox One’s ‘Games Man’, has stated that there are currently 15 exclusive titles in development for Xbox One – more than the company has ever had in the works for any console at one point. Show them, talk about them, let the journalists attending E3 play them. If Microsoft fail to deliver on the games front at E3 then even their most optimistic supporters will have a hard time defending them afterwards.
Kinect, Online and the Cloud. Why?
New technologies are underpinning the Xbox One in a major way. Central to that is the new Kinect camera, a frequent online connection and the cloud. While we’ve seen and heard a little about the improvements on the new Kinect, games have been left puzzled as to why it has to be connected at all times. Likewise, while the potential for being connected to the internet and using the cloud is there for all to speculate about, Microsoft need to show why gamers should care about it. The best way of doing this is by showing it all working in an exciting game, something that will get people talking and something that can’t be done anywhere else.
The Cost Of Pre-Owned
While people can debate if pre-owned is hurting the industry at large or if developers and publishers deserve a cut on second-hand sales, one thing that can’t be argued is that many games rely on used, borrowed and rented games as they simply can’t afford to buy new. While Microsoft have stated that trade-in’s and the second-hand games market will be supported on the Xbox One, their failure to elaborate (plus some horrendous PR clankers) has meant that open-season has been declared on the rumour front. Microsoft need to stop this and fast. There plans need to be outlined and explained before E3 so they (and the industry) can move past the issue. Right now, everyone is holding their breath – will it change the industry or is it going to be the same as always? While creating a system to trade and buy second-hand DLC and digital would be a welcome move, Microsoft really can’t afford to alienate so many gamers by locking out pre-owned completely. Sony’s silence on this matter is just as intriguing. Most developers and publishers would welcome a move to destroy pre-owned and Sony’s strategy will be informed by Microsoft’s plans.
Court the 3rd Parties
So far, Microsoft have shown what a strong relationship they have with Activision and EA in particular. Unfortunately, they decided to show off games from these companies that turned a lot of gamers off. There’s no denying how well franchises such as Call of Duty, FIFA and Madden sell but gamers would argue that they’re geared towards the casual gamer. What’s in it for the hardcore? As previously mentioned, Microsoft need to go big not only on their own exclusives but on the 3rd party titles that will get gamers excited. Giving time aside for titles such as Witcher 3, Thief, Dragon Age and *ahem* Fallout 4 (we can dream!) would go a long way to winning over the hardcore. Even better for Microsoft if they can secure some of these exclusively as the new Mirror’s Edge and Respawn’s debut game Titan are rumoured to be.
People tend to forget how big a gamer changer Xbox Live Arcade was for the indie scene (Jon Blow included). Titles such as Braid, Limbo, Trials HD and Castle Crashers shot to prominence on the platform and now the Indie scene is a vibrant and exciting one. Microsoft have fallen behind with some draconian policies regarding Indie and this needs to change going into Xbox One. While Sony have Jon Blow and Witness on its side, Microsoft need to go after Indie in a major way in attempt to blow (yes) Sony out of the water. Minecraft has been a huge success on Xbox 360 and you can guarantee Microsoft will want an next-gen version for their cloud powered Xbox One. One thing’s for sure, Microsoft can’t fall behind Steam and Sony on this front as the Indie scene is extremely well-regarded to both gamers and developers alike.
– Dave Green. Follow him on Twitter @davidpgreen83