I'm not a betting man, but if I was, my money would be on a fall 2013 release for the next Xbox. It's hard to believe, but Xbox 360 owners have been gaming on the same piece of hardware for over seven years now. That's right, seven. As such, Microsoft's gaming box is really starting to show its age, especially when compared to the ever-evolving PC gaming market.
Last week we took a look at what we'd like to see Sony do with the PlayStation 4, so this week we're going to steer the discussion toward the competition (it's only fair) and highlight the next-gen Xbox, which I'll simply refer to as the 720 from here on out—as an aside, I really hope they don't call it that. So without further ado, let's jump right into Game Revolution's seven-item wish list for the Xbox 720.
7. Blu-ray Drive
Remember the days when multiple discs was a cool thing? The PSone RPGs that came in those extra-thick CD cases totally made it feel like you were getting more bang for your buck—which often proved to the true. However, in today's day and age, having to swap discs is viewed more as a nuisance. It is totally possible that Microsoft will go with some sort of proprietary disc format to circumvent the need to have a Blu-ray drive, but why do that when you can steal a bit of the thunder away from Sony?
It stands to reason that Microsoft would want to refrain from doing something like this simply to encourage consumers to purchase digital content through their video marketplace and make use of their numerous streaming services, but giving Sony even the slightest advantage in this arena could be a mistake. Let's face it, more options for the consumer is (almost) never a bad thing.
6. Kinect 2.0
When Microsoft first showed off the Kinect several years ago, it made a bunch of promises, many of which the company have yet to fulfill. The Kinect is undisputedly an interesting piece of tech; however, its limitations hold it back from truly revolutionizing the way we play games. There's no doubt that Microsoft plans to build upon this controller-free platform in the future, so it's safe to assume we'll see a more accurate version of the peripheral around the launch of the 720.
Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather play games comfortably on the couch with a traditional controller in my hands, but if a Kinect 2.0 means innovation for the industry and creative new game concepts, I'm all for it. As long as Microsoft doesn't simply continue to shovel out half-baked casual games for the platform and shows an interest in the hardcore gamer, I'll be satisfied. I mean, that's all you can really ask for, right?
5. PlayStation Plus Equivalent
Despite the fact that the PlayStation Network doesn't support cross-game chat and a number of other bells and whistles that are currently available on Xbox Live, many gamers are beginning to fall in love with Sony's service simply because of PlayStation Plus. While playing games online is totally free for PlayStation gamers (a move I'd love Microsoft make but will likely never happen), people are still giving Sony their money so that they can get access to free games.
The Xbox Live Arcade is loaded with incredible titles, and I'm sure gamers would be willing to shell out even more in subscription fees to get access to some of these games. The subscription business model is where we are headed, and I think it'd be foolish for Microsoft not to take a page out of Sony's book in this regard. They don't have to do away with the Xbox Live tiers, either. (Perhaps make some tiers free!) Just add a third option called "Xbox Live Platinum" that costs $100 a year, which offers all the goodies that come with Gold in addition to a handful of free games every couple of weeks.
4. More Robust Social Features (Miiverse Equivalent)
Nintendo has some interesting features with the Wii U in terms of uniting the gaming community. The Nintendo Network will likely never be the ideal place to play competitive online shooters, but what we've seen with Miiverse thus far could be an exciting glimpse at the future of social networking for gamers.
Microsoft already has an established avatar system much like Nintendo's Miis, so implementing something similar seems like a logical move. Providing a grander picture of what the entire gaming population is playing, along with the ability to post hints, tips, and tricks, would be a great way to build community and connect gamers in new, exciting ways. If the success of Twitter is any indication, this broad, all-encompassing type of community is what people want, so it'd be wise for Microsoft to give it to them.
3. Xbox 360 Controller With Improved D-Pad
You'll be hard-pressed to find someone out there who downright dislikes the Xbox 360 controller. After having learned from their mistakes with the monstrosity that was the original Xbox controller, Microsoft created a gamepad that just feels great. The offset sticks is a favorite among FPS aficionados, the triggers are virtually unmatched, and the form factor is super comfortable. As such, these few aspects of the controller should remain unchanged.
What still proves to be an issue, however, is the D-pad, which just doesn't deliver the level of precision you'd expect, want, or need. They tried to remedy this with the transforming pad, but it certainly has proven to be the ideal solution. If Microsoft can come up with something that feels more precise, I'm sure fewer people would be jumping ship to play fighting games on competing hardware. In addition, the buttons could afford a slight change. The tactile feel you get from pressing a button on one of Sony or Nintendo's controllers is far more satisfying, so a few modifications in this regard would be nice.
2. Better SmartGlass Integration
Microsoft has no intention of trying to take on the PlayStation Vita and 3DS in the dedicated handheld space, and rightly so. Smartphones are the new way to experience gaming on the go, and nearly everyone has one with them at all times. In addition, we're seeing a rise in the popularity of tablets, which Nintendo has tried to capitalize on with the Wii U GamePad. If Microsoft is smart, they won't attempt to copy that with a new Xbox peripheral but rather deliver on the promise of SmartGlass.
We've seen limited functionality since its launch last year, and I hope we see Microsoft continue to build upon it to take advantage of whatever exciting new features they're packing into the Xbox 720. In this way, there is little risk for them, as there's no need to manufacture and sell a separate piece of hardware, and the customer wins by not having to purchase said peripheral. The foundation is already in place at this point, Microsoft just needs to build on it.
1. More First-Party Exclusives
It's no secret that Microsoft doesn't have a whole lof of exclusive first-party content. Aside from Halo, Gears of War, Forza, and Kinect titles, there isn't much original software tied to the Xbox platform. Up until this point, we've seen the company rely on the success of the aforementioned franchises in addition to timed exclusivity deals (Call of Duty DLC), but that may not be enough to sell the new console at launch, especially if Sony isn't late to the party this time around.
It's all about software, and when people are trying to decide whether to pick up the next-gen PlayStation or Xbox, they're going to look at which offers the better gaming experience. Sony will likely have several exclusive titles ready to go on day one, so if Microsoft hopes to compete, they better have something new and exciting as well. And no, timed-exclusivity for Bungie's Destiny isn't enough. We need first-party studios to step up and make something tailored to the machine, game experiences that make people say, "I've gotta have an Xbox 720."