When you take a look back at the original Xbox, it was far from a runaway success when it came to console sales. However, it managed to dig itself into the console marketplace by introducing gamers to the vast universe of Halo and the widely successful Xbox Live service. Microsoft was able to shift the foundation of their online service onto the Xbox 360 and into a social experience that its main competitors simply couldn’t match. Allowing users to chat with one another through the party system or through private chat regardless of what game they were playing is one of the determining factors for why many gamers chose to go with the Xbox over its competitors.
With the reveal of the company’s next console just around the corner — in April, by all likelihood — it’s going to be interesting to see what Microsoft does to one-up the success of its current machine. One of the persistent strategies Microsoft employed after moving from the original console to the 360 was acquiring an abundance of exclusive downloadable content from third-party publishers. Microsoft will need to do more this time around, and we’ve compiled a list of things they’ll have to build upon and change in order to take that next step from the Xbox 360 to the rumored Infinity.
Read our list, and leave a comment with your thoughts below.
Bring Back the Family Plan
Microsoft made waves when they introduced the Family Plan, enabling a household of gamers to enjoy Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at a discounted rate. This was awesome for a family of four who gamed together or played online with friends and family. However, this plan comes with one crippling omission: the inability to allow more than one user to be considered an “Adult Account.” Secondary accounts aren’t currently given the same permissions as the main account, regardless if the user is 12-years-old or 38. This is something Microsoft needs to change going forward. With how far along Xbox Live has come over the last decade, it only makes sense that a discount like this evolves to meet the demand of gamers around the world. While Microsoft recently decided to axe this feature of its service, we think they should bring it back and improve upon it.
Invest Heavily in First-Party Studios
Eternal Sonata, Mass Effect, and BioShock make up an incredible lineup of previously exclusive titles for the Xbox 360. However, the publishers of these and other games jumped on the multiplatform bandwagon, leaving Microsoft hurting on the exclusive front. While it’s true that they nailed down some solid exclusive deals when it came to downloadable content, there were few worthwhile exclusive games for Microsoft to tout outside of Halo, Forza and Gears of War. This time around, they’ll need to invest more in its first-party lineup, and not with more useless Kinect-enabled games. Speaking of which…
Remember your Core Audience
Microsoft needs to remember the core gamers who love games like Halo, Fable, Forza and Gears of War; gamers that crushed entertainment sales records this generation and will make the push during the next. Over the past couple of years, it feels like Microsoft has focused more on building Kinect and multimedia hubs.
It’s time to curb all of this Kinect talk and start pushing storied developers like Lionhead and Rare into developing games that Microsoft’s core audience wants to play. Last generation, Nintendo pulled in a casual market we didn’t realize existed, but the Wii U is showing that this same market is fine sticking with iPhones, tablets and quick game experiences on the go. The device has a ton of potential, but Microsoft needs to understand that the Kinect crowd isn’t going to move 50 million consoles this upcoming generation.
Gears of War is winding down and Halo is moving into a new trilogy, but what else can gamers expect from the software giant? Hopefully Microsoft will show us what’s under their sleeve come April, but I have a feeling if they don’t introduce enough core content, they’re going to see a strong amount of their fanbase start to look towards Sony while licking their chops.
86 the Point System
This has been an ongoing debate from the very start. Microsoft implementing its own currency system has been an inconvenience from the start. While Sony’s system allows you to purchase items at a specific amount, Xbox users are forced to purchase a set amount of Microsoft Points regardless of the cost. This often leaves buyers with leftover points in their account that uselessly float from transaction to transaction. This is pretty much like leaving change behind at the store just because. It makes no sense at all. Going forward, Microsoft needs to introduce a real-world currency system the world can get behind and make sure the exchange rate is just.
Remove the Windows 8 Feel
Listen: Windows 8 sucks. The interface is awful and it’s a pain in the ass to really do anything. When Microsoft updated the Xbox 360 dashboard it went in a very similar direction as its latest operating system, including bombarding the gamer with advertisements as well. This needs to stop. If you’re dealing with a freebie Xbox Silver user, sure, hit them with advertisements to make up the cost. Gold subscribers, however, should be rid of the junk prompting them to buy Mountain Dew and Old Spice.
The PlayStation 3’s XMB interface may have been minimalistic and boring, but it never felt like they were trying to fill it up just for the sake of taking up space — you can’t really say the same for the 360 dashboard. This needs to change. They need to introduce something that is much more user friendly and enjoyable to use, all without looking like a billboard on your television.