Five things Microsoft needs to announce for Xbox 720

Sony took a big leap into the next generation of gaming this past week with the announcement of the PlayStation 4. They also showed several games that are in development, including Killzone Shadow Fall and inFAMOUS: Second Son. With that, the ball is now in Microsoft's court, and they're making progress on their own announcement. Xboxevent.com has already been registered, and rumors are that Microsoft is planning to debut the system as soon as this April.

Will a 720 announcement be enough to overcome the momentum that Sony has built up? Granted, Nintendo is chugging along, but the PlayStation 4 looks unbeatable from a certain standpoint, even without the ability to play previous games.

I've gone ahead and concocted a list of five things Microsoft needs to do with its Xbox 720 announcement to assure that everything goes smoothly. Let's be honest -- anything less than what's written below will give the PS4 sheer force going into E3. Here are a few suggestions…

Backwards Compatibility

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True, not everyone wants to play older games on a new console -- look at the comparison between the NES and SNES. Still, for those of us who have invested hundreds of dollars in a prior game library, Microsoft should consider making its Xbox 720 backwards compatible with both retail and digital releases. The Xbox Live Marketplace can also serve a benefit for new buyers with discounted XBLA fare -- like Radiant Silvergun and Ms. Splosion Man -- because not everyone can afford $60 retail games on the fly.

Establish -- and Resurrect -- New Franchises

Obviously, the Xbox 720 will be the home of staple franchises like Gears of War and Halo, to some extent. However, the system could be a key opportunity for Microsoft to invest in some new franchises to keep gamers entertained. Perhaps they could introduce a new role-playing game along the lines of what Lost Odyssey did for the Xbox 360, or maybe even a full-blown action game with shooter traits. Also, we'd love to see some old games come back with a stellar next-gen design, including stuff like Tork (remember him?), Battletech and Crimson Skies. It could really work in the company's favor.

Kinect Optional, Not Mandatory

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There have been rumblings that the Kinect 2, which will be included with the Xbox 720, could very well be a requirement for navigating through menus and interacting with some games. Hey, the Kinect is nice, but making it seem like we have no choice but to use it isn't exactly what I'd call comfortable. Some people just want to pick up a controller and play, rather than dealing with waving arms and legs. Some people even lack the mobility to do so. Do the right thing, Microsoft; keep it optional.

Don't Block Out Used Games

Microsoft, now is not the time to pull off a 'd**k move.'  Sony backed off on blocking used games on its next console, so you should do the same thing. Stick with the system as it works now, with online unlock codes for certain features, like multiplayer and bonus goodies reserved for those who purchase the game. Otherwise, GameStop and other retailers might not be so keen on your new hardware.

Remember the Gamers, Not Just "Entertainment" Crowd

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Microsoft is really looking to open the doors on "entertainment" for its new console, which isn't entirely a bad thing; services like Netflix and ESPN are really popular.  However, the company should keep in mind why most people picked up an Xbox 360 in the first place -- games. Old and new franchises should get just as much funding as the L.A. studio that opened up, and maybe even more.  For that matter, the company should also widen its independent gaming channel, as Sony is doing for the PS4, so people of all types can offer products for everyone to enjoy.

It's up to you, Microsoft. Make it happen.

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Robert Workman
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Games: Xbox One (Console)

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