Sony has finally announced the PlayStation 4, officially kicking off the next-gen console war (sorry Nintendo, you're not invited). With Sony confirming a holiday 2013 release for the PS4, it's assumed Microsoft's next-gen console will launch somewhere around the same time. Sony was the first to show their cards (even though they didn't reveal what the actual console looks like). It's now up to Microsoft to respond. But how can Microsoft effectively launch a counter-attack with the next Xbox?
Give us exclusives that can actually compete with the PlayStation
Halo, Forza, Gears of War, and a bunch of Kinect titles? Needless to say, Microsoft's list of exclusives don't quite compete with what Sony offers on the PlayStation. Sony may not have revealed their heavy hitting exclusives last night, but you can bet they are saving that for E3. Although much of what we saw from PlayStation exclusive developers were tech demos, Sony has clearly shown gaming as their primary focus moving forward.
Microsoft, on the other hand, seems keen on catering to an audience broader than just “gamers” with the next Xbox. And with Xbox 360 entertainment app usage surpassing online gaming, there's really no reason for them to change their strategy moving forward – unless they plan on competing with the PlayStation more directly.
Every console moving forward will offer entertainment apps. That really won't set the next Xbox apart. Microsoft has exclusives that can compete with the likes of The Last of Us; they just need to add to that library. And they need to add more than just Kinect titles, which brings me to my next point…
Ditch the Kinect…or at least support it with quality titles
As evidenced by Microsoft's latest requirement that all future apps support Kinect functionality, this one is obviously not going to happen. Microsoft has it engrained in their minds that “everything is better with Kinect.” I really don't know how they can look at the current lineup of Kinect offerings and come to that conclusion, but for the time being, that's their slogan.
If Microsoft wants us to take the next Xbox seriously then they need to ditch the Kinect, at least in spirit. Of course, we all know Microsoft isn't about to abandon their venture into motion-based gaming. They've invested too much into it. And somehow, it's selling incredibly well. If that's the case, and the next Xbox is indeed going to introduce the Kinect 2, at least support it with quality titles. You can still have your dance and exercise games, but let's get a little more serious than Wreckateer.
Keep the controller
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Thankfully, Sony recognized this and although they slightly altered its concept and functionality, they didn't completely abandon the DualShock design. I hope Microsoft took notes because the Xbox 360 controller is one of the most comfortable controllers I've ever held. Don't change it.
It appears Microsoft, in an effort to support its Xbox SmartGlass initiative, is looking at having an iPad-style tablet controller with its next console. It seems that the tablet controller will serve as an all-purpose device that you can use while watching TV, browsing the internet, or playing games.
The switch over to a tablet controller isn't the only worry, though. There's a lot of talk about motion-based gaming, especially with the next Xbox. There's rumors that indicate Microsoft is completely abandoning a traditional controller in favor of Kinect movements; and that would be a huge mistake. For some reason, and Microsoft isn't alone in this, it is believed that a more immersive experience is offered by removing the controller from the gamer's hands. Sorry, but I don't feel the game is any more realistic by having me pretend to perform an action. It not only makes me feel stupid to pantomime these things, but playing games like Call of Duty just feel right with a controller. Please don't change that.
What should've been hailed as a ground-breaking moment in gaming has instead been overshadowed by thoughts of sexism as Sony didn't have one female presence on stage. As it was pointed out numerous times by folks on Twitter, not one female developer was brought on stage — in the entire two hour show. Microsoft would be wise to learn from Sony's mistake.
Although, they shouldn't just bring a woman on stage for the sake of having a woman. That, to me, would be more disrespectful than not having any at all. I'm sure there are plenty of qualified female game developers and studio leads (I'm looking at you, Kellee Santiago, Kim Swift, and others) working on projects important enough to discuss during the unveiling of the next Xbox, and Microsoft would be smart to bring those to light. PlayStation 4's lead architect was a male, as were many of the game directors; is there a fundamental problem in the way the industry promotes males/females to higher positions? Probably, but that's just not a topic I'm ready to get into right now.
I originally thought that by announcing the PlayStation 4 so early, Sony would have effectively taken itself out of the running for 'Best of E3.' But as we saw last night, we're still left with plenty of questions. Like what does the console actually look like? Sony will likely use its E3 conference as the opportunity to reveal the actual console, the price details, and exact release date, along with a multitude of exclusive games. In other words, Microsoft won't be alone in announcing its new console. If Microsoft intends on hogging the E3 spotlight, they need to come out swinging. They'd better be prepared — have the console ready, the price set, and the release date handy.
Having already announced its new console, Sony has the clear advantage right now. They revealed just enough to get us talking, but kept enough secret to keep us wanting. Unless Microsoft is planning its own conference prior to E3, it looks like the spotlight will be shared. That means the next Xbox had better stand out. The Wii U is out. The PlayStation 4 has been announced. Your move, Microsoft.