As many Microsoft fans and Xbox owners are no doubt aware of by now, Microsoft’s official console unveiling for their 3rd console is set to take place tonight! With Nintendo’s WiiU already out on the shelves and Sony still holding back a lot of details for the Playstation 4, one can only speculate what the new generation Xbox will have to offer in comparison to its competitors. In fact, that’s what we’re going to do right now! Speculate away!
One of the most popular and most ridiculously unsubstantiated rumours about the 8th generation Microsoft console is that it’s going to be called the Xbox 720. Of course to many people this ‘beta’ name for the new generation made sense originally given that the previous model was called the 360. But somehow, this reviewer sincerely doubts that Microsoft will go with anything as overly predictable as that. In the study of mathematics, 720 degrees is simply a way of saying “twice around a circle” which is comprised of 360 degrees. Calling the new machine the 720 would be tantamount to saying “It’s EXACTLY the same as the Xbox 360, just done over again!” Yeah, no thank you. Depending on what gets announced during the press event, I either totally called it, or there’s a mass of proverbial egg on my face.
Possible names of the new system could include:
- Xbox 720, though unlikely.
- Xbox Infinity, a possibility marketed on the idea of unlimited possibility.
- Ybox, a jab towards the younger generation of gamers, and being the next logical letter in the English alphabet.
- Xbox Squared
The Xbox 360 possessed a large range of interesting features, many of which we would like to assume will be ported across to the new system. Naturally the inclusion of Xboxlive will have to be a given. The online support and huge DLC and arcade library is part of what made the 360 so popular in the first place. In the modern day and age, online functionality seems to be standard nowadays. However, this also presents the possible future issue of content exclusive to either system, thereby creating inter-company competition between the two systems. A smart move would be to create a marketplace that caters to both the old classic XBLA library and content services with a new library for the new and upcoming stuff so the new generation system can access all varieties of arcade games and DLC, old or new.
On the topic of playing old and new, backwards compatibility will most likely be a strong feature here as well. The ability to play Xbox 360 games on the new console should come as a no brainer to Microsoft’s console programmers. One might think of it as safeguarding against a poor launch lineup like some other companies recently experienced*coughWiiUcough*. In fact, why just stop at the 360? Make Xbox original games playable on this bad bod too! Not only does this sort of feature act as a security blanket for the launch range of games (at least until a larger lineup comes out) but also adds potential years of longevity to the already existing Xbox games catalogue. “You can still buy 360 games from us!” They’ll yell. “They still work on our new machine! Halo 4 hasn’t even been out a year yet!” Microsoft would hopefully capitalise on something Sony has repeatedly ignored time and again with their console launches.
New dashboard and system settings will most likely have a significant amount of integration with PC’s, Windows 8 and Windows Phones, al la Sony’s strategy of pairing the PS4 and the Vita. Between the two, I can see this being the far more successful pairing based on PC popularity. Similar features to the Windows Media centre are likely to be implemented, hopefully making the streaming of music, video and other media much easier for PC owners wanting to blast their own tunes out of a game of the latest Gears of War game.
In fact, why halt the PC integration with just the media centre? This is me and the community getting optimistic over the unlikely, but I’m sure we would all love to see cross-platform support between PC and the new Xbox. For those who are scratching their heads to what this means the basic lowdown would be allowing PC and Xbox players to play specific ranges of games together online. We know for a fact that it can be done: Shadowrun and Final Fantasy XI have proven it in the past. And while both of these titles were pretty mediocre in the grand scheme of things, imagine playing Halo, Team Fortress, Call of Duty or the next instalment of Mass Effect between PC and 360 players! Would certainly settle some console war arguments wouldn’t it?
As optimistic as many of us are for the future, let’s face it, Microsoft also has some black smears on their company name with some Xbox features, one in particular that they seem to refuse to acknowledge is a smear at all: Motion control. Above all else, the one greatest feature that many of us would love to see turfed with the new console generation, it would be the Kinect and motion control gimmicks. However, Microsoft still seemed quite entrenched over this idea that the motion control scheme is the future of gaming. I see it as a likely possibility that some form of motion control will be optionally coupled with this system, but Microsoft are probably smart enough to not make it a core feature. They’ve probably heard enough disgruntled comments from the community to not centralise the console around it. I said they were entrenched, not stupid.
There are numerous other prospective features we would like to see, but when people start asking for a foot warmer and a beer dispenser, I think we might go a bit far with this section. (No matter how awesome the prospects. To cut it short, here’s a few of the more or less likely features the new console is liable to offer:
- Online play, DLC and arcade support courtesy of Xboxlive. It will most likely remain a paid service, which I don’t have too much of a problem with, though I do wish it were cheaper.
- Backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 (likely) and the Xbox original (less likely).
- Operating system that is reminiscent and integrated with the design of Windows 8 with easier media streaming.
- Cross platform play, though unlikely would still be an awesome feature.
- Probably some kind of motion gimmick- most likely to be optional.
- Blu-Ray disc support in catching up with the PS3’s headway in that department.
- 4 player controller support
- Wireless networking and LAN capabilities in-built.
- Social media integration with facebook and youtube.
- Possibly a new controller style or the inclusion of keyboard + mouse support for games.
Ah, now here is where it all comes down to. The fleshy bits and pieces of what the gaming community wants to see: The games themselves. We’re often used to seeing disappointing launch lineups and new consoles try to find their feet amongst their older brothers in the market. As far as a launch lineup is concerned, Microsoft will really be wanting to put their best feet forward in this regard, given that Nintendo already has numerous AAA franchises set for release on top of their already sizeable Wii and WiiU catalogue. Sony’s hush-hush over their plans for the PS4 is also reason for Microsoft to get a step ahead of their biggest rival as far as the hardcore gamer demographic is concerned.
Unfortunately, as far as exclusive characters and franchises go, the Xbox really boasts the minority in comparison to Sony and particularly Nintendo. While each great franchises in their own rights, Halo, Gears, Fable and Forza can’t hold up a system by themselves. Naturally as Sony showed throughout their press conference, Microsoft will most likely make a point of showing off what some of the third party partners have in store for the new generation. With the recent news that companies like EA are going to be keeping their distance from the WiiU, we can only hope that their old Nintendo budget and resources get properly allocated between Microsoft and Sony’s next gens.
All of that said, launch time is also a perfect time to build hype for new IPs, and I’m sure many of us would like to see Microsoft announce a few new Xbox exclusive franchises for the company’s newest badass bouncing baby brother.
Here’s a list of what I’m sure many of us would like to see from Microsoft and their third party partners:
- Announcement of the next Halo, or even a Halo 2 remake? (It’s almost been 10 years since…)
- Announcement of the next Fable.
- EA will most likely make an appearance to show off a sports title or two, and perhaps details on the next Bioware game in the pipeline (Dragon Age 3/Mass Effect 4).
- Given how they were responsible for a large part in the Xbox’s initial success, it would be criminal for Bungie to not show up. Many of us have probably speculated that Destiny will likely be a launch title.
- One of Activision’s biggest markets wouldn’t want to miss out on seeing details of the New COD, possibly for the new system.
- While unlikely, I would really like to hope Bethesda will be there to announce a launch title like they did for Oblivion on the 360. Fallout 4 folks?
- 2K has the potential to bring attention to anything new that they’re working on, but it seems way too soon for a Borderlands 3. I would hope they might have something original to show us if they’re in attendance.
- With all the work they’re sunk into the game already, it would be genuinely disappointing if some Mohjang or Minecraft related program wasn’t present. (Because they seem to want to get this game out to as many people as possible…)
- Several new Microsoft IP’s, while will most likely have one that’s cutesy and for the kids, one that’s centralised around motion control and will suck, and one that’s oriented towards the hardcore market and will totally kick ass.
- A generous starting library of downloadable arcade titles, possibly even remakes or HD versions of Xbox original titles.
What do you think?
What are your predictions of the Microsoft console announcement going to be? And once it’s over, did they meet your expectations? What did you like? What did you hate? What did you shrug at with indifference? Please comment and discuss below!