Microsoft is in an interesting position going into E3 this year. Over 66 million Xbox 360s have been sold since release in 2005 and the Kinect has found a home in over 1 million homes as of January, meaning nearly 1 in every 3 people who own a 360 own of the devices. Gears of War 3 broke sales records last year to commercial and critical success and they started to release their second wave of Kinect titles including great titles like Child of Eden and The Gunstringer to many fans. They even went ahead and bought out company Twisted Pixel to add them to their gaming portfolio for future releases. Halo 4 was revealed at E3 last year to many a hesitant gamer wondering what the new trilogy will look like in the hands of new developer 343 Studios. While much of this news is fantastic, there is much more room to grow in a lot of gamers eyes, so lets take a look at what Microsoft can do to nail an awesome showing at E3.
Brand New 1st Party Exclusives
This one seems like a no brainer but Microsoft has been falling behind in terms of competing with Nintendo and Sony on offering a solid first party lineup. Many exclusives that used to belong on the system have found new homes on other systems such as Mass Effect and Bioshock and Microsoft seems to be having trouble for establishing new franchises to call their own. There are only so many times I want to play a new Fable game, and while I am excited to see Halo 4 coming out later this year, I am getting hungry for some new IPs. Hopefully we will see if Twisted Pixel’s new game will be the game that we have been looking for as hardcore games are concerned but it seems Microsoft has turned their exclusive attention to Kinect for the time being.
So far, the only retail game that will be coming out from Microsoft later this year that will not be solely using the Kinect will be Halo 4. Compare that to Steel Batallion next month, Fable: The Journey and Crimson Dragon all slated for this year as well that require the Kinect. While I have nothing against the Kinect when it is utilized in a way that incorporates the device with a controller such as Mass Effect 3, this does bug me seeing the list stacked in this way. I get it, the Kinect is selling like hot cakes and Microsoft wants to continue that trend but lets not forget how you got that many Xbox 360s sold in the first place, your loyal hardcore player base. Stop chucking Rare under the bus and delegating them to creating Kinect mini games and let them try to follow in the former glory that they once had. I know I am not the only one that wants to see a sequel to Killer Instinct or Jet Force Gemini. Speaking of which…
Give Rare the Spotlight Again
Back in the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 era, any game stamped with the yellow “R” logo was practically a guarantee that the game you will be playing will be an instant classic. Compare that to today and it’s quite the opposite, with many of the people who used to be at Rare in other positions at different companies. That doesn’t mean they can’t do the IP’s any justice. While Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts was not the platforming comeback that many fans wanted, myself included, it was a fantastic work of art that stretched the imaginative possibilities of the player. Viva Pinata may be the closest “classic” Rare title that has come out in the past 10 years, so they do have what it takes to create a game. I want to see the franchises back again. As I mentioned, Killer Instinct would thrive in the world today since Street Fighter IV kicked off the new fighting game renaissance we have been seeing in the past 4 years. My heart breaks a little with the idea that I may never see Conker’s drunken escapades again.
Even if they are not coming out with a new release, let 4J handle HDing the old classics. They did a fantastic job with Banjo Kazooie, Tooie and Perfect Dark so let them go ahead with Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini or Killer Instinct Gold.J just finished up work on Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition so they must have something else in the pipeline. I would love to see an entire Xbox Live Arcade promotion just for Rare for these classics, and that would be a fantastic way to market the franchises out for newer sequel if there were enough demand. Microsoft would have plenty of people cheering like crazy if a Killer Instinct III trailer was showcased at their press release month. Make it happen!
Expanding Xbox 360 Functionality
One of the things I look forward to every year at their presser has to be what will be added next to the Xbox Dashboard. Last year we got the announcement of Live TV with XFINITY, HBO GO and more apps as well as Bing for Xbox and YouTube functionality. They also followed in Sony’s footsteps by adding cloud support. Its become standard to hear what Microsoft will be adding to console come this fall with their yearly update, and statistics have shown that more people are using their Xbox for other uses besides gaming. It’s inevitable that Microsoft will be expanding more functionality for the system, and will possibly show off their dashboard upgrade while they are there. Already its been rumored that Internet Explorer will be added to the dashboard as of today, with Kinect support to search the web from the comfort of your couch.
What will I like to see? I would love for Microsoft to come out with their own video recording tool that would save your own videos to the Xbox for playback and sharing. How many YouTube clips do we see of kids doing crazy kills in Halo or Call of Duty added online everyday? People are buying equipment just to record their own “Let’s Play” videos for their YouTube channels, so how about Microsoft cuts out the need for extra equipment and offers that functionality right to the Dashboard itself? Next time you get an insane score on Geometry Wars, you have the video to back up your score on the leaderboard or if you are trying to show someone how to earn a particularly tricky Achievement you have the tools do so. While this functionality may not be something we see on this system, we might be seeing on the next and no matter what Microsoft shows off, I will be looking forward to more things to do with my Xbox come this November.
So that’s my two cents. Microsoft will undoubtedly come in and show off many games such as Resident Evil 6, Black Ops II and Halo 4 but I want them to do something a little different this year in shocking the world with brand new IPs. Give me something else to play besides Halo 4 with a controller that will let me say that I am proud to be an Xbox owner. Coming up tomorrow, I will be tackling the last of the big 3 with what does Nintendo need to bring to the conference to blow everyone away. Wii will see U tomorrow, so stay tuned!