Ah, the console wars: what is becoming a time-honored tradition in modern culture. The battlefield is riddled with the corpses of IPs, tech innovations, and of course, the neglected remains of felled giants with names like Sega and Atari, who were vanquished before the birth of modern gaming memory. In the current round, the mighty Sony PS4 is enjoying the unquestioned advantage, outselling the Xbox One two-to-one. But does this spell defeat for the once beloved Microsoft behemoth, which stood strong in the ranks for the first two rounds in this ongoing competition? Only time will tell.
(Curious about how Microsoft got so far behind? Here’s why Sony is dominating the Next-Gen Console War.)
Hopefully, these numbers have had a sobering effect on Microsoft, and will shock them from their focus on transmedia gaming back to just making great video games again. That’s really all that Microsoft needs to do. How will they do this? How can they compensate for such a glaring discrepancy in numbers? What should their strategy be to not only make up for lost ground, but to leave their competition in the dust over the long term?
5. Aim for the Remnant
The push for Microsoft right now is to lure as many uncommitted last gen players who are looking to upgrade into the Xbox camp. This year’s backwards compatibility announcement is the best example so far. Backwards compatibility is a poem spoken in the language of love to the ears of all those still-haven’t-upgraded gamers out there.
This year is going to be crucial as the release of current-gen exclusives will entice the most frugal members of the gaming community to commit to Xbox or PlayStation. It is a well-established ritual that has existed throughout the Console Wars: A holiday sales season where previous-gen titles are no longer being made and current-gen titles look unbelievably amazing. The old consoles are “officially” dead and the new consoles are here to stay.
(With that shocking pronouncement, it might be time to decide which Next Gen console is best for you.)
Xbox could see a tremendous boost in sales this fall as more and more gamers finally make up their mind. So how else should they sweeten the pot?
Link up with retailers to provide a $60 rebate with the purchase of any new Xbox One. Offer three months of Xbox gold with new systems rather than the current one month trial. Aim directly for budget-conscious gamers. Get those boxes off the shelves and hooked up in homes. The more units you sell, the more games you sell. That’s usually how this thing works. Usually. Because…
4. Real. Good. Kinect. Games
The Kinect is like that super-quiet relative at family gatherings that just stares intently while sitting in the corner, and everyone secretly suspects that he might be a serial killer, but you still invite him every holiday because you don’t want to come across as impolite and see him snap and confirm your worst fears right there and then by killing you. You all have one of those, right, or is it just me?
The Kinect played such a prominent role in the original Xbox One concept that at first you couldn’t buy the system without one bundled in. It was supposed to be the next big thing… and now it’s just about dead. What the Fuck Microsoft? You mean to tell me that you made people buy this, promising them that amazing games would be coming, and then you just kind of forget to deliver those games? We’re still waiting, and we have plenty of Just Dance already.
To get a grasp on the situation, allow me to present a type of game you did wrong, and offer up a way to do it right. The game you got wrong was Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. This mech shooter was the first game to try and blend traditional controller play with mandatory Kinect functionality. It was a huge flop. The original Kinect had trouble interpreting whether players wanted to pull a lever or punch one of their squad members in the face. It got confused by the player’s hands being close together when they used the controller. The resulting game was a frustrating, claustrophobic, perfectly valid reason for gamers to swear off Kinect forever. It wasn’t fluid, it wasn’t fun.
Imagine a simpler Mech game (let’s call it KiMech), where the player is just in a big weaponized suit of battle armor looking out at the battle (not in a sardine can with other soldiers with an option to view the battle that seems to trigger itself). By holding up your hand in a fist, you’ll trigger Gatling guns, facing your palm to the screen issues a plasma ray, and punching towards the screen sends out missiles. Turn your head to look around, turn your shoulders to reorient. Hop to engage a jet pack and crouch to disengage. Fight in a destructible environment against a handful of different types of enemies. Use your technology rather than try to mimic a dedicated 40-button premium controller.
It has to be fast, responsive and fluid, but since the new Kinect is supposedly so powerful, that shouldn’t be a problem, should it? And if you take the time and energy to make it competitive, KiMech‘s unique control scheme could make it a candidate for esports, making you lots and lots more money.
I know that one Mech Kinect game was tried (and failed), or that this might be too similar to Titanfall, but the difference between controller play and Kinect play can be remarkable when executed properly. Really, though, any FPS will help. Gunstringer was great. FPS games make money. What’s holding you back Xbox? Keep the controls simple and intuitive, with as few menus to navigate as possible. Make it free to play online or local and you’ll be good to go.
But don’t just give us one good Kinect game. Give us several options. Don’t be scared by doubt and online hate. Dive into your tech. Devote a well-paid team to keep coming up with new and interesting Kinect ideas.
3. Reimagine Xbox live
About that free-to-play remark I just made… sit down Xbox. We need to have a talk. People who buy your consoles sometimes feel they’re being ripped off by being forced to pay $15 a month to take advantage of the internet, a technology that your company might know a thing or two about. I know, Xbox, it’s a tempting market to take advantage of. People seem so eager to sign up for monthly subscriptions to all kinds of things these days, what’s the harm in $15 a month from you? The harm is your competitive edge.
Sony took your cue and charged for online play with the PS4. Nintendo offers online play for free, but since they’re not your biggest competitor that’s neither here nor there. To generate buzz you need to do one of two things to your standard: offer free online play, or create a triple tiered Xbox Live. Since you’ve already used Xbox Gold as the moniker for your premium service, we’ll go with that theme. We’ll just bump the current Xbox Silver down to Bronze, and introduce a new Silver.
Xbox Silver would be $5 a month, which includes either unlimited multiplayer in any one game of choice (which could be changed at any time, but would only apply to one game per day), or unlimited multiplayer period, and no free games. Xbox Bronze would be free, and would be exactly as the current free Xbox Live memberships: Allowing for Netflix and other apps, but no online play and no free games.
By breaking the subscription up you’ll entice more customers who thought $15 a month was a bit much for gaming. You would also distinguish yourself from your competition, who could go free themselves, but will then look like they only gave up the money because you made them.
2. Take Advantage of Dormant, Well-Loved IPs
First of all, I’m very excited that Conker is back in the big Rare bundle, but rather than just give us that game again, why don’t you team up with Rare and make an Xbox One exclusive Conker game? (If you could parody Duke Nukem Forever in the process it would be truly fantastic.) Forget Half-Life 3, I want a new Conker game. Take a chance on that rowdy, crude, beloved squirrel. Nintendo dropped the ball, but you Xbox, you can deliver us to the promised land of cartoon graphics mixed with drunken, offensive concepts delivered with fluid 1080p detail the likes of which Sony wished it had access to.
Another old, forgotten IP that could stand to be revived? Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, probably the most beloved RPG on your original console. Need I remind you, Xbox, that Star Wars is still a thing? Update and remake the original game to current gen standards, exactly as Sony is doing with Final Fantasy 7. Use the investment it took to modernize KOTOR 1 as a springboard to create and deliver KOTOR 3 as an Xbox exclusive, and give BioWare whatever amount of money they ask for it. Let us know that you are working on this project immediately, so that buzz can ensue.
1. Expand Mod Compatability
Alright Xbox, so far I think we have a real winning combination of strategies to help you gain the edge on the competition. Some of my suggestions may not be possible for whatever reason, but at least you have some fresh ideas.
You are clearly hard at work already to innovate and contrast yourself in a favorable light against PlayStation. Once again, backwards compatibility was a solid hit that left the competition staggering. Yet there is one feature appearing with one upcoming game that could really help you to stand out and shine: Mod compatibility. Fallout 4 will have Mod support on the Xbox One (and eventually the PS4) from the PC mod community. This is a very big deal.
It seems that Bethesda was behind establishing this feature, because it wanted its console audience to enjoy the amazing depths of creativity unleashed in PC versions of its previous games.
But now that we know that it’s possible to integrate mods on consoles. The cat is out of the bag. You should do whatever it takes to crack open Mod access to Xbox One games right away. Even though Bethesda will eventually deliver a Mod-friendly patch to Fallout 4 on the PS4, you’re getting that feature first. If you jump on this chance and come out ahead of the competition in across-the-board Mod support for all Xbox One games, it just might be enough to convince a majority of upcoming customers to commit to your system.
Are you listening, Microsoft?[i]Now that you know what Microsoft should be doing, check out the rest of our Console Wars series including how Sony managed to score such a huge lead and an in-depth breakdown to which Next Gen console you should own based on what kind of gamer you are.