With today’s announcement that Microsoft will be finally unveiling their next-gen plans in May, the Daily Reaction crew of Sebastian Moss and Dan Oravasaari discuss what we have learned so far, what rumors have been leaked and what it all means as we prepare for the latest battle in the never ending ‘console wars’.
Dan: As nothing has been completely announced by Microsoft regarding their next console – even whether it will be called the Xbox 720, NextBox, Xbox Infinity or something else – we can only make a few safe assumptions given the current information floating around. The first safe bet is that both the PS4 and the Xbox 720 will have relatively comparative specs and fundamentals like we have seen this generation. The PS4 will be using an AMD chip, while rumors suggest the Xbox 720 will also be using AMD for their chipset, but some rumors do suggest that it could be a cheaper and less powerful chip to cut down on costs. One thing this news does bring us, given that it is very likely that AMD will be the supplier of the chip, and use the x86 chip, is that the 720 will also not be able to do hardware based backwards compatibility – an issue that seems to be striking both MS and Sony as they move forward.
One of the other major bits of news that has been highly debated about MS’ next console has to be the likelihood and viability of them making it an ‘always online’ console – a system that supposedly allows end-users to only be able to operate the 720 while it is connected to an internet connection. Normally, I would think this kind of rumor is just flamebait from Sony fanboys, but given comments made by an ex-MS employee as well as developers, it could be more likely than we would like to admit. Personally, I think the idea is outright terrible and hope that it is no more than an overblown rumor, but with the expansion of the internet and the power it could give the platform holder, no one can say for sure.
Just before this generation was in full swing, another platform war was being waged: HD-DVD vs Blu-ray, and MS and Sony chose their sides and used gaming consoles (or an accessory) as Trojan horses to push their respective HD platform. The dust has been settled for a long time, and HD-DVD will only be a vague memory for a few people still trying to watch the first season Heroes. Now, Blu-ray has taken the market for HD disc based media and a decision will have to be made by MS – will they finally adapt to the movie medium of choice? Or will they find a different way? I would say that it would be stupid for MS to not just add a BR drive and get over it. The increased storage space aside – the established name alone will be worth it, not to mention skipping the pointless headache of trying to educate consumers on some other expanded form of technology.
Seb: Yeah, they absolutely have to adopt Blu-ray, or they’ll lose out. But it’s interesting that you mentioned Heroes, because a very strong rumor popped up last week saying that Microsoft is looking to revive the series and bring it to Xbox Live users – an audience of 46 million paying consumers. The idea is terrible, Heroes fizzled out and there’s a reason they stopped making them, but it still shows where Microsoft’s priorities lie.
The tech giant is investing heavily in entertainment studios and contracts to bring video and music content to Xbox. We should expect there to be lots of content streaming, although no game streaming at launch. They want to be the next Netflix, Apple and Hulu rolled into one.
They also want to be the next Microsoft, circa 2001. King of the world, king of the living room. The Xbox 720 will almost certainly run a form of the generally-disliked-Windows 8, as MS hopes to bring everyone into that ecosystem and pretend that iOS and Android don’t exist.
On top of all this, they want to be the next Nintendo (at least the Wii-era Ninty), with casual titles and ‘family orientated’ Kinect games, which have had some success already. Depending on their price point – and they’ll likely undercut Sony due to their deeper pockets and lower specs – Microsoft could end up being a hit with casuals. But they shouldn’t bet on it, casual gamers are notoriously fickle (just look at the Wii U), and a lot of them already own and are bored of their Kinects. Some things can’t be solved by throwing money at the problem.
Finally, they want to appeal to the core audience as they are a huge revenue source. The problem is, many gamers felt abandoned by the company in the last few years as core exclusives dried up and endless presentations of Kinectimals filled their nightmares.
In fact, the only two major core games in recent memory are Halo 4 and Gears of War Judgment – MS’ biggest core IPs. So that’ll leave them with a problem this Christmas: it’s way too soon to release a new game in either franchise (and GeOW has lost its steam), so the company will have to rely on other games.
Thankfully, that finally means some new IP. The big one to watch is Black Tusk Studios, formerly MS Vancouver, who are hard at work on a new IP that they describe as “the next Halo”. Sadly, they don’t have too much else cooking that we know about, but there’s sure to be some surprises.
But, as for console wars, none of this debate really matters if we’re talking about the US market. Microsoft is going to grab exclusive content for Call of Duty: Ghosts and show a glowing 720 logo at the end of any CoD ads. That’s all they need to do to win.
Now that we can start getting excited for what Microsoft will bring to the table, what are you expecting to see from them? Are you excited? Will they be able to compete with what Sony has to offer? Will you be getting a 720? Let us know in the comments below, or tweeting us hate mail for committing blasphemy on PSLS at Seb and Dan or by emailing us at [email protected].