Daily Reaction: What Would You do if You Had Control Over Xbox?

Yesterday, Sony’s Adam Boyes gave us control of all of PlayStation, so to keep things fair, now we’re taking over Microsoft. With Ballmer leaving and Mattrick gone, Daily Reaction’s Seb and Dan step in and try to sort out Xbox.

Seb: Ok, as with every Xbox-themed article, I have to always state that, despite this being a PlayStation-focused site, we’re not fanboys. We criticize Sony when they do wrong, we criticize Microsoft when they do wrong, and we criticize Ouya.

That said, it’s not exactly controversial to say that Microsoft has completely messed up in the run up to the next gen, and have done a lot worse than Sony, so Dan and I have a lot of work cut out for us.

We can’t change the past, we can’t change all the awful, awful mistakes made so far and we can’t change the stupid Xbox One name. At the moment the only thing left is good ol’ damage control. Embrace the errors, fully admit them now that some of the leadership has moved away, and try to make up for it.

The interesting thing is that, if it hadn’t been for the whole no DRM thing and low price at the Sony conference, Microsoft would have won the show. They had more big games, more surprises and a general blockbuster feel.

Like we said before, Microsoft will still be able to sell a lot of Xboxes, they have a strong brand, a popular controller, a huge ecosystem, Achievements that people will want to continue, and titles like Halo. Currently, it seems like Microsoft’s plan is to get through the launch and hope to pick speed up next year with Titanfall and Halo – and that approach isn’t that bad. But it’s allowing Sony and the PS4 to grab all the hype, and means that a lot of marketshare is being taken by the competition. We can’t have that.

The way Microsoft approached gamescom was abysmal – they had finally reversed all their stupid decisions, but failed to capitalize on it with any announcements. Bump up reveals that were planned for later, use CGI trailers if necessary, but we need to get some hype behind the console before it launches already.

Next, we at Microsoft need to do what we do best, and what we’re far better than Sony at – marketing. We will undoubtedly have a larger marketing budget, and we need to use it to bombard the public with advert after advert until all they want to do is buy it, an approach that even worked with the Kinect.

On the topic of the Kinect, it’s too late to drop it from the launch consoles, and it would be yet another obvious 180. For now, Microsoft needs to actually justify the expensive pack in to gamers. I genuinely think that something as precise and technologically advanced as the Kinect 2 – which can see in the dark, actually recognize faces and apparently measure your heartbeat by watching your face – could bring new and innovative concepts to core gaming. Right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of Kinect 2 work was being done by casual devs like Rare (sob) or as cheap, gimmicky features on core titles. What us Microsoftians need to do is reach out to, and help fund, the indie community to create bizarre Kinect titles. For example, thatgamecompany’s Jenova Chen has said that he is excited for the peripheral, and everyone would kill to see what he could come up with.

Then, ahead of Halo’s launch at the end of next year, offer a Kinect-free version at a lower price. That way, Kinect will still have a decent early install base, but it won’t drag down the console’s sales by keeping it too expensive.

As for the 360, here’s where we really have the advantage. The PS3 will always have price issues as it’s the only machine using the Cell chip these days, while the 360 uses off-the-shelf bits allowing it to get cheaper and cheaper. Cut the price ahead of Christmas, use that to take attention away from next gen for now, as well as other things like the PSVTV and any Amazon Games Console. That’ll guarantee that people buy into the Microsoft ecosystem, and will likely get a One down the line – and make us money even if they don’t.

Finally, radically overhaul the way developers are handled. XBL makes enough money, so streamline the patching process, especially for F2P games. And treat developers better – it’ll be a long, hard road to gain their trust, but we need to start now.

Dan: Well, if you have made it this far down, you will know that Seb covered a great deal of the issues that are really holding back MS right now, and I don’t feel like repeating his rendition of War and Peace, so this will be a tad shorter.

Precisely, MS really have dug themselves a hole that has dropped them from the top spot in the US market, but they need to focus on the price before almost everything. The idea of dropping the Kinect from the box is an easy way to cut the system’s price significantly, but they will only then incite a great deal of backlash on the one thing they have held their ground on. So, if it were up to me, even though I would have dropped Kinect years ago, I would keep the device with every primary SKU, but introduce a piecemeal option – where you could choose which components you want it to come with (HDD size, Kinect, Game, etc…). This would allow people to purchase the console without having to add the camera, but we wouldn’t have to explicitly state that we would be dropping it as a standard.

On top of that, finding out other methods to reduce costs for the device at a rapid rate is only seconded by improved developer support as was said earlier. With the longevity of this console generation as an example, the ability to reduce costs quicker than the competition can, is extremely beneficial – especially with the additional cost from the Kinect.

This leads me to the biggest issue that will need to be handled in a more aggressive manner than ever before – obtaining and keeping exclusives, while improving existing IPs. Gears of War needs to see a reboot, but it should only expand on the mechanics and visuals that made it so popular. Fable Legends should be cancelled and rebooted into being a better realized version of the wonderful standard RPG it once was, not simply a brand sent out to die. Attached brands like Call of Duty should continue to see support, but I would put more emphasis on Titanfall closer to launch as that will be a bigger system seller than a cross-platform title that most people already associate with the Xbox.

Much like the move to include FIFA with some of European market Day-One editions, I would add a Madden bundle in the US, as it is also a big social game that could move a group of friends over to this side of the fence.

Finally, the last major adjustment I would make is to staffing. Major Nelson is a well known and vocal person in the community, but as a single representative, he simply isn’t enough. As such, I would hire a much more personable representative that didn’t feel as though he was the only suit to get A in gamer school. Microsoft has never really had a great department head that resonates well with the community on a personal level, MN does a decent job, but with the growing personality of Sony’s upper-echelon, moves need to be made now.

Looking at everything that could or should be changed, it is easy to forget that Microsoft isn’t in a terrible position, they just aren’t in as good of one as they could be.

What would you do if you controlled Xbox? Would you buy any studios? Would you fire anyone? Share your thoughts in the comments below, get investment advice at [email protected] and prepare for GTAV by following us on Twitter at Seb and Dan.