The Kinect has been abandoned and sales are slow. Here’s how Microsoft can improve their game
The PS4 has so far overpowered the Xbox One quite comfortably in terms of global sales, and has become the fastest-selling console ever in the UK to boot. On top of this, both of the more grown-up console sellers were humbled by the domination of the Wii last generation, which means Microsoft have now been beaten all-ends-up three generations in a row after the success of the PS2 before that. Clearly they need to mix things up, at least if they still sincerely aim to top the console market. It’s just a question of how to do that. With E3 on the horizon, now is the time for Microsoft to prove that they can still pull it off. If they want to stand a chance of reigning supreme in future years, here’s what we want them to show at E3 2014…
A brand new gadget
It’s time for some new technology from Microsoft, a heavyweight in R&D. Kickstarter is great and all but there’s really no replacement for your own inexhaustible source of funding. So what are the options? Well, Microsoft are already bringing the VR route out to play which could be used successfully in tandem with some of the great titles already at their disposal. Think about the beauty of ultra-immersive versions of Project Gotham, Crackdown or even Halo. But to really push forward, they need something to set them apart from the Oculus Rift and Sony’ Project Morpheus – maybe some kind of holographic 3D or a whole new take on the tangible controller pad. Whatever it is, it needs to be Microsoft and it needs to be soon. Otherwise, now that the Kinect is out of the picture, they’ll not only pay the price for losing their edge, but also the price for a lack of originality. And for one of the world’s greatest companies, that would be a real sin.
An apology to the gamers
We want to see a personal pledge that the company still cares about us, the hardcore. During his time at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer just wasn’t very popular with the public. We say fair play on first impressions because following Bill Gates is like having The Beatles as your warm-up band. But he didn’t exactly help himself, to the extent that Vanity Fair published a feature on how the man led the company through a string of flops and mistakes. Things need to change now Phil Spencer is Head of Xbox, we need a promise at E3 that this will change, as he has begun to allude to on his Twitter feed. Phil, tell us its all going to be OK, that we’re all on the same wavelength and that the consumer comes first, because if you continue to focus too much on TV and useless bells and whistles, you’ll end up losing the hardcore audience forever. And if there’s one thing Microsoft needs after last year’s long string of Orwellian ‘misunderstandings’ of the Xbox One, it’s the gamers back on their side. Speaking of which…
Some, you know, video games
Microsoft might claim to “have the better games” but they’re too few and far between at the moment. Sunset Overdrive, Quantum Break and Halo 5 are set to be hits, but Sony are on point with the constant stream of Indie hits to fill the gap before this Christmas. Hotline Miami 2, Transistor, The Binding of Isaac, and Oddworld: New ‘n, Tasty, these games aren’t exactly no big deal. Microsoft need to hit back, perhaps with some of their most iconic franchises making a return for next-gen.
Age of Empires IV, for example, the all-time classic RTS series. For most twenty-somethings, Age of Empires is part of the tapestry of our childhood and is one of the ways we were introduced to PC gaming. As well as featuring the beautiful level progression we’d expect from an AoE game, all three previous titles were beginner-friendly. The army controls were easier to remember, helped further by the genius of squashing the majority of important buttons into mouse commands. It was basically point-and-click, and we all love point and click. A next-gen revitalisation would do wonders to capture the hearts of gamers both old and new.
And what about a free-to-play Microsoft Flight? For those of us who loved this game, this is a biggie. Admittedly, Microsoft’s Simulator series has nearly always garnered lukewarm receptions, and while Flight was called inferior to its rivals by many detractors on the basis of mechanics, realism and variety, to over-think this is to miss the beauty of the game – that it costs absolutely nothing. Sony are making a killing with free-to-play games on the PS4, and why should Microsoft stop with just World of Tanks?
Maybe if they focused a little more on proving they can one-up Sony on game releases, rather than multimedia, the still-legitimate hardcore gamer market would flock back to them.