Lost the battle but not the war (yet)
After getting barraged with rumors for what seemed like forever, gamers tuned in en masse on May 21, 2013 to (finally!) witness the unveiling of Microsoft's next-gen console, the Xbox One. We were happy to actually see the console and its new controller, and were at least intrigued by the system's deluge of features, including television streaming and Snap Mode, the console equivalent of Alt+Tab built with multitaskers in mind.
But noticeably sparse were mentions of actual games, which left many feeling burned. The fact that Microsoft is positioning its Xbox One as the ultimate media machine instead of the ultimate gaming machine has us wondering if it's leaving the console war. Or maybe, just maybe, it instead ticked most of the non-gaming announcements off its checklist, opting to leave a majority of the good stuff for its upcoming E3 conference. We'll give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt--and here's how it restore our faith during E3.
Prove it hasn't forgotten about the core gamers
First thing's first: software sells hardware, and we need to see more in terms of upcoming Xbox One games. Microsoft says it has 15 exclusives, 8 of which are new IPs, lined up for the console's first year in addition to third party cross-platform offerings, but mere figures aren't going to cut it. We need more than just reassurance--show us the goods.
Now, to say we didn't see any games during the Xbox One's reveal even would be disingenuous. Come E3, we don't expect to see all 15 games in addition to every cross-platform title in the works, but we need more than scripted sizzle reels. "Hardcore" gamers may be a vocal minority, but they're also the early adopters. Don't leave them by the wayside, MS.
Reveal some first-party titles
Speaking of games, we'd love to hear about what Microsoft has planned for its first-party studios. While it's probably a safe bet that we're a ways out from 343 Industries' next Halo (excluding the recently announced live action series), we'd love to see what Lionhead or Rare have been working on.
Presenting even the tiniest shred of information about its first-party development plans will go a long way toward helping Microsoft regain the trust of its gaming fanbase. It's one thing to bring aboard a bunch of third-party games, but to invest your own resources into the development process at least conveys commitment.
Clarify outstanding rumors and mixed messages
Remember how there was that whole debate about whether or not the Xbox One would be always online? Or whether or not it would essentially kill off the used game market as we know it? That stuff still hasn't been entirely cleared up.
At the time of this posting, it sounds as the Xbox One will require an Internet connection at least once every 24 hours to properly function. As for used games, there's talk that games will require hard drive installation and be tied to your Xbox Live account, meaning a fee (potentially the full price of the game) is also required to tie the game to a second account. But no one at Microsoft seems to be able to provide clarification outside of "we'll let you know." If for some reason these issues haven't been cleared up before E3, we sincerely hope concrete answers will be provided then.
Show off some worthwhile applications of Kinect 2.0
So Microsoft's new Kinect will ship with every Xbox One, and its tech is admittedly a pretty substantial improvement over everyone's favorite arm-waving tracker. With a wider field of view, a 1080p camera, and the ability to see just fine in the dark, Kinect 2.0 appears to offer a lot more functionality than the one gathering dust on your entertainment stand.
But let's be honest: we're all still pretty skeptical about the kind of "hardcore" experiences motion gaming can provide. This generation introduced the tech to the masses, but current motion controls carry with them the same taboo that the free-to-play model did years ago. It's time for Microsoft to turn that around, and it can (hopefully) do that with the new Kinect. Come E3, we don't want to see little babies playing Franklin Builds a Zoo--we want to see something substantial that'll actually get us excited about the future of motion gaming.
Explain how gamers might take advantage of non-game features
Microsoft talked a lot about the ways in which gamers will be able to multitask: You can Skype with grandma while playing Halo! You can watch TV while you wait for a game to load (hopefully that doesn't reflect how long it'll take for games to load on the Xbox One)! You can Bing on half of your screen and sort through your DVR with the other half! But we'd love to see actual examples of this in action.
Yes, we saw a Skype call--but let's see it happen mid-game. Show us why we're going to love Snap Mode by providing concrete examples of the ways in which we'll use it to enhance our gaming experience. Say, for example, we get stuck in a level. Can we instantly open up a web browser to look up tips? Such applications will get us more excited about the ability to use the Xbox One Minority Report-style.
Don't shaft continued Xbox 360 users
Instead of tapering off support, Microsoft pulled the plug on its first console immediately following the launch of the Xbox 360. But times have changed; the 360 has sold millions and millions of units all over the world, and a good number of those purchasers won't be ready to jump headfirst into the next console generation.
Microsoft (and Sony) will need to show good faith that they won't abandon the 360 right away. Now, it's unlikely this will happen considering many of the initial next-gen games will also be launching on current gen consoles--but what about things like Xbox Live and Achievement improvements? 360 owners should get a slice of the action, too, provided the tech allows for these things.
Your move, Microsoft
Did you find the Xbox One reveal underwhelming? If so, what could Microsoft do at E3 to set things right? Are games enough? Or would it have to revoke less popular features wholesale? Let us know in the comments below.