Next-Gen Console Wars: 10 Steps to Dominance for the Next Xbox

This week, Hilary Goldstein examines what the next Xbox must do to beat the PlayStation 4 and Wii U.

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With Nintendo's Wii follow-up, the Wii U, due at the end of this year, the talk of next-generation consoles is already crackling. Soon we'll be overcome with rumors, leaks, and speculation about the eighth generation of game systems, which includes the next hardware from Microsoft and Sony.

But what are at least 10 things each console manufacturer needs to do to find success in the next iteration of the system wars? Let's kick things off by examining Microsoft, but be sure to check back in the following weeks for an assessment on Sony, Nintendo, and the next crop of mobile devices.

What Microsoft Needs to Do

One-Stop Box
It has been a longtime assumption that Microsoft would like its console to be the only device you need in your entertainment center. With recent increases in services provided through Xbox Live, that vision is coming closer to reality. For Microsoft to win the next generation, this needs to be at the core of its next Xbox. It needs to make my cable box, Blu-ray player, and iPad irrelevant. All three of these are essential to my current entertainment needs, but outside of playing Halo or Ghost Recon, I can do more on my iPad than I can on my Xbox 360 (and it's easier). To beat the next PlayStation, Wii U, and the continuing emergence of mobile devices, Microsoft's new machine must be the only entertainment device I need in my home. I need to be able to watch and record TV, play games, shop, interface socially, and organize my life in one place. It's time to stop talking about a single entertainment box future and make it happen.

Set the Lowest Bar High
Microsoft created several versions of the Xbox 360 to accommodate consumers on different budgets, but using this strategy limits developers' options since they must make games to the lowest common denominator and often can't use the full benefits from a hard drive. While Microsoft will seek to offer a low-cost version of its next console, it can't do so at the expense of its baseline. In other words, there simply has to be a core minimum that, regardless of cost, the system cannot ever dip below.

The next Xbox must have a hard drive, Kinect, wireless Internet, and Bluetooth built in. Production cost (and therefore retail cost) on a console will always come down over time to appeal to a broader consumer base. You can't sacrifice minimum quality to shave $50 to $100 off the price for "casual" gamers, which was the game plan for the Xbox 360. If you can hack something off to sell a lower-priced system, then it wasn't a necessity, and if these items aren't a necessity, then the Xbox 720 isn't being used to its maximum capability. Sony has shown its unwillingness to sacrifice in these ways, and you can bet the fight for next-gen dominance will be too fierce to come up short in any area.

Embrace Blu-ray
Research group In-Stat predicts there will be 105 million Blu-ray units in homes worldwide by 2015 and states that 15 percent of Netflix users already receive Blu-ray discs. While on-demand and streaming services are gaining in popularity, physical media will continue to have a major place in homes through the next decade. Blu-ray will replace DVD as the dominant disc form for media during the era of the next generation of consoles. To exclude a Blu-ray disc from the next Xbox could be disastrous for Microsoft.

More importantly, Microsoft needs to embrace the free-to-play realm
But this issue isn't such a slam dunk for Microsoft. Sony (along with Phillips and Panasonic) is a major patent holder for the Blu-ray format. No company can manufacture hardware with a Blu-ray disc player without a license from the Blu-ray Disc Association, and guess who helps make those decisions? Sony. However, from a business perspective, Sony gains more by supporting Microsoft in this effort. Sony earns money on every Blu-ray device sold, meaning that Microsoft's rival can profit from new system sales and greatly increase the global Blu-ray installed base. Microsoft might be considering a streaming-focused, non-disc system, but that would defy the first rule for winning the next-generation battle: the all-in-one box.

Steam for Consoles
This isn't to say that Steam needs to come to the next Xbox (though that's a pretty good idea), but a similar service must be part of the new Xbox dashboard. Digital releases must coincide with retail ship dates, with a discount for the online purchase--this is, in fact, the best way to cut down on used-game sales. Indie games need to be more accessible and, along with traditional XBLA fare, mixed in with full retail releases. A service such as GameFly could make for a great online partner in this regard.

Most importantly, Microsoft needs to embrace the free-to-play realm. There's no viable F2P model on the Xbox 360, but the next Xbox must be built with F2P in mind. Full-priced retail releases, such as the next generation of Assassin's Creed games, will always have a primary place in the console world. But there's money--a lot of money--to be made in the F2P market. A proper revenue share model for publishers, an easy and reliable shopping experience for gamers, and prominence for free-to-play games are essential to the Xbox 720's success.

The New Gold Account
Xbox Live has seen numerous improvements over the past two years with a number of new services offered. You can access Hulu, Netflix, Twitter, HBO Go, and much more with an Xbox Live Gold account. The core service and its price model, though, are outdated. Next generation doesn't just mean better graphics; it means the future of online services. Currently, an Xbox Live Gold account lets you use your separately purchased Netflix or Hulu account through your 360. It's merely a convenience (easier, perhaps, to use my Xbox 360 than use these services from my PC). Winning the next generation means aggressive actions that make Xbox Live Gold as essential to the new one-stop box as anything else.

Microsoft is too reliant on Halo for its success.
Think of the new Gold account more like signing up for DirecTV or any cable TV service. You pay a low base price that provides some simple offerings (such as multiplayer, early demo access, and cloud storage) and then select optional packages on top of this to suit your entertainment needs. Want to include (as in buy) Netflix streaming, ESPN3, and MLB.TV? Add the Sports package (with a slight discount, of course). I shouldn't need a cable box in the next generation or have to go to Netflix.com to buy a streaming account or want for any of my entertainment needs when my new Xbox is on. Xbox Live Gold has to evolve to pull us away from our external devices. The future is full consumer investment in our game system for all TV needs. Anything less opens the door for Sony and Nintendo.

A New Game Franchise
Microsoft is too reliant on Halo for its success. With Gears of War, Forza, and a very uncertain future for Fable, Microsoft is thin on its number of first-party powerhouse franchises. The next console needs to launch with something new--the next generation's Halo that isn't actually Halo.

Exclusive Bonus Content
Microsoft is already one step ahead of Sony here. The future of console success is not exclusive third-party games, but earlier releases of downloadable content. Early access to Call of Duty maps, for example, not only shifts sales heavily in favor of the Xbox, but also makes a nonexclusive game weighted more toward Microsoft's side.

Mobility Matters
Entertainment and information are no longer stuck at home. I can start a movie streaming on my PC at work, continue it on my iPad on the train, and finish it off on my TV at home. You don't need to take Halo 5 with you on a mobile device, but access to elements of your next-generation games must come with you--whether it's tracking stats, managing character progression, or playing tie-in mobile games.

HD Kinect Bundled In
The Kinect lost the core gamer the moment Microsoft abandoned using an HD camera in it (for valid cost reasons). Kinect HD needs to happen for next gen, allowing for full facial and finger recognition. And it should come bundled in with the next Xbox launch to ensure every home has one.

Kinect Integration for All Games
And with that, all games must have Kinect integration. This doesn't mean the gameplay uses the Kinect, but that there must be some surface layer (menus and interface) that have some consistent Kinect usage. Voice commands to pause games, motion commands to make menu selections--it should be a requirement. Either go all in with the Kinect or abandon it completely. Don't go halfway in the next generation.

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Discussion

1190 comments
GrumpyMcNasty
GrumpyMcNasty

Expect the next Xbox to integrate seamlessly with the Windows 8 tablet using a Windows marketplace-like account to allow you to pause games on the Xbox and pick them up on the Windows 8 pad. The one change I would make would be to finally allow the transfer of my video and music library from Media Center on my PC directly to my next Xbox. Tie that in with Netflix, MLB.tv and NHL Game Center and I'm good to go. Goodbye set top box and stereo, the Xbox is my go-to media center.

chrisangelo2k7
chrisangelo2k7

Kinect is Microsoft's worst idea. If they integrate it in all next games, I'm out. Where's the joy of sitting in a couch or a sofa, and use only your hands and fingers on a comfortable controller? You know have to play with your body?! Leave that to hyper-active kids. What's next for XBOX 1080, PS5, and Wii Z? You're gonna use eye or psychic control motion to play videogames? Gimme a friggin break, this is getting out of hand, and we're getting way off how videogaming should be!!!!God how I miss the 90s, my super nintendo, my sega mega-drive, my PSX. And how I'm gonna miss my Xbox 1 and Kinectless 360...

doheny420
doheny420

Well, if Microsoft designs this "...single entertainment box...", it sure as hell better not crash with the ring of death. I wouldn't be impressed if I am reliant on one system for all my entertainment needs and then it crashes.

 

I'm currently at a precipice with gaming publishers and other corporate bodies. If I have to send in another Xbox for repair, I will consider Microsoft's competitor. 

scatterbrain007
scatterbrain007

"Think of the new Gold account more like signing up for DirecTV or any cable TV service."

 

Yes yes yes! This is what I was thinking of myself.  This should absolutely happen....and it will light some fires under the arses of those greedy little cable companies.

joshhi
joshhi

Also, they should really up the design of the console itself. That clunky and ugly green/white X360 with it's unflattering design will never look good standing next to any of my beautiful media gear, whereas the PS3 blends in beautifully. Sony unarguably is much superior to Microsoft in its design esthetics overall, but that was always one of Microsofts biggest problems throughout all those years (Pc vs Mac).

rarson
rarson

Microsoft, the d-pad on the 360 is defective, and your little "fix" (which also happened to ruin other aspects of the controller, like the colored buttons) didn't. Design a real d-pad (if you need help, just look in your own back catalog to the Sidewinder gamepad) and put it where it belongs, where you currently have the left thumb stick.

TeeniestChaos
TeeniestChaos

As a 360 owner seriously considering jumping ship to the WiiU and relying on a PC for my next-gen gaming needs, several things would need to happen to get me to stay. I'll start with the ones most likely to happen:

 

1) Rare. The company became a legend for figuring out how to develop SNES games before that system was released, and they handled the 360 launch as perfectly as possible, IMO. Kameo sold me on the 360, Perfect Dark Zero is perhaps still the best 4-player local coop shooter on the system, and both dared to be different (the hybrid fighter-creature collection - platformer and the new skeleton modes that made zombie style games work well for shooters). Having finished their forced projects handling Kinnect Sports for Microsoft, they're definitely working on 720 games as we speak. And if Kameo is any indication, they've been working on 720 launch titles for years. As a platforming fan, I'd love to see a real Banjo/Kameo/Conker or something new entirely in addition to their more action-oriented franchises.

 

2)  Release the Xbox Live Arcade service for PC. Get me interested in the indie scene from my computer/wired 360 controller hybrid and I might just be interested in what the next version can do.

 

3) A partner with gamespy/steam/onlive/xpadder for pc-360 connectivity. Let me stream my PC games to the console and play on my TV with a 360 controller- a lot of titles, from Rogue Squadron 3D to Rayman Origins for the PC work great with a wired controller. The PC has a virtually unlimited backlog of games compared to consoles, and that should be tapped if Microsoft wants to compete with the richer gaming histories of there console competitors. Allow for a mouse and keyboard option and provide a free windows OS (perhaps XP). Partner with FTP Pc games to make versions available on the system at launch to showcase free online support (perhaps DDO).

 

4) Full backwards compatibility. Finish the xbox compatibility list, and let 360 games work on 720. The wii is 10 times more attractive for it's excellent gamecube library (rogue leader/Pac Man vs./Baten Kaitos/and the Nintendo bit - smash/mario/metroid/zelda/pikmin/etc).

 

5) Plug and play USB support for custom controllers. Bring out your PC joystick, map the controls to the 360's sticks and buttons and play H.A.W.X. or an Air Combat game. Bring out your mouse and keyboard and play an MMO or RTS in a way that works.

 

Those are what would get me excited about the system. I miss the strength of Nintendo's franchises and their willingness to do something different with them and pursue new IP like they did on the 'cube (mario sunshine, windwaker and pikmin come to mind). With Rare and some good PC connections, I might decide to stick with Microsoft for another round. Without them, I'll likely bounce back to Nintendo.

Supabul
Supabul

I want to be able to play 360 games and transfer over my DLC and arcade games, I'll be really disappointed if its not BC

 

jark888
jark888

I don't buy Xbox games for 2 reasons. First, they are NOT better than Blu-ray discs, and second I will always end up paying for online service (Xbox Live). I would buy some Xbox games like Dance Central or Child of Eden because they are more intuitive to play these games with Kinect than PS Move.

jark888
jark888

Blu-ray drive is a must! Don't take too much BS pride MS. Sony PC can use Window OS; then, why can't you utilize their Blu-ray technology!

 

menacefox
menacefox

Microsoft only has two realistic options to succeed:

 

1. Buy the Blu-ray license from Sony to make the console great. There is no reason why games should be on 2 discs in the near future.

2. Don't buy the Blu-ray license from Sony - but make Xbox Live free in exchange for the loss of Blu-ray.

 

If there is no Blu-ray or free Xbox Live (to make up for lacking Blu-ray) I will not be buying this console. I will stick with my PC.

 

P.S. I am keeping my Xbox 360 until it stops working.

daveg1
daveg1

way better first party blockbuster games is what ms sorley misses here sony is king easily.

ShipwreckX
ShipwreckX

I do not want to get up and move to play games, I bust my ass at work all day and just want to play with a controller.

rarson
rarson

"The future of console success is not exclusive third-party games, but earlier releases of downloadable content."

 

I disagree. Console exclusives are much more likely to make me buy the hardware than early release of downloadable content, which I'm content (no pun intended) waiting for, if I even buy it at all.

 

I would love Steam on a console, especially if the console comes with an adequately-sized hard drive or lets me put my own huge hard drive inside. The pricing needs to match the current pricing of PC games on Steam, though, which is one of the biggest reasons I like using the service.

tie3
tie3

What they also Need To Do Is Fix The Hacking Of accounts On Xbox Live.

Besides, Once Its Hacked, They Dry Up You're Credit card And there's Nothing You can Do about It.

 

kingdakka
kingdakka

"It needs to make my cable box, Blu-ray player, and iPad irrelevant"-  Why?  if I wanted that I'll just use my PC.

 

"Sony has shown its unwillingness to sacrifice in these ways, and you can bet the fight for next-gen dominance will be too fierce to come up short in any area." - Seems like you forgot how much the PS3 cost when it first came out.

 

"Embrace Blu-ray" - No beef here.

 

"Steam for Consoles" -  I think steam is over rated to be honest.  I only have it for dawn of war.

 

"with a discount for the online purchase"  Ummm no all that will do is kill retail stores, and eat up space on the Hard drive.  Besides I like having a physical copy.

 

"Mobility Matters"  yes and no, I do travel with my X-box but I dont want it to be so small they skimp on performance.

 

"HD Kinect Bundled In"  No please, if they include this I wont buy it.

 

"Kinect Integration for All Games"  see above.

 

Sorry dude I disagree with your assessment, I honestly think you dont really play games.  You remind me of a CEO at a video game company,  You call the shots but don't know a thing about the customers and how they think.

KevinJKoren
KevinJKoren

We need different shooters. Less Halo (don't get me wrong they're awesome) and Gears of War. Steam for Consoles would be AWESOME!!!!!! Also add blu-ray movies. Lastly though they need to add some sort of portable gaming system thingy but then again most of the people who play Xbox are either older teens or Adults so when will they need to play portably. One last word to Xbox......GOOD JOB!!!!

P.S. Don't forget that Apple could be coming out with a video game consle so keep that in mind because it's usually Apple that sets the bar for Microsoft

P.P.S: Don't forget that Microsoft is in the middle of a Lawsuit with Motorola (gasp!)

slimskelter
slimskelter

Put a mouth on it and call it the Oral-Sex-Box. Damn, that's a basement boy comment isn't it.

KoAxBIGxBOSSx
KoAxBIGxBOSSx

 @rarson Do you know why Sony has the Dpad in that position? Because primarily in Japan games use the Dpad over both analog sticks. Here in the states however its quite the opposite. With the most popular genre here being shooters we use the analog stick. So its in the perfect spot. How many offbrand xbox controllers do you see with the dpad and thumbstick switched...none. While there are alot of offbrand PS controllers with the standard xbox button layout. So if you dont like it go back to playstation and dont try to ruin it for the rest of us that only use dpads for menu navigation lol. Or just buy a fightstick for your fighting games.

rarson
rarson

 @TeeniestChaos

 

#2 needs to happen because Windows 8 needs an Xbox-like marketplace. They already have the dashboard feel with Metro, but they need the rich infrastructure that Xbox Live has.

 

#3 is a great idea. I love having Steam available on my PC, and I'd love to have it for the next Xbox, but streaming PC games onto the TV via the Xbox would be extra awesome!

 

Microsoft needs to better integrate wireless controllers into the PC world. I should not need an external dongle to use a wireless 360 controller on a PC. That said, the 360 controller has been the best thing for PC since the original Microsoft Sidewinder gamepad (which ironically had a much better d-pad than the 360 controller).

theonlylolking
theonlylolking

 @Supabul Keep your 360 and you will not have to worry about such a overrated featured called bc.

KoAxBIGxBOSSx
KoAxBIGxBOSSx

 @jark888 Those are 2 stupid reasons to not buy xbox games. The graphic quality between the ps3 and xbox, while there is a difference its barely noticeable to most people. I do agree the new system needs a BR drive, but you should really have better reasons to not buy xbox. I dont buy playstation because Playstation Online is garbage, 30 min for a 50 mb update its ridiculous. Sony should really think about a premium service so they can actually afford to bring a good product to their customers and also not brag about how impenetrable their service is and then have hackers DESTROY everything they said was so strong lol. The funniest moment in the gaming industry last year...it was priceless

rarson
rarson

 @menacefox

 

I doubt Microsoft will skip the Blu-Ray drive. Too many people want their games on physical media. Not just consumers, but publishers, too.

menacefox
menacefox

If Microsoft decides to take the "no disc drive" route, in that case, Xbox Live should be free as well.

KoAxBIGxBOSSx
KoAxBIGxBOSSx

 @daveg1 with what...Uncharted (male tomb raider) and Killzone which was supposed to kill halo.....HA that didnt happen

 

BFEL
BFEL

 @tie3 lol I personally haven't even heard STORIES of someone getting hacked on Xbox. And yet Playstation had EVERYONE GET HACKED AT ONCE :P

BFEL
BFEL

 @slimskelter XD that would probably sell for far money and in far greater numbers then we could possibly imagine :P

HonorOfGod
HonorOfGod

 @slimskelter Nope most people at work and all over the place sound like that no matter what age these days. Sad.

kingdakka
kingdakka

 @rarson What is the obsesson with steam?  I just don't see why everybody is so head over heels with it.

BFEL
BFEL

 @theonlylolking The 360 not having bc was a major turn off for me, not only was the new system incapable of playing older games but THEN THEY STOPPED MAKING THE ORIGINAL XBOX. I was EXTREMELY pissed because I have an Xbox game I bought the day my original died that I HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO PLAY. BC is easily one of the better features to have, imagine if your 360 red ringed and you could never play any of its games again because they only have the Xbox 9001.

KoAxBIGxBOSSx
KoAxBIGxBOSSx

 @theonlylolking its not an overrated feature at all. BC is really important for them if they want this to be the only box we have in our living room. Also it we help people buy the new console when it comes out instead of buying the cheaper 360 to play 360 games

Shane_Padget
Shane_Padget

 @slimskelter  @KevinJKoren  ok, I am a PC user, but give it a rest with the "apple's products are overpriced" first of all, it's not the brand, any computer, if it's expensive, it's because it's better than a cheap computer, you could get any mac with bad hardware and get away with just paying 100 - 300 dollars, the reason why people say it is overpriced is because every time someone gets into Apple.com the first thing you see is a $2500 computer, but what do you expect them to have on the home page? a 1982 apple computer? another reason is that they discontinue bad macs and keep up with the new one's, and microsoft will keep selling good and bad computers, and if you pay attencion to any good PC, you will notice the price is 2500 dollars or more with the same hardware as a mac....oh my god I hate it when people think they know how a buisiness works, fuck me...

 

BFEL
BFEL

 @kingdakka because steam is mind-controlling lesser people to be obsessed with its crappy system that makes games unplayable the moment your internet connection trips up

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

 @theonlylolking I want more Kinect, if they deliver what they initially promised with it (dedicated internal Kinect CPU, HD cameras). And give us more games that integrate both the controller and voice/motion controls.

 

Skyrim's Kinect voice commands work almost flawlessly and really add something to the experience, so the thing does have some value.

Shane_Padget
Shane_Padget

 @slimskelter  now that I think about it, everything  you just said, makes perfect sense and it is very well explained, so I guess that it is true, macs are a bit overpriced, at least for the quality, I guess i'm just gonna back down now..

slimskelter
slimskelter

 @Shane_Padget I know this is getting old, but let me explain my response. My first point is regarding your statement about the price of computers and their worth. You said, " ... if it's expensive, it's because it's better than any cheap computer.  "Better" is kind of a loaded word the way you're using it, but in no way, by all aspects and means, does the price always determine the value of a computer. Using Macs for example. The high price of that Mac on their homepage that you refer to, in no way is better standing side by side to every cheaper PC. Especially any that I've built. Also, your statement, " ... Microsoft will keep selling good and bad computers." Microsoft, in no way shape or form sell computers. They sell operating systems, mice, keyboards, and other peripherals. And you will never find a pre assembled PC with the same hardware as a MAC. And if by some miracle you did, the PC (With the same hardware) would be cheaper, because Apple charges a considerable amount more for the components they use, then for what you could buy them for on the open market. Back to the beginning, I know you did not exactly say "A Mac is better than any PC," I know that. But since this entire argument was based around the price of an Apple computer, that's why I used it as part of my example. And that example is relevant to any computer, especially Macs. And you're throwing Mac references in as part of your argument as well, so every thing I said is on point. I own a 08 MacBook Pro that cost me a little over $3,000. It's a good machine. I work on Macs all day that cost around $8,000, and this is only because we have to use Mac exclusive software. I'll always invest my money into a solid custom built PC. You may as well. But I'll never give it a rest when referring to the price of Apple computers, not the quality, but the overpricing of it. I don't like it when greedy b@st@rds get away with highway robbery because of a monumental social trend. I could go on about that as well.

Shane_Padget
Shane_Padget

 @slimskelter maybe you did not understand, I did not say that a mac is better than a PC, so i guess now that i have explained, that brings me to my previous point, which makes us forget at least half of your comment, what i said was that macs are not overpriced, i would not like a mac in my hands, because i'm a gamer, and anyone with more than half a brain knows that if you want to get into intense gaming, a mac would NOT be the smartest idea. i guess macs just are not for people like us, I personally prefer a good windows PC over any mac, but just give apple a rest...

Shane_Padget
Shane_Padget

 @HonorOfGod windows has always been my favorite OS, it's the most compatible at least, and its great for gaming, i love windows and pc's 

Shane_Padget
Shane_Padget

 @KoAxBIGxBOSSx nah dude, i have always been a pc user, but have been looking into why people say that macs are overpriced, what im saying is that maybe people should give it a rest, and i would not really get a mac for gaming, and not to be rude but, microsoft is not a software company, at least not only a software company... and i dont doubt you can play games on high graphics, but i dont think it "outperforms"  than "your friends mac" 

KoAxBIGxBOSSx
KoAxBIGxBOSSx

 @Shane_Padget First MicroSOFT is a software company not a hardware company. And second MACs are overpriced you are paying for the brand. My 800 dollar Sony Vaio laptop outperforms my friends brand new 13" Macbook which was $1400. And you dont need to spend 2500 at all for a good gaming build i just dropped $1200 and i play all games on ultra at 60fps. I take it you are a MAC user huh? lol

 

HonorOfGod
HonorOfGod

 @Shane_Padget On a PC right now and will not use it unless its with Linux because I am sick of Windows really. If I had the money for a Mac at the moment I would so get one. The version of Linux I love using is Zorin and will continue to use it until I can buy a mac.

slimskelter
slimskelter

 @Shane_Padget Give me $2500 to build a PC, and it'll blow that $2500 Mac out of the water. When you order a Mac online it's ridiculous how much they charge for upgrades. Apple charges you more for their hardware than what it individually goes for on the open market. Other than some of their Intel and Samsung drives, the rest of their components are sub-par. You can build a PC with a badass mobo, SSD RAID, 16+ Gbs of RAM, 2-3 way SLI or Crossfire GPU, 1200w PSU, all liquid cooled, with the living shit fanned out of it, all in a custom case. For the starting price of your i7 Mac Pro. Come back and try to tell me what options you have to choose from on your Mac components. I bet they are endless, right. And they discontinue bad Macs? Really? Oh, and Microsoft doesn't build any internal PC components. I think in order for you to know how "computer business" works, you need to know how a computer works.