Over the last few months, Microsoft has become a perpetual punch line in the video game industry. Obviously, the company still possesses enough respect to remain newsworthy, but journalists and gamers have not been kind to the Xbox developer (luckily EA is always around to make everyone look more attractive).
But with their next-gen console event quickly approaching, Microsoft can't afford to be on everyone's hit list. So, they're going to need a strategy to turn their reputation around.
Luckily, I'm here to offer a little advice.
From where I sit, Microsoft has four major items that need to be addressed if the next Xbox is going to remain competitive:
1. Always-Online Complaints.
Even before Adam Orth's stream of semi-ignorant comments hit the internet, gamers have been concerned about Microsoft's ambivalence toward an always-online requirement. MS has never endorsed the feature outright, but their staff has consistently avoided the issue. Plus, there has been a pretty steady stream of leaks coming from Microsoft's corporate headquarters, and nearly all of the evidence has suggested that MS would be introducing the first always-on console.
But yesterday we got a bit of good news.
According to an internal memo that was delivered to all of Microsoft's full-time employees, offline gameplay will not be a problem:
"There are a number of scenarios that our users expect to work without an Internet connection 'just work' regardless of their current connection status. Those include, but are not limited to: playing a Blu-ray disc, watching live TV, and yes playing a single player game."
However, even though gamers shouldn't need to worry about offline play, they’ll undoubtedly be keeping an eye on Microsoft's strategy. Any missed steps could be a huge problem for the console's future.
2. PlayStation 4 Already Has A Huge Lead.
It's been over two months since Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4, and Microsoft has been uncharacteristically silent for most of that time—only breaking radio silence to deal with the occasional PR disaster. But this could be a major blunder on Microsoft's part.
If Microsoft introduces anything that's even remotely similar to one of the PlayStation 4's features it will undoubtedly be viewed as a reaction to Sony's innovation. Plus, it's starting to sound like the next-gen Xbox is lagging behind when it comes to game development, and if Microsoft doesn't have a solid launch lineup waiting at the starting line, we could have another Wii U situation on our hands.
3. First Party Titles Are A Problem.
The Halo and Gears of War franchises probably aren't going to be enough to ensure that the Xbox Infinity (or whatever we're going to call it) is successful. Nintendo has some of the most iconic first party titles in video game history, and Sony is carving out an incredibly impressive library of exclusives, but Microsoft has been happy to twiddle its thumbs and let Call of Duty do all of the work.
But PC gaming is coming back into vogue, which means that the console market is starting to shrink. So, unless Microsoft can give us a very good reason to buy their next system, it's a simple numbers game. Why would I buy a system that only has two first party titles that are worth playing?
4. Microsoft Needs To Learn A Little Respect.
Microsoft is one of the biggest, most successful companies on earth, but they don't seem to understand something: they're not too big to fail. I've already written about this in the past, so I won't go launch into a full-fledged rant, but the way that MS treats their customers is a gigantic problem.
The level of ambivalence that Microsoft has shown for console gamers, PC Gamers, and indie developers is unforgivable at this point, and if they want to stay at the top of the market, something is going to need to change.
Date: May 7, 2013