The next generation is upon us in the world of video games. Whether you consider it starting with the launch of the Wii U or the unveiling of the PlayStation 4, we are heading right into the thick of another console war. Though the Wii U may not feel like something truly new to some, there is little doubt that gamers felt like the PlayStation 4 was what they had been hoping for from the future; and no doubt that Sony’s next gen attempt is looking strong. The one company that we have yet to hear anything from is Microsoft. While the next Xbox, presumably called the Xbox 720, hasn’t tipped its hand as of yet, it looks as though we could be on the verge of an announcement or even a partial unveiling in the next couple of months.
When it comes to separating the next iteration of new consoles, the thing that keeps gamers coming back are exclusives. Let’s face it, when it came to the Nintendo Wii, though it sold well among the non-traditional gamers, the only thing that kept the regular gaming community playing the system at all was Nintendo’s in-house developed titles such as Mario and Zelda. No matter what, the gaming community will continue to come back if they are given a reason. Developers nowadays look for the ability to make as much on a game as possible, so unless they are given an exclusive contract to develop a game for a given console, you can assume that most games will go cross platform. That is why it is important to show a strong hand of first party titles that sets itself apart from the competition.
What does Microsoft have to do with the Xbox 720 to continue a toe-to-toe fight with Sony for the next console war? They have to show the exclusives. The Xbox 720 will surely see the likes of games such as Gears of War and Halo but when looking at all of these franchises they are growing tiresome with the gaming industry. Halo is now on Halo 4 and its seventh entry in the series. Gears of War is on its third as well releasing the fourth in Gears of War: Judgement in a few weeks. The problem is that Microsoft has done nothing to push these titles to new boundaries with the exception of Halo 4. The Xbox 720 needs the ability to show that it can take these known franchises and make them relevant in a new way, but also show that all of the brains behind new IPs don’t strictly belong to Sony.
Microsoft has chosen to continue to release new versions of each of these franchises regularly, with the substantial amount of those games released on the Xbox 360. The original Xbox saw two Halo games, no Gears of War, and one Forza game. Since the launch of the Xbox 360, we have seen five Halo games, four Gears of War games, and four Forza games. It simply shows that Microsoft has put all of their eggs in one (technically three) basket(s), banking on the fact that consumers will continue to be satisfied with what might be considered tired franchises.
The PlayStation 4 will launch some well known franchises, but the dev teams that sit in Sony’s corner look much more diverse and stronger than that of Microsoft. The Xbox 720 needs more exclusives, plain and simple. If they continue their current trend of launches, Microsoft will be competing with the Wii U instead of the PlayStation 4, as it will be in a league all of its own. Microsoft needs to go back to the drawing board with the Xbox 720 and look at what made the Xbox 360 so successful to begin with. It wasn’t the Kinect, it wasn’t kiddy games that you could get on the Wii; it was games for tried-and-true gamers. It was the launch of Halo 3, the first next generation Halo game, it was Dead Rising and all the fun of blowing away some zombies in new found ways and it was the launch of Gears of War and finding the Hive in order to stop Emergence Day. These are the titles that made the Xbox 360 the system of choice, accompanied with an outstanding online infrastructure to play them with friends. It brought gamers to Microsoft and to the Xbox branding.
Without exclusives a system, no matter how impressive the hardware, will falter. The Xbox 720 must have games that bring consumers back to their love of Microsoft, or the Xbox 720 will be a wasted opportunity. The majority of gamers will look at all three systems side-by-side and ask themselves which offers more opportunities for growth. Some won’t have the funding to buy all three, or even two, and some won’t want all three because of time or they simply aren’t that interested; these are the gamers that will decide the console war and these are the gamers that each company will need to impress with their exclusives. Though some gamers may have a preference one way or another, there is little doubt that they will put their money and faith on the side that offers the games to play, no matter their preference. Microsoft has their work cut out for them with the Xbox 720’s launch, and for the sake of competition and gaming market, I hope they don’t flop. The unveiling of the Xbox 720 will show whether Microsoft is actually trying to put up a fight, or ride their moneybags made from the Xbox 360 off into the sunset.
What do you think about the next generation of consoles and the war brewing? And are exclusives what tip your money one way or the other? Sound off and let us know in the comments below.