Its true, the XBOX brand is 10 years old this week, it seems like only yesterday. Released a week before the Gamecube in 2001, it gave gamers a decent alternative to the then dominating PS2. Its life span was relatively short, its pad large, and it was an ugly looking thing, but it gave Microsoft a decent opening foothold in the gaming market, and also produced one or two notable new franchises such as Fable and Halo.
Its successor the 360, has gone from a shakey start to becoming in some peoples eyes, the blueprint console for future generations. That shakey start has much to do with its reliability issues more than anything else. The dreaded 3 lights of death(TM) have cost Msoft a fair penny and caused many a gamer to lose their rag with the company. The release of the Elite console finally rectifed the problem, and those lights are now rarely seen. Just how many gamers lost patience and moved over to the PS3 because of it, many never be known. Another early blow was the backing of HD-DVD. Being able to double up as a home entertainment system is a must now for any console, and Msoft took a punt on HD-DVD being the next step from DVD. It wasnt, Blu-Ray got the nod, and HD-DVD discs and the 360′s HD-DVD drives were made redundant, very quickly too.
In the main though, the 360 has been a tremendous success. Love them or hate them, Msoft have taken to the console market with a clear objective, to make their consoles user friendly whilst still appealing to the core gamer. The 360 pad is possibly the most comfortable pad ever made, and whilst it has no special gimmicks, it does its job exceptionally well. XBOX Live and XBL Arcade have been a revelation. Whilst many gamers disagree with having to pay for the service, you cant help but be impressed with what the service offers. XBL Arcade is easy to navigate and purchase from, games are easy to join and its easy to chat to people on your friends list. Its easy to see now that the original XBOX was used as a testing ground for what XBOX Live has become today, and possibly this is the reason why PS3′s online service still feels a few steps behind.
The 360 has been a huge success, less so in Japan, but in Europe and the U.S, its surely now on a level playing field with Sony. Rumours today suggest Halo 4 will ship for the 360, so Msoft certinly havent given up on the 360 yet. But just how much longer can the 360 last though? Games are starting to out spec the console, with some arriving on as many as 3 DVD discs. The Kinect has possibly extended the 360′s lifespan, but perhaps hasnt taken off as much as predicted. Its no coincidence that the now slightly barron looking 360 games release schedule, has been met with a barrage of ‘Next XBOX’ rumours recently.
The next generation XBOX will be a huge step for Msoft. Not counting the Wii U (its just a HD Wii surely?!), it looks likely that the next XBOX will be the first, next gen console released. Whilst probably not quite as early as Xmas 2012 as some places suggest, it looks like it will certainly see light of day a lot sooner than the next Sony console.
Msoft already have all the tools in place to make a real fist of the next gen. But as always there are a few key factors it has to get right. It has to get the consoles working, fully, from the get go. No reliability issues, no more red lights. It has to move to a Blu Ray format, whether that can happen legally I dont know, but they need it to happen. And then there are the games.
This generation has seen a wealth of new franchises develop. Gears of War, Modern Warfare, Uncharted, Resistance, and Mass Effect to name a few. These games all have in common the word, trilogy. Some (not naming any names) of these have gotten away with having three versions of more or less the same games. When the next gen arrives, these big names need to move on. Simply sticking flashier graphics on another ahem, war game, will seriously test gamers patience. So these games need to be seriously updated, or moved on in favour of new IP’S.
Maybe this is where Kinect comes in. Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough. I look forward to the next XBOX, I think Msoft are slowly becoming more and more at home in the console market and I think they have more tricks up their sleeve. As long as they continue to favour the core gamer, and they let me transfer my Gamerscore to the ’720′, then count me in.