Five Changes Xbox 360 Needs in 2012
2011 was great for the Xbox 360, but there's room for improvement in the year ahead.
2011 was a pretty good year for the Xbox 360. The system saw some tremendous sales, including the best week in its history this past Thanksgiving and some great sales for both cross-platform and first-party exclusives. However, as we move into 2012, there are some major issues on the horizon for Microsoft's console. From a lack of exclusives to a problematic dashboard, there is a real need for a course change in the system's strategy. Here are some things that the Xbox 360 needs to come out on top in 2012.
1. More Exclusive Games
2011 was a pretty huge year for the Xbox 360. The system saw a sizable chunk of titles from its biggest franchises, including Gears of War 3, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, and Forza Motorsport 4. However, the glut of 2011 seems to have created a dearth in 2012. Halo 4, while surely to be a blockbuster, is the only real huge exclusive set for this year. The PlayStation 3 has had a steady cadence of quality exclusives, and the Xbox 360 seems to have slowed down in this regard. More great, high-quality exclusives will be necessary in the coming year.
Late last year, Microsoft purchased developer Twisted Pixel, known for its well-received 'Splosion Man franchise and most recently The Gunstringer, a clever, hilarious game that actually managed to take good advantage of Kinect (more on that in a bit). Hopefully with Twisted Pixel in its cadre, Microsoft will be able to offer Xbox 360 gamers some new and original experiences for 2012.
Hopefully Microsoft's purchase of Twisted Pixel means more original exclusives like The Gunstringer.
2. Make Better Use of Kinect
Frankly, aside from a few shining examples like Dance Central and The Gunstringer, Kinect has struggled when it has come to delivering compelling experiences. While system bundles and aggressive sales have resulted in millions of Kinects in households, the lack of any real great games that take advantage of the device all but ensures that many of them are collecting dust. Microsoft needs to offer better experiences for the device, even though dedicated games might not be the answer.
Halo Anniversary did feature some Kinect functionality, although it left quite a bit to be desired. The implementation included using the voice command functions to control Terminal videos and commands for throwing grenades, reloading, and other in-game functions, but felt tacked on and gimmicky. Still, the idea of using Kinect to enhance gaming experiences is definitely a step in the right direction. Using the voice functionality to issue commands to your squadmates in Mass Effect 3 is a nice supplement that doesn't interrupt the flow of the gameplay, and other high-profile games should take note as to how it's done. Kinect doesn't have to be a laughingstock, and by taking advantage of what the technology offers and using it to enhance gameplay experiences in a way other platforms can't is the key to its longevity.
3. Support the Xbox 360 After its Successor's Launch
With rumors kicking around about the launch of a new system soon, a lot of gamers are rightly wondering where the Xbox 360 will fit in with Microsoft's strategy for the future. Support for the original Xbox dropped quickly following the launch of its successor, something that hopefully won't be repeated this time around. Following the reveal and launch of the new system, Microsoft needs to support the 360 and its fanbase longer than it did with its predecessor, and it needs to be clear with its support. In the coming year, Microsoft has to lay out some firm plans for the future of the Xbox 360, how much longer it will pledge to support it with software and new hardware.
When the PlayStation 3 launched, Sony was very forthcoming with its ten-year plan for supporting the PS2 even after moving substantial assets to work on both the PSP and PS3. Microsoft should employ something similar with the Xbox 360, keeping it alive and supported well into its successor's lifespan.
4. Take Advantage of Games on Demand
A couple years ago, Xbox LIVE Arcade games hit a technical wall with the 2GB size limit. While it's a great platform for games that can fit under that size limit, there's still room for digital distribution to grow on the Xbox 360. Fortunately, the system's other downloadable platform, Games on Demand, has no such imposed size limits, letting publishers add games the size of full retail titles digitally. The platform has already proven to be a capable method for getting retail games and even a few original experiences. However, as games get larger and the retail space becomes more difficult for middle ground games to gain footing, a digital distribution system like Games on Demand is essential. In the coming year, Microsoft will have to spearhead the platform and take advantage of what it can offer as a de facto source for original downloadable-only experiences.
Games like Crysis show the potential of Games on Demand as a XBLA-like platform.
5. Fix the Dashboard
The 2011 Dashboard update brought a lot of great new possibilities for cementing the Xbox 360 as a front room media center. New apps from video content providers, a clean look, and improved connectivity options were some of the bigger benefits from the update. However, there were some definite downsides as well, including invasive ads (often getting more real estate than games themselves) and game pages that were buried and tucked away. Finding the XBLA and XBLIG sections are a chore in the new update, and that's something that definitely needs to change. 2011 saw some amazing games on offer through XBLA, and if 2012 will be even better for the platform, there needs to be improved visibility for these titles.
Invasive ads have become a big issue for many gamers on the new dashboard. Advertisements for games and non-gaming products alike have gotten out of control in the new dashboard, with more real estate given to Chuck Norris pitching World of Warcraft than even the disc you currently have in your system. There should be a way to rectify this issue while still taking advantage of the good parts offered in the new interface.
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