Back when the Xbox 360 was on it’s way in, I was convinced that Microsoft was making a huge mistake. The original Xbox never quite seemed to catch on, and with only a 4-year lifespan, it hardly seemed to have been given a chance. So in 2005 when the Xbox 360 was launched in North America, I looked on with only casual interest, with no intent to buy. I’ve always maintained a decent gaming PC anyway, so I never felt like I was missing out on much.
When Gears of War was released however, I stepped into Wal*Mart with plans to buy the game for my brother for Christmas and was so impressed with the game, I walked out with a brand new system instead – and I’ve never regretted it since. I’ve now got a solid library of games, and use the machine almost every day. Turns out that the Xbox brand is pretty good after all.
The console has been about for almost 3 years now, and the time is approaching to start thinking ahead. When the inevitable next version of the Xbox rolls into town, how can Microsoft ensure that it will be at least as big of a success? By following my list of suggestions, of course!
Not only should Microsoft work to ensure that the next Xbox has less instances of hardware failure than the Xbox 360, but it should also include a few upgrades to the current 360 hardware. These include:
- Blue-ray disc drive (preferably a quieter drive than the 360’s DVD drive as well)
- Larger, mandatory hard drive for all SKU’s
- Built-in wireless (not essential, but would be nice for some
There’s not all that much that really needs to be added, and if it makes the cost of the system skyrocket, I’d prefer they stick to the same scheme they used for the Xbox 360 – keep the extra components as add-ons which can be bought and used as needed.
Keep It Simple
One thing that I really like about the Xbox 360 is the fact that it works, and works well, right out of the box. There’s no huge set up, and no need to configure the system much before you jump right into the games. This is a small, but important detail, and one which I hope Microsoft doesn’t skip over for the next Xbox – especially if more advanced hardware is included in the package.
And even though I’d like to see some big upgrades to the innards of the next Xbox, I’d rather not have the machine try to be an all-in-one home entertainment solution. Microsoft has done well keeping their gaming box relevant and fun by making it primarily about gaming, and I think that’s a smart course to take, especially considering how poorly all-in-one devices have done with consumers in the past.
I believe that one major attribute to the success of the Xbox 360 was the fact that system prices were kept within a reasonable range, via price cuts and varying SKU’s. Sony’s initially ridiculous pricing for the PS3 didn’t hurt either. If the next Xbox is to succeed again, it should be carefully priced to avoid seeming cheap, while staying within grasp of people who earn an average income, between $300 and $400.
Value also comes from what’s inside the box, and the improved hardware mentioned above could mean additional worth. Backwards compatibility is also important to this – I’m a lot more comfortable with replacing my current game system with a new one if I can play most of my old games on the new rig. It should go without saying that Xbox Live Arcade games, Gamerscore, and Gamercard should transfer over to the next system with nary a hitch.
A good game lineup is also an important part of the value for any system, and as long as Microsoft keeps up a good relationship with quality developers, either via special treatment or other means, they should have no shortage of good games moving into the future.
Give It Time
The final important factor in making the next Xbox a hit has a lot to do with the current Xbox 360, and how long the system is kept alive. I think Microsoft should extend the life of the 360 well into 2009 or 2010. The 360 is currently having no trouble keeping up with rival PS3, and the extra time should give the Xbox team room for making good improvements to the next system’s hardware and software, testing, and nailing down a solid, stable release. This could ensure that there’s no console shortage fiasco (or at least, not such a big one), and could also give manufacturers time to get component pricing under control – which could mean lower initial prices.
Sony is Microsoft’s biggest competitor right now, and they’ve pledged a 10 year lifespan for the PS3. This gives ample time for Microsoft to put together an awesome, inexpensive gaming rig without casting the Xbox 360 aside too quickly.
I’ll be looking forward to the next Xbox, and because of the success of the Xbox 360, I’m sure many others will be as well. Here’s to hoping for a bright future!