Building A Better Xbox

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!

Better hardware

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.

Good Value

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!

6 comments:

  1. xygthop3 - Over a year ago

    Ah yes the mighty 360, I’m not a ‘fanboy’ of any perticular gaming console but I belive that MS are on the right track with the xbox consoles. Sure they have made some bad choices like the HD-DVD drive and not having a HDD built into every system which causes game developers to program for the consoles without the HDD, which in turn somewhat lowers the game experiance for HDD owners, (poping models and textures in GTA4 anyone?).
    But with a solid service like xbox live and a simple yet effective dashboard, this really makes the 360 something worth using every day.

    The main reason I bought an orgianl xbox was because of the fact it was a PC in a box and could be easily modifiyed to suit my needs with HDD space and Homebrew software, which really make the xbox my console of choice. With the 360 lacking in the homebrew department and me with the need to modifiy things and sometimes destroy them I’m not as impressed with the 360.

    One thing that the xbox/360 has going for it is the libary of games it has over any other next gen consoles. PS3 has only 4-5 games worth playing? but is great if you want an expensive blu-ray player. And the Wii is only good when you have friends over to play some party games or it works very well as a door stop.

    360 should be everyones choice in a console if you actually want to play serious games and not watch movies or hit you mates in the face with your controller.

    Great read Fred.

  2. FredFredrickson - Over a year ago

    I agree wholeheartedly, xygthop. I love the library of games that the 360 has to offer, and there are really only 1 or 2 games (excluding all the first party Nintendo games, since those will never go to other consoles, of course) which I wish would have come out for Xbox. It’s good stuff. :)

  3. GREY.FOXX - Over a year ago

    WOW this blog is bias we spent $300 plus the controllers, RROD,XBOX LIVE, and much more and all we get is 3 years and stop lieing ppl xbox only has gears and halo (sucks) ps3 has no games? uncharted heavenly sword GT motorstorm UT3 warhawk MGS4 resistance 1 & 2 killzone 2 LBP socom plus more M$ only have them 2 bioshock went multiplatform mass effect may go as well but except MGS4 all the best games have been multiplatform and don’t forget that 1 year headstart M$ got im no fanboy im just a realist and ps3 has a superior hardware and lineup M$ should create more games and new ideas 3 year lifespan sucks psn : MOE-GUNZ-JACKSON gamer tag : BADD N3WZ ( RROD at the moment )

  4. FredFredrickson - Over a year ago

    Er… where did I say the PS3 has no games?

    The only superior hardware the PS3 has inside is the Blue-ray player. Its video card is inferior, it has less ram, and the CPU structure is so foreign to programmers, it’s hard for them to put practical knowledge into coding for it. That’s not bias, that’s fact. Look it up if you don’t believe me.

    We’ll see how it all ends up, but right now I’m happy with the 360 – and that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) make me an anti-Sony zealot.

  5. GREY.FOXX - Over a year ago

    wasn’t talking to you fred but the ps3 is more powerful harder to code for yes but developers shouldn’t be lazy and i have a 360 but to say its doing well isn’t all the way correct it came out a year earlier and the other systems did better than xbox did in its first year also 2008 all there is to look for is gears of war 2 and i wasn’t pertaining to you just the guy up top who said ps3 only has 3-4 good games thats a lie but a whole new system when we only got gears and all that money spent come on 3 years thats B$ psn : MOE-GUNZ-JACKSON gamer tag : BADD N3WZ

  6. FredFredrickson - Over a year ago

    Well, you said the blog was biased, so I thought you were talking about me, since this is my blog. :P

    But I beg to differ, the PS3 is not more powerful than the Xbox. Its video hardware is inferior, and it has less RAM. The CPU is in the PS3 is slightly better, and you are right – the way it is set up makes it hard to code for… that’s a bad thing.

    Proprietary technology is not a good thing, because programmers don’t want to waste their time getting in-depth with a CPU that they’ll never be able to use the experience for elsewhere… This is why ports for PS3 usually aren’t very good – there’s no point in paying someone to spend a lot more time to do a job that SHOULD have been easy in the first place.

    Look back into history at the 3DFX line of video cards, and you’ll see what I mean. They tried to make the industry move towards their type of GPU programming (Glide), had some success, but ultimately failed because the rest of the industry already used more universal formats, OpenGL and DirectX.

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