Microsoft’s first foray into the video game business was a risky and expensive maneuver. Despite having Halo as a stellar launch title and hardware capable of feats its competition couldn’t possibly produce, the original Xbox failed to maintain the flash and evolution of its distant brother: the Xbox 360–which is nearly celebrating its 7th anniversary on the market.
Console generations generally don’t exceed the pre-determined life expectancy predicted by its creators, but sometimes an unexpected boom of success prompts the decision makers to reconsider. Last November, Microsoft sold 1.7 million Xbox 360 consoles in the U.S., defeating Nintendo’s Wii and 3DS consoles by a large margin. Profit incites investors, potentially explaining why Microsoft has yet to formally announce a successor to its commercial darling. The last thing Microsoft wants to do is create competition for its own product.
Although the Xbox 360 is approaching its 80th birthday in human years, it is still receiving a flood of content from developers across the world. Some gamers describe a backlog of quality titles so large that it would take years to dive into—so many years, in fact, that the possibility of a new console from Microsoft haunts them.
According to GameRankings, the Xbox 360 has featured 50 games all receiving reviews in the 90 percentile range, with countless other titles narrowly dodging critical prowess, and a plethora of great games lost in the indie shuffle with little recognition. For the sake of argument, if a player only tackles the must-play games, he or she will have to dedicate on average a total of 600 hours to complete these titles. If the 12-15 hour per game average is unrealistically low (which it is in most cases, considering hours spent on Skyrim alone) then we can safely add dozens upon dozens of hours to this arbitrary number.
Besides a hefty backlog of games still yearning for the player’s attention, we in the United States are still experiencing an economic recession, placing doubt into the purchase of a brand new gaming console. If the PlayStation Vita is any indication, we can expect our hobby of choice to become more of a burden to our wallet as the years go on. If a portable console breaks into the market at the price of $250.00, what can we expect from a full-fledged home entertainment console with similar features to a PC? To the generation of gamers who grew up amused by the 8-bit glory of the NES, being an apprentice in the adult life has its own set of worries and finding the cash and time to devote to a brand new console is somewhat distressing.
The birth of the digitally downloadable game on XBLA has sparked a fresh set of creativity in the minds of developers, and has allowed them to create games on a much smaller budget. Some find it hard to believe that XBLA has reached a creative peak. To this day, XBLA features some of the most unique titles we’ve ever seen, and they keep on coming. Counting the number of announced games yet to be released would require numerous hands, and contemplating the amount of titles yet to be announced would require even more. Bottom line, we have yet to witness XBLA’s full potential. Unless Microsoft discovers a way to smoothly transition existing content to the new console, most gamers are not ready to move on.
When the Kinect was released, Microsoft placed all bets on it, and it seems to have payed off. This motion sensing device may have artificially extended the console’s life, but its hard to argue that it hasn’t presented some fancy games since release. To anyone who has played Leedmees, Fruit Ninja Kinect, Haunt and countless others, the device has injected new life into an aging system. Microsoft may see the Kinect as the system’s premiere add-on, like a Sega CD or other expansion.
Not only does the Kinect add new life to our system, but newer models do too. This year, Microsoft plans on releasing a special edition of the Xbox 360 S, with a Star Wars inspired coat of paint and power buttons featuring sounds straight out of the classic films. Many of us currently own an Xbox 360 S, but who can deny the enticement of purchasing this super sleek console? If Microsoft wants to hold our interest, they could release these newer designs with slightly enhanced power instead of announcing a brand new console separate from these editions.
E3 2012 may reveal a new system from our favorite company, but it may simply be a tease to keep the hardcore excited and not enough to dump their current system for the promise of something new. Microsoft would be foolish to kill its current system’s momentum by putting a 2012 or even early 2013 release date on its new hardware. Let’s all just sit back, enjoy a Wednesday XBLA release every week, and play catch up. There’s always an achievement to go for anyway, right?