So, Microsoft have finally stopped pretending there isn’t a third Xbox on the way and has found it in their hearts to give us a date for the big unveiling. Like the good consumers they take us for we’re supposed to watch the countdown timer patiently with baited breath. Then, when the time is upon us, Microsoft will bestow its new master plan for gaming on the world. It is said that this plan will include a full scale invasion of the living room complete with assault on cable companies and TV content providers. “But what about games?” a small voice manages to be heard above the din of the war machines before being taken round the back and ‘silenced’ by two large men in sickly green uniforms. Propaganda... I mean ‘promotional’ posters litter the streets; one in particular depicts a HDMI in port next to the word ‘Revolution’. One thing is for sure, the future of the industry is never as uncertain as at the turn of a console generation.
In these dark times we need reassurances that our needs as gamers will be met. This burden lies with console manufacturers who have happily taken our money over the years in exchange for what we want. What do we want? Do we even know? Are we being told what we want? Well nobody can speak for all gamers but I’m pretty sure that high up on the list of requests would be games. So what happens when the ambitions of a console manufacturer conflict with the wishes of their fans? We could find out very soon. If MS want into the living room so badly that gaming becomes a side-show in their circus of horrors it will partly due to their love of ‘casual’ money but also to do with being afraid to compete with Sony, toe-to-toe, as far as gaming is concerned.
Sony has a first party line up that, let’s face it, is hard to compete with. This has never been more evident than the last few years of PS3 in which Sony have managed to not only put out some fantastic sequels but also create a few completely new AAA IPs that have, or look set to, become runaway hits. Microsoft knows that if it takes the same tact as Sony, a completely gaming orientated one, it will be difficult for them to come out on top against the nearly 20 year long industry veterans. Instead they’re using TV and entertainment apps to broaden their net but, at the same time, take focus away from gaming. It’s a similar tactic to Nintendo who, after facing crushing defeats in two generations, scaled back their focus on the core gamer in favour of a casual audience. It worked fantastically for Nintendo, they managed to make money, lots of it, although they never recaptured the core gaming audience.
Third party will be what keeps the Xbox 3 afloat, as it has done with 360 these past years. Microsoft’s path to the living room will be either the road to ruin or a shortcut to success at the cost of the army that marched them there.