Xbox 720 Reveal – 10 Things To Look For Tomorrow
Call it the NextBox, Xbox 2, Durango, Xbox 720, or just Your New FPS & 13-Year Old Insult Machine, but Microsoft’s big day is tomorrow. It’s like the birth of an actual child: no one knows what it will look like, most people are nervous to the point of vomiting, and there will be a billion pictures on Facebook tomorrow. Microsoft is unveiling their new console tomorrow, May 21, with the system codenamed “Durango”. I’ll be live-blogging the event here at ScreenInvasion, so lucky you!
This latest console generation has been a big bug-nutty: a staggering 7-8 years long with the only new competitor being mobile games. PC games have exploded into a whole different direction of weird, going way experimental with crowdsourcing/bizarre concepts/indie titles and such. Yet the consoles of this generation stayed very rigidly in their place: FPS’s, sports games, stuff for kids and Nana. In my opinion, they maintained their dominance with derivative, repetitive franchise titles and safe bets focusing on linearity, closed hardware systems, simple concepts, addictive junk food multiplayer, and narratives spoon-fed to their audiences. Keep it simple, folks. We don’t want those gamers expecting too much. Microsoft, PlayStation and Nintendo were on auto-pilot. This is partially to blame for a stagnant hardware market, the fact the generation went on for SO LONG with hardware circa 2005-2006 means severe limitations later on.
I feel the only real innovation this generation provided was in the online space with Xbox Live so gamers can enjoy their favorite games and call each other “fags.” And you get to pay for it! Actually in all honesty, Xbox Live is a serious step forward to an online community of gamers, and has permanently cemented the idea that online is important (hint, hint Nintendo). Sony’s embrace of the Blu-Ray format was also a plus, as movies and TV shows can enjoy a superior format to HD DVD, with better disc capacities and studio support. The Wii gave Nana something to play with her grandkids, and also produced a few stellar games like Okami, Super Mario Galaxy, and Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure. We had 8 years of games, and the most popular were the ones where you shoot dudes with guns or throw a ball around.
For the big day tomorrow, here’s a short list of things I’m expecting and things that would actually surprise me.
5 Things I’m Expecting
1. Not a lot of game reveals.
E3 is just around the corner in June, and according to the Major Nelson podcast, Microsoft is planning its big reveal in 2 parts. The reveal tomorrow will focus on the hardware and the console itself, with E3 being all about the games. They’re going to show off the console, unlike Sony, even if it’s just a mockup. It’s probably just going to be a black box, but viewing the console is important, it gives a player a physical object to want. It’s hard to want something that’s conceptual at this point.
2. Console Pricing Tiers
The whole $199 Xbox 720 with a monthly subscription rumor has been floating around for a while. I expect Microsoft to announce multiple tiers, with the most expensive version having the most access to online services. For those that can’t math, monthly subscriptions will quickly eclipse the total cost of the most expensive version extremely quickly.
3. Xbox Live 2 (or something like it)
Xbox charging players a premium to play online has always been a thorn in my side. You’re already paying for a private internet connection, the console itself, the game you want to play, a headset, and energy drinks and Microsoft wants you to fork over an additional $75-100 a year for the privilege of playing with other people. Note: Xbox is the ONLY console that does this. I’m amazed it’s gone on for this long. And considering how fucking awful the Xbox Live community is (4chan levels of terribleness), I’m flabbergasted it’s been so popular. I expect a revamp of the service, with it possibly going free to play on the new system, with a premium tier for things like custom gamer icons, clan tags, and leaderboards. Maybe a revise of its confusing and ugly UI, too.
4. Kinect Growing Smart
Since the Kinect will be built into Xbox 720, you’re going to see some new innovations in this department. Microsoft is doubling down on their goofy, hands-free peripheral and I don’t know what to think about this. They’re having been many blockbuster Kinect titles, but that doesn’t mean the peripheral is down for the count. The entire home UI interface will probably be Kinect powered, with certain system functions going totally hands-free. We’re going to see a lot of better Kinect-based stuff in games, since it’ll be part of the hardware, rather than a extra.
5. More PC-like system architecture
The PS4 reveal made it clearly evident that Sony listened to its developers and made a system with friendlier hardware. With an x86 processor and DDR5 RAM, the PS4 is basically a decent gaming PC in a console box. That makes developers smile, as ports are easier, and the system is more flexible, using tools they already know. The Xbox 720 is going the same route: more PC-like.
5 Things What Would Surprise Me
1. An unexpected exclusive game reveal
I’m thinking like a Conker’s Bad Fur Day 2 reveal, or revival of Perfect Dark, or Banjo Kazooie 3, or anything to get Rare out of their gulag. Somebody save Rare. Anybody. For you youngins, Rare used to be a top dog when it came to game development. They have an amazing track record, with top notch tech, exceptional games, and nothing to do right now. Since E3 is happening in June, I don’t expect any shocking game reveals tomorrow. Maybe Call of Duty: Ghosts first look.
2. Always online is a real thing
I know there was a leak about this earlier, and it seems Microsoft have backed away from it like the plague, as they should. If they decide to bite the bullet on this one and spin in as Xbox Live 2.0, that would actually surprise me. We hate always-online for singleplayer, and there’s no record of a game successfully implementing it.
3. No controller, or massive controller redesign
Since Kinect is built into the system, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a board meeting debating doing away with the controller entirely. Yet, Kinect hasn’t matured to the point where this is an option, plus there’s too much $$$ to be made on controller sales. The Xbox 360 controller is an excellent controller, so there’s not much to fix. If they redesigned it from the bottom, to resemble, say, the Razer Hydra or some sort of wand, that would be out there for me.
4. Cross-platform play with PC’s
If Microsoft decides to reverse their decision and release all console gamers from their closed system prison, the world would be better for it. Cross-platform play, which I’ve brought up before, is a reality that would bridge the gap between these two very different gaming communities. Maybe some good PC practices, like tough game moderation and custom maps, would rub off on the console crowd.
5. No game discs, or HD installs for all games
This would blow my goddamn mind. If Microsoft decides to go with reality, and realize retail is deader than disco, they’d institute the ability to purchase and download ANY game available for the system (and previous systems). That way they could have their draconian always-online DRM and eat it too, a one-time activation install for games to combat piracy and the dreaded used games. If they wanted to be magnanimous about it, they could allow transfers of games to other systems. Or some mutant version of both: ability to download purchased games from the cloud if you lose your disc. That would be something.
Tomorrow, May 21, is the big Xbox 720 reveal on Xbox.com. The show should start at 10 am and last about an hour. Stay tuned to ScreenInvasion.com for immediate reactions and commentary!