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Pre E3 2011: Microsoft

It’s hard to believe a year has past since the last E3, yet here we are getting ready for gaming’s premier convention once again.  Last year, Microsoft redesigned their Xbox 360 and finally gave everyone a look at what Kinect could do.  Reactions were mixed, but when the Kinect launched in November, it proved to be a hit with consumers.  So what could MS have in store for us this year?


At the start of this year’s E3, Microsoft finds themselves in a bit of a strange position.  Currently, the Xbox 360 is still ahead of its main rival, the PS3; but, if you look ahead at the coming year, it seems that most of the good exclusives are on Sony’s machine.  Despite Sony’s recent trouble with their network, the PS3 is within striking distance of the 360.  With the Xbox 360 going on six years now and the PS3 on five, this is a pivotal time in the console wars.  We are beginning to hear murmurs about the next generation of systems; rumors suggest we may seem them as early as 2013 (we think 2014 is more likely).  The question is: can Microsoft hold onto their small lead until the next generation arrives?

If they hope to do so, they’re going to need a strong showing at E3 this year.  Sony’s guns are loaded with big franchises such as inFamous, Twisted Metal, Uncharted, Resistance, The Last Guardian and more.  It’s easy to think of a lot of great titles coming to the PS3, but what about the 360?  We’ve got Halo, Gears and...Forza?  Not that those games aren’t great, but Forza targets a small segment of the audience and the other two may not be able to stand up to the variety of content coming to the PS3.

So what do we need from Microsoft at E3?  Surprises.  We need to see good games that no one has heard about yet.  We need to see more of Crytech’s Xbox 360 exclusive, codenamed Kingdoms.  We need to see more and better software support for Kinect.  Dance Central 2 is fine, but we need to see that Kinect can do more than just dance and workout games.  Show us that Star Wars on Kinect is awesome; show us new Kinect titles we don’t know about and show us that Kinect can be used in ways that interest the hardcore crowd.

If Microsoft can do all that, they’ll be in good shape when the show comes to an end.  You can bet MS will have at least a couple of surprises, but there are also a few things we expect from them.  The rumors of the Halo HD remake seem plausible enough.  I would also look for MS to announce more timed exclusive content with big 3rd party games such as Call of Duty.  I think we’ll also see some new features or services being added to XBL.  The PSN is only now beginning to function properly after more than a month of down time; this seems like the perfect opportunity for MS to show gamers why XBL is the go to destination for online gaming and entertainment.  

Maybe, just maybe, they will take XBL in the direction of PS Plus.  Playing games online would be free, but gold subscribers would get other perks and services not available to silver members.  Do I think this is likely?  No, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility.

If you’re thinking we might catch a glimpse at the next generation of Xbox, I’d have to say the chances are slim.  MS only recently began recruiting for their next platform and I think the 360 has plenty of life left in it.  Even with Nintendo’s Project Cafe making its debut, I don’t feel that MS is in a position where they need to show their next gen cards.  

We can’t say for sure what’s going to happen on the E3 battleground, but you can bet that the big 3 will come out swinging.  Most everything in this article is speculation and expectation; however, we feel that the guesses are plausible enough and that Microsoft needs to step it up and this year’s show if they want to keep their lead on Sony.

 

By Ryan Schaefer - 06/05/11

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