Microsoft fell from prominence in a big way during this past generation. Sitting on top of the world with the Xbox 360, their hubris tanked the Xbox One before it even hit store shelves. Players were repulsed by the higher price point, the inferior hardware specs, forced Kinect integration, and always-on DRM. I wanted to love my Xbox One like I loved my 360, but it simply didn’t deliver like I would have hoped.
Despite my disappointment, I’m willing to give Microsoft another chance if they do these four things.
Comparable or superior performance than the competition
The original Xbox One compromised gaming horsepower in exchange for Kinect support and multimedia functionality that never went anywhere. These choices made the Xbox One an inferior gaming machine to the PlayStation 4 while also being more expensive. Microsoft got the upper-hand with the half-step Xbox One X, but it was already way too late for them to catch Sony.
Microsoft can’t make that mistake again. They have to be at least in the same ballpark as Sony’s successor. Based on what they delivered last time, I do not believe in Microsoft’s ability to provide some other form of worthwhile differentiator if they decide to not deliver on the power front. I fully expect Microsoft to follow through on this.
Has to be a gamer-centric platform
I felt my soul getting crushed as I watched the then president of Xbox Don Mattrick unveil the Xbox One. Similar to watching Nintendo pander to casual and non-gamers during the Wii era, Microsoft had created and positioned its new system as something that wasn’t for me. They flushed so much of their good will to the point where the brand still hasn’t fully recovered.
They can’t get caught up in making a multimedia set-top box again. Additional functionality like Netflix are great secondary functions, but this device has to be made and presented as hardware for gamers to play games.
The dashboard has to get more user-friendly
I loved navigating the Xbox 360. From the initial blades era to where the interface ended, I never had any serious issues doing what I needed to do. But once Microsoft transitioned to the Xbox One, its dashboard exploded into a mess of content blocks, tucked-in menus, and having no idea where anything is located.
Understanding that Microsoft wants its machine to handle a lot of different tasks, it has to better organize this dashboard. By contrast, I almost never have any issues working my way around a PlayStation 4. Not necessarily saying that they should go back to the interfaces from the 360-era, but I would throw pretty much every dashboard from the Xbox One era in the garbage and start anew.
Microsoft needs to improve its lineup of exclusive games
By far the most disappointing part of the Xbox 360 era was how far the company tumbled with its exclusive lineup. Games like Killer Instinct, Titanfall, and Rise of the Tomb Raider were fantastic, but so much of its exclusive lineup fell flat for me. I was never into Halo or Forza. Despite my love for the original trilogy, I was profoundly disappointed in Gears of War 4. Then there were no shortage of high-profile busts, from Sea of Thieves, to Crackdown 3, to ReCore.
Whether they do it by investing more with their internal projects or by money-hatting third party titles, this has to get better. I’d almost be willing to overlook all of the platform’s flaws if they could just get this part right.
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