Your Move, Xbox: How Microsoft Can Respond to the Playstation 4

Sony’s press conference announcing the Playstation 4 was, to put it simply, a big fucking deal. Microsoft will surely respond in kind; it’s a console war, after all, not a console hold-hands-and-sing-songs. A good general knows just where to hit his opponent and Sony’s presentation exposed plenty of tantalizing weaknesses just begging to be exploited.

Show us the console. It seems like a small thing, but the physical design of the box is important nonetheless. For one, putting the hardware on display proves that development is coming along nicely. Keeping the new Playstation under wraps made a lot of people wonder if Sony’s really got its act together. Is the Playstation 4 really going to crush it day one, or is Sony rushing things simply to try to stay ahead of Microsoft? The boys in Redmond should respond with an obvious warning shot by starting their announcement with a look at the next Xbox itself.

Provide some actual information about the next Xbox. Talk of CPUs and GPUs and cheap graphics proving you understand the important parts of a computer are all well and good, but let’s be honest: most gamers don’t care about that. What do gamers care about? The price, for one. And they want a launch date so they can figure out how to save up for the thing. Don’t forget to mention used games.

Make sure the exclusive big name franchises show up. Kratos, Nathan Drake, Sack Boy, and Sweet Tooth were all noticeably absent from the array of upcoming titles shown off at Sony’s event. Killzone and Knack are all well and good, but they don’t have the same weight as the games and characters that have formed the foundation of the Playstation’s successful library. Microsoft should make sure the Master Chief and the COGs make an appearance. They should put Peter Molyneux onstage so he can make some ridiculous promises about the next Fable. Remind us all what we enjoyed so much about the last generation console and prove that the next Xbox will continue to bring the heat.

But don’t forget the indies. Sony’s inclusion of The Witness in its demonstration seemed like a means of checking off a box next to “invite small studio.” Thanks to the success of Journey, developer Jonathan Blow’s kind of a big deal. Too big of a deal, really, to be used as an example of a console’s commitment to indie gaming. It’s not clear what Sony’s doing to encourage smaller developers to focus on their next console. Microsoft should come out with a clear plan, ideally one that includes some sort of built-in fundraising initiative and community-based approval process built right into Xbox Live.

Get some better presenters. Seriously. Sony’s never-ending parade of middle-aged white men in sport coats bored me to tears. You know why SpikeTV uses Samuel L. Jackson to host the Video Game Awards instead of some developer? Because Samuel L. is entertaining regardless of what he’s talking about. That dude could talk about the history of sliced bread for an hour and millions of people would tune in to watch. Microsoft needs a similar showman, someone with a big personality that can get us excited for its next Xbox all on his or her own. A big Hollywood name would get the mainstream buzzing, but an industry personality would really get the base excited. TotalBiscuit, maybe, or Yahtzee, or even someone like Felicia Day or Wil Wheaton.

While we’re at it, a few presenters that aren’t middle-aged white men in sport coats would be nice. Game companies don’t just employ middle-aged white men, do they? Given Sony’s roster of presenters, I’m not sure. I do know that not all gamers are middle-aged white men, and a lot of people interested in game design aren’t, either. If Sony was looking for a way to reinforce the stereotype that gamers are just a bunch of awkward caucasian males, they accomplished their goal with flying colors. The fact of the matter is people want to see people to whom they can relate participating in important events, and rightfully so. I guarantee Microsoft’s marketing department is licking its collective chops at the massive public relations softball Sony lobbed their way with this one.

Oh, and whoever your presenters are, make sure they know where to put their hands. The last thing we need is a rehash of this picture:

hands

Unless, of course, it’s done ironically, which I highly encourage because it just might make the internet explode.

For more on the Playstation 4, check out the latest episode of the D Pad D Bags podcast.

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