Tense competition from Sony and Nintendo getting a head start puts tremendous pressure on Microsoft to get it right. Beyond the capabilities of the presumed Xbox 720, the best scenario lies in the strength of the launch lineup, where arguably Nintendo holds the greatest hand. But fortunately for Microsoft, almost a decade of gaming has compiled a healthy list of franchises to draw from.
However, the strongest asset is also the most damaging weakness, and same for Sony, when it comes to choosing which titles boast the more desirable platform. So, to help the big guys out, I've compiled a list for each console manufacturer should they choose to heed my advice. Clearly I know what I am talking about (enter sarcasm here).
1. Halo 4. Immediately, Halo 4 springs to mind. But there's a couple of problems: it's planned for this year, and for the Xbox 360. Would it not be more sensible to sport a new trilogy for the lifecycle of a new console? This generation has proven the five-year lifespan is gone, so an entire trilogy can survive one generation. Take Mass Effect as a perfect example.
The original Halo franchise helped idolize the Xbox as a beacon of online multiplayer, and aided significantly in popularizing the competitive aspect of gaming on consoles. The times have changed, but Halo isn't just another franchise -- it's the iconic trilogy on Microsoft's platform. There's a prideful sentimentality for the Xbox faithful, and recapturing that would certainly weed them back. Moreover, the promise of a new exclusive franchise is more imperative than ever, especially with Sony closing the gap, and utilizing a heavyweight brand is a necessity to continue that lead.
2. Emphasizing JRPGs. This is an indisputable point, but something I feel needs attention regardless. To say Microsoft lags behind in the Japanese market is the understatement of the year. Some Japanese retailers even refuse to stock units because there's no demand. The thought of a new generation, however, if executed right, could actually make Microsoft competitive.
There's a natural division because Japanese consumers are devout to native companies. But Microsoft's unwillingness to support JRPGs is probably the cause. Of the almost 1000 games on the roster, the list of notable titles I can count on my hand is short: Infinite Undiscovery, Lost Odyssey, The Last Remnant, Enchanted Arms and Tales of Vesperia, among a selective few. It may be stereotypical to suggest all Japanese consumers prefer role-playing games (which is the furthest statement from the truth) but the emphasis on shooters and unplayable Kinect games isn't doing the company good.
If Microsoft ever wants a shot in Japan, there are avenues to take. Lost Odyssey 2 perhaps?
3. The next Red Dead. The fictional expanse of Rockstar's ambitious franchise resonated overwhelmingly with both reviewers and consumers, and the series catapulted to become one of 2010's most coveted games. After monstrous sales figures (12.5 million copies worldwide purportedly) and universal acclaim, the timing is perfect for completing the Western trifecta on next generation consoles.
The graphical magnitude that was Redemption spared no detail in reeling the player into the Southwest/Mexican landscape. But if recent rumours are to be believed, one of the focal points of the next generation is pressing the visual boundaries that consoles allow. A new Red Dead is the ideal candidate for such a monumental push and undoubtedly Rockstar is readying its Western baby for this year or 2013.
4. Crackdown 3. Regardless of Halo fanboy-ism, the original Crackdown was a pleasant surprise. Collecting those delicious orbs moved past the point of side-mission to outright obsession, and triumphing is a proven sign of dedication (or the ultimate completionist). Ruffian Games utterly destroyed a promising sequel and now it's time for vindication.
Sadly, the original developer Realtime Worlds is in game developer heaven, but Microsoft Game Studios possesses an army of studios to tackle the task. Sticking with the cell-shaded design and moving locations, Crackdown 3 is the perfect open world sequel to start things afoot for Microsoft's new gaming baby.
5. Forza 5. Microsoft's response to Gran Turismo, Turn 10 Studios boasts an impressive ability not only to makes games punctually, but produce a series racing aficionados eagerly anticipate. And not forgetting to mention the eye-catching, stimulating shine on those cars, I'm surprised there aren't more racing fans out there.
The aforementioned push for high-quality visuals is familiar territory for racing simulators, and it seems like a marriage of equals. Although the rivalry of Forza 4 and Gran Turismo (and other games in the genre) is the industry's beauty pageant, there's always room for improvement. Additionally, Microsoft should look twice to presenting an eclectic array of titles at launch time.
If, on the slim chance any Microsoft executives take a gander at this list, I have no formal background in games producing. And this is only five recommendations -- many variations of this list exist I'm sure, so don't take my opinion purely into account. But don't forget it either. Jeff out.
What are some games you'd recommend? Leave your suggestions or dispute mine in the comments below.
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