As we enter the 2014 Holiday season, a full year after the two gaming heavyweights unleashed their consoles upon consumers, we’ve been able to observe how things have panned out for each, and access where they stand and what steps they can take moving forward. Although Microsoft has the success of the widely popular Xbox 360, a stronger critically acclaimed 1st party lineup, and the “power of the cloud”, they’re still consistently and considerably being outsold by Sony’s Playstation 4 across the globe. Despite the fact that Microsoft changed nearly everything that turned consumers off, many gamers have made up their mind early on, while others are still on the fence. While Microsoft has made signifiant strides these last few months, there is still work to do, but they’re off to a good start. Let’s countdown the top 5 things Microsoft can do to regain that momentum throughout this holiday season.
5: Announce an Xbox One redesign
This may be counter-intuitive due to Microsoft wanting to maximize sales this holiday season, but the Xbox One is large- t’s the same dimensions as the X-finity cable box you may have hanging out next to your console. In addition to that, it has a large powerbrick, which depending on your entertainment center setup, can be problematic for minimizing clutter. To the Xbox one’s credit, it is very well ventilated, and has 3 usb ports, but one of those ports is on the side, instead of the front. A slight inconvenience for those who have other items behind or on the side of it, and a little confusing as to why there are no USB slots on the front, but nonetheless, not entirely a deal breaker. Microsoft most likely wanted to minimize the visible ports on the facade of the console, which does actually add more aesthetic value, but with a slight compromise of usability for some. A reduced footprint would go a long way in encouraging consumers to welcome the Xbox One in their homes, amongst their other gaming consoles.
4: Load every console with a play and charge kit
The Xbox One launched in 2013, and it is now 2014- There is no reason for an advanced home gaming entertainment to not have rechargeable batteries included out of the box; it is no longer 1996. I really appreciate the ability to swap out the battery, when eventually the lithium ion battery will start loosing it’s charge, but to not include that in the box is inconvenient and a seemingly blatant cash grab for add on accessories.
3: Lower the price of the standalone Kinect
This should be a no-brainer; Although the Kinect is an impressive piece of technology, it is also too expensive. Most people don’t want to buy an Xbox one with a kinect due to price, and lack of games that effectively use it. After getting my hands on Disney’s Fantasia recently at the extra-life charity event, it became clear to me that the Kinect can be a fun peripheral if a game is developed to take advantage of it, but I wouldn’t agree that it is worth the $150 asking price. The Xbox One dashboard and navigation experience really opens up when you start using voice navigation, since certain elements in the User Interface can be a bit tricky to navigate to unless you specifically know exactly where it is, which segues to the next topic.
2: Allow voice Navigation without Kinect
I’d imagine that the voice navigation feature is exclusive to the Kinect because Microsoft wants consumers to feel the need to purchase a Kinect. The thing is, people don’t want to buy a Kinect just to use voice navigation, and they have that option with Microsoft’s biggest competitor, the Playstation 4. I won’t pretend like Sony’s voice navigation system is as robust as Microsofts, but it works without a camera. Simply using any headset with your PS4 will allow you to talk to your console to activate voice controllable functions, and Microsoft would do right by it’s customers to include that functionality within the next update.
1: Make the Azure Cloud service more feasible for studios!
Word recently broke that Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (some would argue, a flagship title for Microsoft) does not use Microsoft’s much touted cloud technology service. The whole allure for gamers on the fence with 3rd party games was that studios could opt to use Microsoft’s cloud services to better regulate the online gameplay experience and improve matchmaking. With some developers choosing to use their own servers, or conversely, p2p server tech, Microsoft fans are left behind wondering where their hard earned money is going towards. The best way to circumvent this, (while arguably taking a loss on their side) is to either offer more aggressive pricing or incentive packages for developers willing to utilize those technologies, instead of the alternatives. This could be a great way to provide more value to the system
In addition to these features and enhancements to the Xbox One, an often-complained-about functionality (that ironically, worked wonderfully and better on the Xbox360) is the party chat. While I haven’t actually tried using party chat myself (new Xbox One owner), I’ve heard several complaints about not being able to hear other party members, loosing the ability to hear them when transitioning to games, and only being able to chat with the party app snapped. It’s hard for many to overcome the frustration of using party chat, so hopefully that gets fixed soon! One reddit user by Flash2000 writes, “Here’s the FIX. Start the party, then everyone has to back out, quit the beta (show menu > quit), then unsnap party, then restart the beta. Everyone in the party can now chat unsnapped.”- This is a workaround that shouldn’t need to be done.
Another Honorable mention goes to better game preloading, so you can have both the patches, and the game files, fully downloaded so when you’re ready to start playing (whether physical or digital), you can just jump right in! This would be a huge incentive to buy digital games over physical.
There you have it folks: Black Oni’s top 5 list of ways in which Microsoft can improve on their system. What are your thoughts? What would you add to this list? Let’s discuss!
Buy an Xbox One, on sale for $350