The Xbox 360 will go down in history as a legendary game console. It stayed on the market without a successor longer than any other successful console (eight years), and is still going strong. It was the first system to roll out a business model for indie games, complete with a Microsoft-provided payment system, which is near and dear to the hearts of me and you (or you wouldn’t be here). It’s sold somewhere the in neighbourhood of 80 million units, and it’s not done yet.
With new consoles out, what should the future of WMD be? Though I do own a pair of original PlayStations, and a PSP (and I did briefly own a PS2 before trading it in towards my Xbox 360 pre-order), neither the PS3 nor the PS4 particularly interest me. I’ve always looked for something more with each game console I bought. Consider:
– In the early ’80s I favoured the Intellivision over the Atari 2600 because the Intellivision had a numeric keypad that allowed for more complex gameplay (“Utopia”, the first so-called ‘god game’, came out on the Intellivision thanks to it having more than a one-button controller).
– I then preferred the Commodore 64 over the NES (and Sega’s and Atari’s 8-bit systems), and later the Amiga over the Genesis/TG-16/Super Nintendo.
– I was won back to console gaming thanks to, of all things, the Atari Jaguar (yeah, I know). A spectacularly unsuccessful system, with fewer than 250K ever being sold, though it commands a high price on eBay thanks to its scarcity. It brought back the numeric keypad and again offered the promise of more complex gameplay. And it had “Tempest 2000”, “Alien Vs. Predator”, and a few other legendary games that I just had to have. And some games, such as “Iron Soldier” and “Hover Strike” did use the numeric keypad to good effect, so I was very happy with my purchase in the end.
– Then the Dreamcast. Ah, the Dreamcast. I liked the idea of a modem in every unit, and I liked the idea of the VMU giving you your own private screen on every controller. I had a great time in online gaming on “Alien Front Online” and other titles, and who can forget the bizarre (yet innovative) weirdness of Seaman where you talked to an on-screen half-person/half-fish being through a microphone you plugged into the controller? That was one system absolutely ahead of its time.
– Then the original Xbox. The O.G. Xbox was the first system with broadband internet connectivity out of the box (remember when ditching dial-up was a controversial choice?), the first system to make a hard drive de rigeur, the first one to support ripping your own music and building custom soundtracks with your own music collection, among other innovations.
– Finally the Xbox 360 ushered in new ways to communicate with friends, and the first to make digital distribution a big thing (Xbox Live Arcade did exist on the O.G. Xbox in a limited form in its final year on the market). XBLA introduced the idea of every game having a playable demo, of unlocking the full version from within the playable demo (something iOS *still* doesn’t have right, to my surprise), and ushered in an era of smaller, cheaper games. Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) ushered in the era of democratising games, letting anyone (who could get their peers to agree that the title met some minimum criteria) publish console games, and providing a distribution and transaction platform for them, and all without buying a bunch of extra hardware as they could use the Windows PC, and the Xbox 360, they probably already owned if they were interested in Xbox game development. And in the same way that XBLA was introduced late in the O.G. Xbox’s life, only to flourish on the 360, Kinect was introduced late in the 360’s life and looks set to flourish on the Xbox One. And whatever you think of Kinect, it’s innovation is undeniable.
With this in mind, I was a whole lot more interested in the Xbox One than the PS4, what with the Xbox One introducing the idea of controlling your television (and, if you live in a supported area and use a supported provider, also your cable/satellite box). And that Kinect functionality is vastly improved for the Xbox One, which had me intrigued. And the cloud computing element offers interesting possibilities that I hope get explored more during the system’s life.
The choice between them became moot on Christmas Day when I got an Xbox One for Christmas. And, the truth is, that’s what I was hoping for. I had got an O.G. Xbox on launch day, and ditto for the 360 (and since I live in Canada, launch day for me was the system’s initial launch territory too) so I was used to having each iteration of Xbox right off the bat, and not having the One frankly felt a little strange. I’ve got to say, Kinect 2.0 is pretty amazing. It can track me doing push-ups in Kinect Fitness, something that bedevilled the original Kinect. Canada doesn’t have the “OneGuide” yet that would let me control my cable box, but I’m loving being able to control my TV with my voice when on the stationary bike or the treadmill (e.g. someone comes into the room and I say “Xbox Mute”), as well as my TV feed being integrated into the Dashboard and the multitasking of the One.
So there are still a few details to be ironed out with the Xbox One’s indie platform, but one is coming and the future of WMD may be somewhere in there. What do you WMD readers think? Stubbornly sticking with the 360 for a while? Looking forward to the One, or to another system? Let me know where you’d like to see WMD go in the future.