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Microsoft Is Attempting To Monopolize Gaming
Is that topic still taboo to think about? With the reports coming in about Xbox Surface, what we know about Smart Glass, and what we already have with the Kinect and Xbox Live is it such a crazy thing to think that Microsoft is trying to tie up every corner of gaming in one little nice box with a bow on it? The Xbox brand has everything you need in gaming in terms of technology and features. It has controllers, motion, voice, online, digital distribution, portable connectivity, touch screens, and perhaps even now a tablet.
The Xbox and Xbox 360 may have not have the most exclusives but it has everything else. It is a one stop shop for multi-platform gaming and some kick ass exclusives like Halo, Gears of War, Fable, Forza, and Crackdown. Microsoft also hasn’t been shy about buying up studios or getting exclusive rights. They have the money and resources to continue to do so.
Let’s take a look at some factors here that show Microsoft carving their way through the gaming industry to become something for everyone.
Microsoft played it safe with the original Xbox. They had no prior console experience and had Sony to look at for what to do to be number one. Sadly, the original Xbox didn’t do so hot. It had some wonderful exclusives, some that I still play to this day like the Otogi series, Phantom Dust, and WWE Raw 2. While the Xbox eventually did come in 2nd place, beating out the Gamecube by less than 3 million units, one thing you can say about the Xbox was that Microsoft didn’t try anything funny. They went straight traditional and introduced some really cool features like Xbox Live.
Cut to 2005 and the release of the Xbox 360. We see built-in hard drives, microphones, points cards, and more weird things. Still, the experience is largely traditional. The scenario doesn’t look like that anymore. The 360 has become less of a gaming console and more into Microsoft’s mass prototype unit. Every year we see some sort of new tech or feature for the 360 release that has either never been seen before or is attempting to “one-up’ the competition.
It is hard to look at the 360 and call it traditional anymore. A simple gaming platform with enhanced online capabilities back in 2005 in now a media juggernaut with untold potential. Just when you think the 360 hits its peak, Microsoft adds something else to it.
Call it what you want but Microsoft only plays catch up in the mobile industry. When it comes to the Xbox division, they throw everything they can into it because they realize its potential. Let’s face it, though. The Wii was heavily copied due to its success. Microsoft and Sony could no longer deny the success of motion gaming and they both wanted to include it on their own brands. It was a smart business decision on both companies. One has to argue, however, that Microsoft has marketed their motion device the best out of all three consoles. The Wii’s remotes were the basis for the console but aside from gaming and navigation of menus, it doesn’t do much of anything else. The Kinect was so important for Microsoft that they redid the entire interface of the console and integrated it into almost every crevice they could find. If it didn’t have motion, it did now. They also continually focus on the add-on in conferences, much to the dismay of gamers. They want games. Who can blame them?
It’s hard to blame Microsoft for the lack of killer games for the Kinect, though. It is a tough platform to deliver on. You’re going to be hard pressed to sell something like that to a core audience. You’ll also be hard pressed to program everything right in order to make every single motion of the unpredictable human body to work in your game. Needless to say, the Kinect is ahead of its time. It isn’t a fully realized platform but it is a viable one. Mine is collecting dust but in the near future when developers and Microsoft themselves get better use and features out of it, it will shine. The device’s main draw right now is its “wow factor”. That will change next gen.
The Kinect also allows voice commands to be dictated to games and the console itself. This was a huge thing back during the PS2 and even a bit for the Gamecube. With games like Socom and Mario Party utilizing microphones, Microsoft saw this and integrated it within its new add-on device. The Kinect allows developer to bring the gamer’s voice into the game and while the technology isn’t all that amazing just yet, the ability to dictate events in the game using your voice is appealing and reminds me of the old Socom days.
Preparing for the Future
Microsoft isn’t stupid. They know a good idea when they see it. Whether or not they use it is another thing but in this case they did. They saw the Wii U. They saw the Gamepad. They also saw where Nintendo is going wrong with it. Nintendo is putting too much emphasis on the controller and not on the experience of the games themselves. After all, when it comes down to it the first audience who are buying these consoles are gamers. Microsoft also saw the rapidly rising popularity and adoption rate of tablets. Whether you have an iPad, some Android tablet, or are thinking of picking up an upcoming Windows 8 tablet Microsoft wants you to be connected to your Xbox wherever you go and even use it for possible gameplay additions.
This makes a lot of sense. The 360 has been getting tons of media help in the form of TV, stream channels, and music stations. With the console becoming more of a Roku gaming device, having the ability to connect and use features or even enhance your games is a great feature. Nintendo doesn’t believe that Smart Glass will have any effect on the Wii U. They reference the obvious fact that we only have two hands. How are gamers going to hold a controller and a tablet at the same time.
The way Microsoft has this set up will make developers think twice about adding the touch screen-enabled Smart Glass to their games. Is it practical? Will it be fun? Could this make players want to use Smart Glass? These are questions that every 360 and 720 developer will have to ask themselves. With the touch screen not built-in or attached to the controller, they have to ensure it is not just fun but works right and is useful. That is a good thing. Developers need to stop using motion in places where it isn’t needed. It needs to be utilized smartly.
In many ways, Microsoft is gearing their next gen offering to include ways to stymie the Wii U right off the bat. If we go with the ideal that the 360 is now a prototype unit, Smart Glass and this Surface tablet are just two ways that the 360 and 720 can compete and possibly win.
The tablet, which we just reported on, represents another side of gaming that Microsoft is tackling in a way that doesn’t directly infuriate their competition but puts them on a path to gain a foothold in that specific market or markets. Which markets would the Surface protrude on? Handheld consoles, smartphones, and tablets. If the spec sheet for this thing is true, it will be a portable Xbox with an emphasis on control and traditional gameplay. You don’t have to rely on touch screens or specs that are no where near home console level to play on the go. The Xbox Surface will take care of that for you with a spec sheet more powerful than anything out there right now. If the 720 is anything like this or better, whew boy.
A Blend of Old and New
Microsoft doesn’t have to play “catch up” or innovator in some aspects. Mainly because they already have innovated some features. Xbox Live is the most advanced and capable online gaming network. With hundreds of digital versions of full games, social channels like Facebook, TV services, streaming options, contests, and much more available, gamers need to look no further than Xbox Live for their online gaming needs on a console.
Their current strategy of utilizing Xbox Live and their other features to snatch up exclusives (times or otherwise) is proving successful. At E3, Microsoft announced that the Xbox 360 is the best selling console worldwide.
With all of the new features, add-ons, and upcoming tech Microsoft now has something for everyone with motion, voice, touch, control, portability, online, tv, movies, music, sports, smartphone apps, and of course, games.
If you look at what they are doing with the 360, it is easy to think about where they are headed. That 50-page (recently) leaked document from a couple years back shows that Microsoft sees everything going on and is making strides in procuring tech in order to increase their potential market. Now with the Surface, they can increase the Xbox brand’s reach to even more markets. Soon enough, you won’t be able to game without seeing the words ‘Microsoft’ and ‘Xbox’ everywhere. Arcades, events, and more will adopt the Xbox just because of how many features it has built into one device. After all, we’re all about getting more for less.
Don’t get me wrong here. This isn’t a Microsoft praise article. This is looking at a trend that the Redmond super-company has. Microsoft isn’t known for just lying in wait. When they have something, they use it. They almost never finish a product before shipping out a new one. They do it all the time with Windows and they’ve done it before with the Xbox. As soon as the 360 was gearing to come out, the first console was dead in the water. They moved on. That’s what Microsoft does, they look and find ideas, they get an idea, they employ it without looking back.
Microsoft is looking to make home gaming all about them. With PC gaming ruling the computing side of games with Windows having over 90% market share, they now want to do the same with gaming. If they get that high, however, we’re going to see some competitors begin to drop. That also means more studios for Microsoft to swallow up. It is easy to see a plan of take over here. They want the gaming market. They have the resources to do it. A new monopoly is headed our ways.