E3 2012 Microsoft Preview

E3 2012 Microsoft: Preview

Just a few more days til E3 2012, and last up is Microsoft. If you haven’t yet, check out my Sony and Nintendo previews as well. I saved them for last as I really don’t have very high hopes for their conference this year. While they will be airing their conference on Spike TV live, I can’t see why. Unless they plan on shocking people with Xbox720 (Durango) or Kinect2, they really don’t have much that gamers are going to be interested in watching.

Pachter has confirmed that during his time with Microsoft they told him not to expect a lot of game stuff, expect a lot of dashboard, interface, and multimedia. While those features are nice, they’re nothing without games for your gaming console. Now if Microsoft wants to come out this year at E3 and steal the show, I believe they could….by saying they are no longer in the running as one of the big 3 game companies.

The Everything Box

Microsoft has noticed how people are no longer gaming on their console as much as they are doing other multimedia focused activities. Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi told the Los Angeles Times, “What we’re seeing is that people are turning on the Xbox to play games and then keeping it on afterwards to get other types of entertainment.” Which is a spin way of saying very little gaming is going on. 360 owners are spending more time watching movies, TV Shows, and listening to music than they are gaming. Now this is all well and good….if you’re not a gamer. For those of us who bought our gaming consoles to game, it’s a big disappointment. 4-5 years ago I owned all three systems: PlayStation3, Xbox360, and Wii. The first of the 3 I purchased was he 360 (mainly because it was the only one out). And the games/gaming experience was really fantastic! But as the years have gone by and the gaming centric focus of Xbox has changed to multimedia centric, I’ve moved on, and so have others.

It’s been reported that Microsoft has sold approximately 67 million Xbox360’s. That’s a big number, one good to represent the number 2 spot in the console war this gen. But just like Xbox claims to be about games, but is really about multimedia, so their user base claims to be over 60 million, but in reality it’s a far smaller number.

Red Ring of Death

No one likes to talk about it, but the RROD (Red Ring of Death) affected 2/3 consoles. It seemed almost every Xbox360 owner at one time or another had their system fail at least once, causing the need to re-purchase an xbox360, and thus drastically affecting their actual user base numbers. Many of those RROD system owners repeated this process 2-3 times, some even 4+ times.

So how do you attain the most accurate representation of the Xbox360’s user base then? I believe it’s by looking at the Xbox Live subscription base. As all the best things worth doing on the 360 are only offered through their paid subscription service, that’s where you can extrapolate the actual user base numbers from. Of course there will be some that just have the system and no paid subscription, but that number is so miniscule that it’s not even 1%. So, how many paid subscriptions are currently active for the Xbox360?

The number is shockingly small. It’s just over 20 million. So approximately 67 million 360’s have been sold, but only 20 million have active subscriptions. Maybe this is why Sony is not worried about appearing to be in last place as far as console wars go. Sony has had their share of YLOD (Yellow Light of Death) but the number affected is so negligible that it’s usually only mentioned because of the similar situation to the 360’s faulty hardware problem. In truth, YLOD affected less than 1% of the user base.

Gaming Focused or Not

Now that I’ve gotten that out there, it seems to me that Microsoft is prepping to leave the gaming market. The reports that Microsoft will offer an Xbox360 with a Kinect device for $99 plus $15 monthly seem to me to be the way they want their company ultimately to go. This will allow for their users to perform all their multimedia functions for less than before, and without all that pesky game stuff getting in the way.

But what about those hardcore dedicated Xbox fans that can’t wait to get in another round of deathmatch? Well the xbox720 (Durango) will still be coming, and it will be powerful, but it will just be a front. At this point Microsoft will be stealing the money of all the Xbox360 knuckleheads that think Microsoft gives a crap at all about gaming.

They’ll shovel out a few repeat titles like they’ve been doing and people will complain but secretly hope that things will turn around. All the while Microsoft will be selling their Subsidized Xbox/Kinect bundle with the real intentions of dropping the Durango gaming platform all together mid-cycle, but not before milking the “Headshot Crowd” out of another new console price tag, and getting their new bundle into people’s homes. May sound a little far-fetched, this is how the company model appears to me as a gamer, that’s all I’m sayin.

What Games Do They Have

It’s just common sense, connecting the dots. The direction that Microsoft has taken with the Xbox has changed so dramatically from a gaming centric device to a multimedia centric device, that to ignore the writing on the wall is just blind foolish fanboyism. What games do they have to show this E3? Another Halo? More Forza? How about Fable? Maybe another Gears? It’s pretty clear what’s going on, and it’s sad for me to watch as a gamer. The way they came into the marketplace and really stirred up competition between Nintendo and Sony to make excellent hardware and software. That’s a great thing for us gamers. So to see them backing down and out of the gaming market is just disappointing.

Predictions

*You can be sure that Microsoft will bring dozens of third-party demos to their stage. As they have so few 1st party titles to speak about, that they will have to run a parade of 3rd party games in order to appear that they still have games. Although true gamers will see through this smoke screen.

*A very large portion of their conference will be about the new multimedia services they currently offer and those that will join them. More stage demo’s of how your Kinect can help you surf the web. As I believe they are moving away from gaming and towards multimedia, expect this to get the bulk of the time.

*There’s a good chance that we will see the Kinect2 (or whatever they will call it). Showing how tracking and movements can register better and more quickly, even down to finger movements, but it still won’t be 1:1 even though they will tout it as such (just like before, when it clearly doesn’t).

*A new Gears of War will be shown. Whether it will be a prequel or a sequel is not known, but there will be a new Gears. Between that and Halo4, those are the two big games you’ll see from Microsoft. And they will only be seconds to minutes long, one at the beginning of the conference to hook you, and one at the end to leave a sweet taste in your mouth, you watch!

*We’ll get more details on their subsidized Kinect bundle version of the 360 for $99 + $15 monthly. They will undoubtedly have a core version that will come with a price cut to $149.99 for the base model with smaller HDD, and $199.99 for larger HDD model.

Games You Can Expect to See/Hear about

New Gears of War Title
Halo 4
Forza Horizon
Fable: The Journey
Ryse
Steel Battalion

Big Show Winning Surprise

I personally don’t think Microsoft has the goods to steal the show. No matter what. With the WiiU for Nintendo’s conference and Sony having games galore, Microsoft can’t steal the show even if they did show off the next-box. It would take several previously unannounced exclusives and a next-box reveal with a release date of this Holiday for them to win….and that ain’t gonna happen.

I really do hope that my assessment of Microsoft is way off. I hope that they have every intention of ramping their gaming division WAY UP. That they just have a slew of secret games, and they are all coming out as launch titles for the next-box next year, and that’s why the 360 has seen so few new IP’s or exclusives for that matter. But I don’t believe that. E3 is just days away now, and we’ll all learn what everyone is dying to know. Clearly with all the internet rumors about Durango and next-gen games for the Durango, Microsoft will enter into another console cycle, but will they be in it to win it? Or just in it to wrap up the final stretch of their multimedia progression that’s in the final stages. Only time will tell, can’t wait to see how things play out.

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