Is Microsoft Not So Secretly Getting Ready For The Next Generation?

 

There has been a ton of talk recently of the next generation, in particular the next Xbox. Some people thought that perhaps we’d see or at least hear something about the successor to the Xbox 360 at this past E3. Well turns out those people were wrong and we didn’t get so much as a whiff, I personally figured we wouldn’t see or hear anything about a new console because the Xbox 360s and Kinect only came out a short time beforehand. Microsoft was in a situation where they didn’t want to repeat mistakes of the past, like in the case with Sega, where they would release something, then totally drop support of the device and then release something new and then shortly after that they would drop support of that as well. There have been some signs that Microsoft is obviously gearing up for their next big hardware launch, some of the signs have been right out in the open and some have been of a more quiet nature.

The Xbox 360 is undoubtedly a success at this point, whether you’re a fan or not, you simply cannot deny that Microsoft has captured a huge share of the market this generation and even in its sixth full year on the market it’s seeing it’s best sales numbers ever. On Black Friday alone here in the United States almost one million consoles were sold, along with 800.000 Kinect devices. Those are impressive numbers and those numbers would be a great reason to think Microsoft might try to stick it out with the current hardware a bit longer. I personally don’t believe this, I think Microsoft has played it cool by not announcing anything at this past E3, if they had announced the Xbox 360’s successor and said it was coming out around the holidays in 2012, would the current Xbox 360 have seen such sales? I don’t think it would have. Nintendo kind of flubbed up their chances at a better holiday as far as sales are concerned, simply because they already let the cat out of the bag, but I believe it was too soon for the actual announcement.

If you look at things though, it was obvious Nintendo was going to announce a new console, they had the only console that lacked HD graphics and even though the Wii was newer than the Xbox 360, the hardware was not. We saw a drop in first party titles for the Wii, which is always a sign that the next console is coming sooner rather than later. Microsoft seems to be following suit, a lot has been made about the fact that Microsoft didn’t release a ton of exclusives this year, and that is true enough. The reason could be that they are gearing up for the next Xbox launch and they have there studios working on games for that platform. If you look at 2010, even though Microsoft didn’t release a ton of exclusives, they had some heavy hitters in Mass Effect 2 (Exclusive at the time), Crackdown 2, Ninety Nine Nights 2, Fable 3, Alan Wake, Splinter Cell Conviction and of course Halo Reach. I believe we have pretty much seen the last of the first party game releases from Microsoft and the Xbox 360. What about Halo 4 you might ask? Well I think Halo 4 will be released on the Xbox 360, but I also think it will be a launch title on the Xbox 720 or whatever they might decide to call it.

Some of the other signs that point to a new Xbox are ones right under our nose, like the purchasing of developer Twisted Pixel, the new hiring’s at Rare Studios, the opening of 4 new game development studios this year alone in London, Redmond, Victoria, and Virginia. Not only is there movement on the first party front, but we’ve heard rumblings from developers like Crytek, EA and Epic. We’ve also seen Epic running some amazing footage on a new engine, I don’t really believe in coincidences, as Nintendo said “Where there is smoke, there is fire”. I also don’t buy into this new XBLA Alan Wake title as being a true sequel to Alan Wake, I think it’s the in between story to keep people interested until a full retail sequel is released on the next Xbox console, again this is purely speculation on my part, but it does make sense. That is far too many moves on the studio front to be ignored.

We tend to see retractions from studios that had leaked information about working with the next Xbox, of course we have to see these because they sign agreements with the companies they are working for and aren’t allowed to talk about them in any way. I also caught the littler Xbox 720 logo in the movie Reel Steel, it was next to a Bing billboard so it’s obvious that the next Xbox should and will be called the Xbox 720, it doesn’t make sense to change-up the tactics now, and it doesn’t make sense to call it the Xbox 3, because you don’t want your console to seem inferior to the PS4 when it releases. Obviously the movie was set in the future, but I don’t think Microsoft expected people to actually see or make that big of a deal out of that billboard.

I know not everyone wants new hardware to release right now, but the Xbox 360 currently has the oldest hardware and they will want to get a jump on Sony again this generation. Microsoft has a solid hold on the North American market and will want to continue that trend. That doesn’t mean they will cease production on the current Xbox 360 models, I think Microsoft is just phasing out the exclusives and getting people used to the idea that the Xbox 360 is the better platform for multiplatform games. The Xbox 360 is a legacy console and it’s obvious Microsoft wants to continue to make money off that, I think with Kinect added into the mix it bought Microsoft more time than is normal and they have done a fantastic job with marketing both the Kinect and the Xbox 360.

If I can speculate once more I truly believe Microsoft is gearing up to not only announce their next console, but release it as well. Companies start work on the next generation as soon as the current generation starts, so it’d be foolish to believe Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony don’t all have years of R&D time and money into the next generation. When companies slow down production of exclusives, then you have the biggest tell-tale sign of when the next generation is coming. The answers have been in front of us the whole time, we can but speculate as to what all of the questions are.

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