Microsoft Durango: Jump In


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

It’s been nearly eight years since Microsoft released the Xbox 360 onto the gaming public. It was a rocky few years at first for sure, with the ill-fated Red Ring of Death plaguing every other unit. Since then, Microsoft has smoothed things out and can now say they’re the king of this console generation. Every king gets a little bored, though, which is why Microsoft is ramping up to release their next console, codenamed Durango.

With the launch of Durango right around the corner, chatter has been picking up lately regarding features. Will it be always on? Will it be backwards compatible? Will it dispense cash like an ATM? These rumors and more are running rampant in anticipation of the console’s release. Fortunately for Microsoft, there are only a few things the console has to do (or not do) to ensure that it’s another success for the OS publisher turned entertainment goliath.

First off, the console needs to be backwards compatible. This is something that Sony has already indicated the PS4 won’t be able to do, mainly owing to the change in architecture. Microsoft has built its empire primarily on the back of the Xbox 360 and shutting out owners of those games will say that they’re looking to capture a new audience at the expense of the old one. There have been reports that the system will be backwards compatible, thanks to an Xbox 360 system on a chip onboard for handling the last generation games.

Secondly, the console needs to dispense with this always on business. I have broached this topic before, but it bears repeating. Internet infrastructures just aren’t there yet, as there are some in rural areas still fighting with dial-up or DSL. Requiring that a console be always connected puts the onus on the gamer to enjoy the game, which isn’t how it’s supposed to work. Sure, the appeal of stemming used games is also there, but why cap of such a large portion of the gaming audience?

Third, the console needs to continue to improve its integrated entertainment options. There’s another rumor floating around that Durango will be capable of replacing your cable box. While that seems a little too good to be true, the concept behind it isn’t too far-fetched. After all, you can already watch some FiOS and Xfinity channels through your console, so the idea that it becomes a full-fledged cable box isn’t too far out there. Microsoft has always flirted with the notion of IPTV as well and–if implemented correctly–an IPTV service on Durango could be a game changer all around.

Fourth, Kinect needs to step things up a bit. When the Kinect launched a few years ago, it started out as something of a novelty that gamers weren’t sure about. Now? It’s used for everything from working out to controlling Netflix with your voice and hands. The new Kinect is rumored to be HD and able to track open/closed hands and eyes. That ridiculous attention to detail will allow the Kinect to be even further integrated into our entertainment lifestyles, making it that much easier to navigate menus.

Finally, games. Durango needs to launch with a great library of games out the gate. Microsoft and Sony are facing something of an uphill battle with their next big consoles: they have to convince gamers that the PS3 and Xbox 360 are outdated, when clearly they’re not. The fact that this console lifecycle has endured for so long is something of a testament to the quality of the games on the consoles, giving gamers everything they’ve wanted and more. Selling gamers on the notion that the new console will be vastly superior to the old consoles can’t be done based on solely graphics alone. Gamers want more from their games and if the story isn’t there, the gamers won’t be there either.

In the past, consoles seemed to be released every five years or so. That the Xbox 360 and PS3 are still maintaining their audiences almost ten years later is astounding and makes the new consoles seem almost superfluous. If Microsoft offers Durango with all the right bells and whistles though (better Kinect, games, backwards compatible, integrated entertainment) and none of the tomfoolery (always on connection), then it will be an easy sell for gamers.

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