Sony's PS4 conference outlined its plans for the next generation. Here's what Microsoft has to do in response.
Rumours abound that Microsoft is prepping its next Xbox reveal for late April. With PS4 already out of the bag, it's Microsoft's turn to respond with a huge, trumpet blowing event. There's a lot of pressure on Microsoft to get this right: here's what it needs to do.
Impress with the specs, but don't make it the main focus
Sony went big on the fact that PS4 was essentially just a modified PC with a boatload of RAM. The days of boasting about proprietary technology seem to be over. In the old days, you could just give something a cool name and run with that – Sony even mentioned it in their conference. ('Blast Processing'. Those were the days.)
Not so now, but 8 gig of RAM in the Sony unit made waves. Microsoft will hopefully be looking to match or better that, and there would be no surprise if MS was appealing more to developers than the general public. After all, that's what the games are for. Speaking of which...
Show off some blockbuster titles
For all the interesting infrastructure on show at Sony's conference, the games were rather lacking. Killzone was Killzone, pretty but empty. DriveClub was presented with the sort of fetishism that is usually reserved for private underground dungeons, not worldwide announcements. The Witness was interesting if light on detail, Media Molecule's efforts intriguing if not fully formed, and everything else was throwaway at best.
More importantly, Microsoft now know what Sony has shown, meaning that it can throw ALL THE MONEY at developers. Sony had Unreal Engine 4: given Microsoft's close ties with Epic, can we expect some actual gameplay?
Speaking of cutting-edge tech, showing Battlefield 4 would be quite the coup if Microsoft can pull it off. With EA conspicuous by its absence at the Sony event, will we see DICE's latest at Microsoft's reveal?
We hope so, because Microsoft has to show that it's still appealing to the core audience that built the brand into what it is. We'd like to see smaller, more interesting titles as well, but the fact is that gamers around the world are eying up the ever-increasing multimedia functionality with concern. Get some big hitters out on stage – with 'exclusivity' as the watchword, of course – and MS will show that it's not just Netflix: The Console.
Give us a price that won't make us weep
£300 please. That is all.
Show us the future of Xbox LIVE
With Sony offering what looks like a vastly-improved PlayStation Network, the pressure is really on MS to convince gamers that they should still be shelling out 40 quid a year for LIVE. Microsoft has had the upper hand online since it first released LIVE, but with Sony making such a big deal out of its sharing functionality, as well as its streaming tech, Microsoft has to stay competitive.
Exactly how it will do this is still under wraps, but Microsoft did buy the new company from the founder of Slingbox, so they do have an option. Either way it better be a convincing solution, especially with the rumours that the next Xbox will be very media-focused. Speaking of which...
Explain its media functionality
Will the next Xbox be a games machine that also streams movies? Or will it be a DVR that plays games? Will you have to hunt out the games tab, cycling through six hours of adverts before you can play Call of Duty 806? The 360's gradual slide from games machine to all-encompassing multimedia device has infuriated some: if the next Xbox goes even further, there will be blood. Sony strongly appealed to core gamers with PS4: now it's time to see if Microsoft will as well.
Show us the controller
Will it have a touchscreen? If so, will it be multi-touch, the whole shooting match? And just what will it be used for? With Sony's Dualshock 4 boasting a touchpad rather than a full-on screen MS could steal a march on its rival here. It too however will have to go some way to convince it's more than just a gimmick. Same for Smartglass integration.
Give us backwards compatibility
PS4 having no native backwards compatibility isn't a deal breaker, but it is annoying. Sony hopes to use its streaming tech to cover that – which we'll believe when we actually see it – but it's still hardly ideal having to stream games you already own.
Will Microsoft include BC? And how does it handle the fact that a lot of media is now contained on hard drives, not single discs? The American firm is going to have to explain its position on the matter, and explain it well. If Microsoft can definitively say that you'll be able to access all your content on one platform then it will have one over Sony already.
Show the actual console
One of the biggest surprises at the PlaySation reveal was that the machine itself wasn't actually shown. Sony itself can't decide whether that was a good move or bad. Either way, it's calculated to get people excited about an E3 reveal.
Microsoft will probably show its machine though: it's closer to E3 for a start, and it'll be good press to get it circulated and in the minds of consumers. Platform holders may be starting to transition to streaming or service based ecosystems, but the look of the box is still important.
Show off Kinect 2.0
Kinect was oversold – remember Milo and Kate? – but it's always been an interesting tech. Kinect 2.0 is believed to be packed-in – and integral to the entire experience – which will help with install base splintering. Improvements in latency and recognition are also expected. As ever though, it's the games that matter: Media Molecule's Move demo was one of the highlights (game-wise) of the show, and Microsoft will have to counter.
What with, though? This.
Now that would be worth getting excited about.