No doubt about it: this year’s E3 will be remembered for a long, long time. Sony didn’t simply give Microsoft a bloody nose. This was one gaming company systematically dismantling their opponent, and it worked. Let us not forget, however, the wealth of games shown off during Microsoft’s own conference. Titan Fall, Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid V, and Below were just a few of the games that really caught my eye. After rewatching the conference, I noticed a troubling number of multiplatform games, not just between Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4, but also between the Xbox One and the Xbox 360. Titan Fall – arguably the biggest game of Microsoft’s showing – will also be available on Xbox 360 and on PC. World of Tanks, a surprising acquisition, will be on 360. In fact, many of this E3′s biggest titles will be on 360: Dark Souls II, Battlefield 4, Watch_Dogs, Batman: Arkham Origins, Destiny, and most importantly Call of Duty and EA’s sports titles will be available on Xbox 360 for the next few years.
This presents a major dilemma for Microsoft. Setting aside the ongoing shift of opinion in favor Sony’s Playstation 4 (a shift that began all the way back in 2009 when Microsoft began chasing a new audience with Kinect), Microsoft is not presenting current 360 owners a compelling reason to upgrade to the Xbox One. Yeah, you can use your current profile and your current Xbox Live Gold account, but if the lion’s share of the Xbox One’s biggest games are also going to be available on the 360, many people are going to stick with the console they already own. Or, as the 360 and PS3 continue to gradually drop in price, many are going to opt for buying one of those nifty re-designed Xbox 360s instead of spending twice as much on an Xbox One. Music games, the last big boom from a few years ago, still sold millions on the outdated PS2, despite it being available on better hardware. The same will apply to titles like Call of Duty and Madden for as long as publishers continue to support 7th-generation consoles. And publishers surely will release their games on the PS3 and 360. It would be silly not to, which puts Microsoft – a company that has traditionally relied on 3rd party support – in a precarious spot.
Microsoft seems confident that their all-in-one software integration will rope in the so-called casual audience, but in a world where millions are canceling their monthly cable and satellite subscriptions in favor of the cheaper Hulu Plus or Netflix, it seems wishful, at best, to think that people will spend $499 + tax on a front-end for the cable they already pay for, not to mention the fact that many of these media-streaming features are currently available on Xbox 360. In the same fashion, Microsoft hopes to utilize Kinect 2.0 to expand the market beyond Halo and Gears of War, but am I the only one who recalls Kinect 1.0 hitting the market less than three years ago? Am I the only one who noticed Kinect’s tremendous and rapid decline in sales soon after launch, and also the utter lack of compelling and high-selling software for the thing? Microsoft reports that over 24 million Kinect camera units have shipped as of February 2013 for the Xbox 360, 24 million customers who are sure to notice Kinect 2.0 making many of the same promises made for the 360′s Kinect. Wii owners weren’t willing to purchase the Wii’s successor en masse even though it launched six years later. Is it likely that Kinect owners will upgrade to Kinect 2.0 less than three years after they bought Kinect? Doubtful.
One of Microsoft’s surprises during the conference was a console re-design for the Xbox 360, changing the overall look to match the Xbox One. Obviously, Microsoft realizes that the Xbox 360 is still selling, I understand that Microsoft is caught between a rock and a hard place: they cannot afford to delay the Xbox One, and yet the philosophy and direction of Xbox One is going to seem far too similar to the 360 to the masses. Will it sell? Perhaps. Microsoft already has a task ahead to reverse the negative opinion surrounding the Xbox One, and their job of selling the thing may be even more difficult with the Xbox 360 still doing well on the market. Worse yet for Microsoft, Sony’s brand-new Playstation 4 will be standing watch between the price-points of the 360 and the Xbox One, a fact that will play a big role in which next-gen console gets picked. Surely, the same concerns apply to the Playsation 4, seeing how the PS3 continues to get excellent 1st-party and 3rd-party support, but we will have to see how these consoles fare come Holiday 2013.