It pretty much goes without saying that the gaming public’s (press or otherwise) response to the Microsoft press conference was one of distaste. The lack of new IP’s and only a light serving of actual video games left spectators with Z’s floating over their head. However, despite all of this, I think that the press conference was exactly what it should have been; and it also gave some subtle hints as to when we should expect the Xbox 720 (if that is, indeed, what it ends up being called).
With all of the rumors floating around the internet about the next generation and given how long the current generation has been going for, it can easily be speculated that we are on the next gen’s doorstep. The next generation would be the perfect time for Microsoft to hit us with some spectacular new IP’s. There’s new technology powering the console – new things for developers to really sink their teeth into. It doesn’t make sense for them to put a ton of effort into a new IP outside of a smaller Live Arcade release or something like that only to have a new console overshadow any excitement that it may generate.
Microsoft’s conference was heavy on new partnerships. Nike+ Kinect Training ushered in a new partnership with Nike for future fitness games. MS just sealed the deal with some new sports channels. SmartGlass is an amazing piece of tech that could be brought into the next generation as it requires no proprietary Xbox 360 tech. All of these things are their way of looking towards the future of the brand and won’t be bound by a single console since the sports and SmartGlass can be done through Xbox Live and Nike+ Kinect Training is the start of a new partnership.
As for the big exclusives that were presented (excluding Live Arcade titles): Forza: Horizon, Gears of War: Judgement, and Halo 4, they were all more of the same. This is exactly how a smart company should treat the end of a generation: with a final helping of the games that made this generation great for their console. These are simply here to whet our appetite until the next generation kicks down the door and knocks our socks off. Sure, they aren’t going to top the excitement brought about by a shiny new AAA game no one has ever heard about, but these games are all coming from great, established series of games. The press conference was nothing more and nothing less than what they should be at this point in a development cycle.
As for what this all says about the status of an announcement on the next Xbox, the release date of Gears of War: Judgement speaks volumes to this. It has a confirmed release date in early 2013. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense for Microsoft to release a new title in one of their biggest game series ever only to dampen the excitement with an announcement of a new console soon after. It would make more sense for them to give it some breathing room so that it can get some download content and the works. The same goes for Halo 4 and Forza: Horizon.
This points to an – at the earliest – 2014 release date for the next Xbox. It would give their three final big games room to breathe and offer more time for them to continue fine tuning their new console. All in all, Microsoft’s press conference was nothing to get excited about (save for SmartGlass), and the criticism isn’t totally unfounded. However, looking at their press conference from a critical perspective suggests that perhaps Microsoft has something up their sleeve. Fingers crossed!