In December I wrote a two-part review on 10 Xbox 360 games and last month a review of the 360 console itself. Having spent even more time with the 360, I'm discovering I was dead on about some things and just a little bit off about others. Here's where I was right and where I was...wr...wr...wr...not quite right.
Misjudged - The 360 launch lineup. Looking back on it now, I'd definitely downgrade a few games. I originally gave "Call of Duty 2" and "Perfect Dark Zero" A-'s. Now they would both be solid B's. "Duty's" (ha! I said duty!) single player mode is spectacular, its online play stinks. For "Zero" its the other way around. Great online play, almost rivaling "Halo 2", but the single player is a dud. How did I miss this? Lets call it "Launch Delirium" and leave it at that.
Things haven't gotten better since November. Sure "Fight Night 3" just came out and looks promising but that's about it. When I spend more time playing "Halo 2" and "San Andreas" and my system is only 3 months old, it makes me worry.
Misjudged - The Graphics Jump. Nobody really should have been expecting a PS1 to PS2 type of improvement with the 360. Its too big of a leap and it won't happen when the PS3 comes out either(If it ever does, give us a release date Sony!). But for all the bucks I'm throwing at my new Xbox, I expect a small graphic improvement in every game. Sure, there a few ("PGR3", "Kameo", "Madden") that offer some killer graphics - but its sporadic. If I'm paying $10 extra, make it worth my while.
Misjudged - The Cost. Every time a new system launches, its going to cost you. You have to get all new controllers, a new console, a few accessories, new games - its just how it goes. But Microsoft really stuck it to consumers in a couple of areas. 1) The wireless controller - While this is an absolutely wonderful feature, it should be $10 cheaper. 2) Plug and Play Charge Kit - Combine the $20 this costs and the $50 controller is now $70. Ouch! 3) Games - I touched on this earlier, 10 clams too much.
Right On - The Wireless Controller. Yeah, yeah...I know. I just griped about the cost. It is $10 too much but I love this thing. Not just the fact that its wireless (my wife still checks for cords when she walks in front of me, ha!) but because the layout is so perfect. All of the buttons are in exactly the right place. Its incredibly intuitive. The size is just about right as well. Fits good in both hands - not too heavy, not too light.
Right On - Xbox Live Marketplace. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is the future of gaming. Downloading movie trailers, pictures to go next to your gamer tag and demos are all well and good but the Xbox Live Arcade is what makes this place so special. "Geometry
Wars", "Hexic HD" and "Zuma Deluxe" are just a few of the games you can get for free or dirt cheap. Some day discs will be gone and this is how we will purchase video games (and movies and music). Xbox Live Marketplace hasn't even begun to reach its potential.
Right On - Xbox Live. This will be Sony's biggest challenge. Not games and not graphics because the PS3 won't be any prettier or better than the 360. Online play is where its at and once you have it you can't live without it. Can Sony beat Microsoft at its own game? I doubt it.
So now what? Where does Microsoft go from here? I'm going to give my good friend Bill Gates a few candid suggestions in this weeks top 5 list.
Top 5 Ways Bill Gates Can Assure the 360's Dominance
1. Boost Production - Bill, you need to get as many 360's as you can into people's homes. The initial short supply didn't make your product mysterious and more desired, it ticked people off. If a family owns a 360, they're not going to turn around and buy a PS3 six months later. You need consoles now! Get Bill Jr. on the assembly line if you have to.
2. Lower Game Costs - This is a no-brainer, especially with EA already reducing its current-gen lineup to $30 or $40 dollars. What, you don't think Sony saw how many people scoffed at $60 games? You need to price drop a few months before the PS3 comes out because I guarantee you that their games will be $50 and no higher.
3. Get Halo 3 Out Quick - The 360 doesn't have a killer title and it needs one desperately. Bill, you need a game that's 360 only, that everyone will want. Put the screws to Bungie. And while your at it, work a deal with Rockstar so that the next GTA game is 360 only as well. Those two games would bury the PS3.
4. Leave Japan: Not totally, just recognize when you've been beat. I know the 3-headed marketing campaign (US, Europe, Japan) was ambitious and had to be tried. Well, you did it and fell on your face. Its okay, we all make mistakes. Well, except me. Those 360's sitting on shelves in Japan could be used to build up a greater US or European base.
5. Shake Your Money Maker: The 360 has 2 giant advantages over the PS3 (only because no one knows much about it) - Xbox Live and Xbox Live Marketplace. Neither of these features are being marketed enough. This is your ace in the hole, your trump card, your...well you get the idea. Not enough people know about Live and Marketplace. Sell them, tweak them, show'em off. The gaming world could be yours.