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Letter To Microsoft, "If It Ain't Broke, Just Wait"

This week, my rant energy is focused on Microsoft. From Project Natal to how RPGs are pushed on the console, let's take look at the current leader of the HD gaming generation with a critical eye.
 
Microsoft, step into my office for a second,its time for a progress report. A couple weeks ago I wrote a letter to Sony and this week its time for a come to Jesus moment with the direction of Microsoft as a gaming company. You are fighting a tough battle in the games industry, but it is a battle you are winning by the hair of your green teeth. You manage to excel both Sony, Nintendo, and your idiot savant brother -- the PC two-fold by not only procuring one of the worst online communities, but you have managed to sell ketchup to a woman wearing white gloves with that overpriced box of plastics and toxic chemicals. Microsoft, you pretty much have to extend the life of the 360. Why? Who would be willing to buy a new console given the history of stability with the previous two?
 
We have all grown use to having Microsoft branded pieces of technology break on us -- several times in fact. Barring the Zune, what has Microsoft ever done correct out of the box? Fanboys, try and understand this is meant to be constructive as well as genuine criticism. Let us be honest, the Xbox consoles have always been known to be broken, easier to develop for, and arguably one-dimensional machines. I say arguably, because Netflix and XBLA have made tremendous strides in making Microsoft's easily 'explodible'  system -- a multipurpose entertainment device. Right? That's the tag line their public relations department has been going with as of late, correct?
 
With a look back at 2009, it is evident that Microsoft has put the Xbox 360 on cruise control. The cooling fans are still spinning so to avoid overheating they purposely released little first-party titles intentionally. I'm giving you [Microsoft] the benefit of the doubt. It appears that PS3 development teams at most of the top game studios seem to be doing the equivalent of solving the Rosetta Stone in developing for that overly complicated machine. Microsoft has bought ads showing Assassin's Creed & Modern Warfare 2 as being specifically on the Xbox. All the Xbox 360 marketers needed to do was slap their logo on a Modern Warfare 2 or Dragon Age: Origins box and watch the moolah roll in. Games like Bioshock and Burnout that perform just as well on the PS3 and Batman: Arkham Asylum exceeded expectations -- we are still a long way off from this being the gaming norm. Good on you for capturing the average mouth-breather demographic. Now the hard part, pushing the medium forward.

Don't get too happy fan boys. The face of the Xbox is one of a crowd of meat-necks and racists. You can find this anywhere from PC to PS3 players, but never before has there been such a concentrated collection of sweaty-faced hobgoblins then on your 10 million-plus users of the Xbox Live service.  It's a good thing you're overcharging those oafs right? Look at Sony scrounging for resources in order to promote their own pay service and you've been ripping people off for years now. Not bad for the best premium gaming service known to the average college frat boy. If a complaint could be launched at Xbox's online service it would be about how it looks. Like iTunes and most Microsoft operating systems people like bloat and the NXE is one of a collage of crap most people wouldn't use even if it were made easier. When was the last time you updated your Twitter and/or Facebook status? All of this web integration and no web browser, interesting.
 
It's not that the Xbox is too hardcore for the average consumer. The console just isn't inviting to anyone who doesn't want to play a shooter. Let's not kid ourselves here, The Xbox 360 is a system based on the genre currently running ruff-shod over the gaming nation; the first-person shooter. I love Halo and I have lost count at how many unintentionally funny homoerotic lines are in Gears Of War. Are you happy with this being the face and the crowd that is the core of the Xbox community? I'm generalizing. My computerized heart goes out to those few people who support FPS games as well as the RPGs [among other genres]. RPGs have had a tough go in this generation -- no matter the platform -- it probably doesn't help sales much if you're on a console that has a fanbase that's all about 'teh headshots'. Games like Fable II, Mass Effect 2 and Tales Of Vesperia are steps in a better direction. I have faith, but I wonder if I am the only one?


Assuming Microsoft is concerned with their 'face'. Maybe you are happy putting every social networking site and streaming video rental application on a box that breaks every time a new game pushes its graphics processor. All I am asking is for a little diversity. Is it possible that Alan Wake will be pushed as hard as Halo or Gears Of War? Brand loyalty could bite you on the butt when Final Fantasy hits. I'm not a huge fan of first party 'this' or console exclusive 'that', but I am a bigger fan of competition and Sony is proving to be getting their swagger back. RPGs may not be your thing or action-adventure, or puzzle games for that matter. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, would it kill you to have a first-party property that didn't involve a reticule?
 
Project Natal, I gave Sony guff for their vibrator-turned-motion controller, so it is only fair I share my feelings on this device. The fact that it looks terribly similar to the PS Eye is moot. In all honesty, it looks like a tool that has more support going into it than Sony's flop of a device that had a ton of potential. When I heard that Natal would be using only 15 percent of Xbox 360's CPU, my knee jerk reaction was, "Well, let's see how many 360s will crash after utilizing this puppy." Then it dawned on me, Microsoft you crafty bastards, you could possibly be releasing 'Wii-type' games that require possibly N64 graphics at best. Clever. There is something about Natal that strikes me as either Microsoft's very own Virtual Boy or [sadly] their Dreamcast. Either way, it seems a smidge too early for the tastes' of this current generation of gamers. Maybe people love Minority Report so much that they want to bring the future home with them, but I just want to press buttons. My arms get tired changing light bulbs, so I can only imagine how cumbersome throwing an imaginary grenade in faux-cover would get.
 
 

Isn't the market saturated enough with drum kits, balancing boards and guitar peripherals? Like Sony, maybe you should work on getting the other 40 percent of your user base to use the internet before pushing more 'cutting edge' technology into their homes. Better yet, let's try and get that console failure rate below 20 percent. Notice how I didn't say stop ripping off gold member subscribers? Notice that I didn't say offer more RPGs? I honestly and truly believe that XBLA and your XNA community grant you the biggest pass. If you were to promote better tools and online structure for those two groups, I will stay my wraith for another letter. However, this is not a time to inherit the pig-headedness of your general user base. Now step out of my office and turn in your TPS reports, pronto.

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