E3 2014: Five Things Microsoft Has To Do At The Show

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Microsoft

This year’s E3 is going to be a crucially important one. All the major console makers have launched their new machines, and so far things aren’t playing out according to plan for any of them. The Wii U is bordering on disaster, Microsoft can’t go a week without changing their Xbox One strategy and the PS4 is selling solidly, but the system’s software calendar is a wasteland.

Over the next week or so I’ll be running down what the three major console makers need to deliver at this year’s E3 if they want to justify this generation of consoles to consumers. Last week I covered Nintendo, and now it’s Microsoft’s turn…

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Microsoft

We all knew this marriage wouldn’t last.

Unlock The Xbox One’s Power

Microsoft recently threw the Kinect over the side of the good ship Xbox One like the leper it is, which means they can now solve the console’s nagging issues with resolution and frame rate (the Kinect was a major drain on the console’s resources). Perhaps slimming down the console’s operating system can also free up some power.

Now, you may not care whether a game is 720p or 1080p (hey, I’m with you), but some folks certainly do, and a Microsoft announcement that from this moment on all first-party Xbox One games will be 1080p and 60 fps would send the message that Microsoft is ready to get back in the pit with Sony to battle for the hearts and minds of core gamers.

Support For Past Xbox Games

Microsoft is no longer the new kid on the block. They’ve been doing this console thing for a decade-and-a-half, and yet they steadfastly refuse to celebrate their history. Buy a Sony or Nintendo platform and you know you’re eventually going to have access to a decent chunk of their back catalog either through backward compatibility or services like Nintendo’s Virtual Console or Playstation Now. On the other hand, if you want to play an Xbox or Xbox 360 game on your Xbox One, you’re just straight up boned.

Announce Xbox 360 backwards compatibility for the next Xbox One system update and/or make all the major original Xbox titles available for download — gamers will be less impatient waiting for Halo 5 if they have the entire Xbox back catalogue at their fingertips. Just, you know, maybe leave Blinx: The Time Sweeper out.

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New Exclusive IP

Microsoft’s stable of exclusive IP is getting a bit musty. Sure, Halo is still big, but Gears of War is on the fence and Fable has fallen right off that fence in the Well of Irrelevance. Microsoft does have the very promising looking Sunset Overdrive on the way, but it needs more — a new RPG series to replace Fable, and maybe some stuff in genres Microsoft hasn’t tackled yet. A horror game? Something adventure game-y perhaps?

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Microsoft

The state of Rare makes the drunken squirrel sad. 

Let Rare Off The Leash

Poor Rare. For those around during the 16 and 32/64-bit eras, it’s been rather depressing to see Microsoft transform that company that created Donkey Kong Country and Conker’s Bad Fur Day into a neutered Kinect developer. Sure, Rare’s Kinect Sports games have been solid, but the most recent one tanked hard, and it’s clear the developer needs to do something else or cease existing.

Rare’s brand of colorful fun may seem out of date, but I think there’s a pent-up demand for it — I can guarantee the announcement of a new Conker or a retro splitscreen multiplayer-focused shooter ala GoldenEye would be one of the most talked about announcements at E3. Come on Microsoft, give Rare one more shot at glory before putting them out to pasture. What do you have to lose?

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