With E3 right around the corner we are expecting a whole heap of news regarding the Wii U (the "Xbox 720" and "PlayStation 4" are unlikely to be making an appearance), but what should Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony do with their next-generation consoles to ensure that they dominate both the hardware and software market in the future? Here's our list of Do's & Don'ts for the trifecta of gaming companies.
Create New IP's: While Mario remains as popular as ever, his stablemates are suffering with some fatigue as a result of their over-exposure; Team Ninja's woeful mishandling of the Samus character in Other M has left a dent in the credibility of the Metroid franchise, while even The Legend of Zelda fell prey to some critics after Skyward Sword failed to capture as many imaginations as Link's previous outings. Nintendo's business model of relying on their already established selection of franchises is financially beneficial in the short-term, but for a company who are so forward-thinking with their hardware, Nintendo seems reluctant to branch out with their software. Hopefully they will change this with the advent of the Wii U and come up with some new IP's that aren't mini-game collections.
Focus On Third-Party Content: Nintendo has always been the leader of the pack when it has come to first-party titles, but their lack of support for developers outside of their own creative team has left them trailing embarrassingly behind Microsoft and Sony when big names titles like Call of Duty have been released. While the Wii's inferior graphics resulted in every port made to the console looking like an aging PS2 title, the Wii U's HD capabilities and strong support of announced titles such as Alien: Colonial Marines suggests that they're looking at changing their poor relationship with outside companies – I just hope that its tablet-esque controller is easy to develop for.
Rely On Gimmickry: When the Wii first made its way onto shelves it was seen as revolutionary, as something that would change the way we played video games forever – 5 years later and we now know that not to be the case. The Wii U's tablet design is very savvy from the Nintendo creative team, who are capitalising on the lucrative iPad market and yet again giving us an impressive-looking gadget that will undoubtedly make its way onto the Christmas lists of intrigued consumers.
However, the Wii suffered in that once the initial thrill of waggling a controller at your TV waned, they had no back-up plan to hold gamers' attention other than to release another AAA title every 8 months or so. While heavily marketing the potential of the tablet controller is essential to drawing in big figures upon release, Nintendo should learn from their mistakes with the Wii and understand that once the excitement of new technology has wore off (I'll give it 4 months), they will need something else up their sleeve to prevent the Wii U from gathering dust in people's homes.
Drastically Improve Upon PSN: PlayStation Network is an absolute mess from top to bottom. The PlayStation 3's online service's sole advantage over Microsoft's Xbox Live is that it's free and every now and again some cool exclusives pop up on the PlayStation Store; but its interface is so user-unfriendly that even simple tasks such as engaging friends in conversation over voice chat become an arduous exercise in trial and error. I have every faith that this will be Sony's first port of call when it comes to developing the PlayStation 4, but if they want to better Microsoft in the next generation of consoles they will arguably have to present a better system than Live, which I can only assume would mean that consumers may have to pay a yearly subscription fee. While this would undoubtedly draw some complaints from the gaming community, I believe that it would be a small price to pay to rid the world of the memory of the PSN we are forced to endure today.
Continue Focussing On Multi-Media: Not enough is said about how apt the PlayStation's "It Only Does Everything" slogan is. As of right now, the main pull for purchasing a PS3 over an Xbox 360 for the average consumer is its reputation as a multimedia centre. Aside from its aforementioned amateur online services, the PlayStation 3 feels far more of an advanced and technologically superior console than its two contemporaries, with its ability to play blu-rays and support for 3D gaming making it more of a gadget than a pure gaming console, thus increasing its popularity among "casuals". As Sony are tipped to announce the introduction of cloud gaming to the PS3, I hope that their pursuit to turn their consoles into utility knives continues into the release of the PS4.
Release With Poor Launch Titles: Sony's releasing of the PS3 was poor, with its extortionate price of £425 in the UK and slew of launch titles that had previously appeared on the Xbox instantly leaving it trailing behind Microsoft's console. Sony have done a lot since then to improve its popularity and have it shed its underdog reputation, but considering they are still aiming to shoot for their "ten-year plan", which would see the PS4 releasing in 2016, they willl presumably yet again find themselves trying to win customers away from the Xbox 360's successor. As 2016 is a long way away in terms of technology, I can only hazard a guess as to how the videogame industry has changed since then, but however it looks, Sony must ensure that they are one step ahead of it this time.
Snag More Exclusives: Aside from Halo and Gears of War, the Xbox 360 never really had any killer titles to call its own. More noticeably towards the latter half of its life-cycle, its continued success has largely been a result of its superior online system rather than its wealth of exclusive games. Multi-platform games such as Modern Warfare 3 performed better on the 360 than they did anywhere else, which in turn brings in huge profits for Microsoft. But if Sony's PSN service wasn't so lacklustre then the 360 would have undoubtedly suffered when competing with the PS3's better selection of games. Now that Gears of War 3 appears to have brought an end to the series (at least for now), they are only left with Halo, a franchise which is no longer in the hands of its original creators.
Improve Cloud Gaming: There has been talk concerning the video game industry losing the disk distribution format altogether and focusing on bringing new games to users solely via the magic internet. This should not and hopefully will not happen in the foreseeable future (especially considering the extortionate prices Microsoft charges for old retail releases on the Xbox Live Marketplace), but it would be a good idea for the next Xbox to improve upon the 360's pitiful Cloud memory storage option. While I wouldn't want to see video games moving too far away from the disks that we know and love, being able to access your library of games on multiple Xbox's without having to carry around a hard drive would certainly be a step in the right direction.
Continue To Push Motion-Control to the Detriment of Actual Video games: With all the money, marketing, time and effort put into trying to establish Kinect as Wii for 23-year-olds, I cannot see Microsoft giving up on the idea of motion control with their new console. However, if they are going to continue to push motion control, I hope that they can work out a cohesiveness between both motion control and standard gaming that will make them seem less focussed upon selling us a gimmick than selling us quality video games.
The Kinect hasn't exactly been a failed experiment and the technology, whilst still very much new and suffering with issues, is impressive enough to understand why Microsoft would wish to improve upon it for the successor to the 360. However, this past year has seen Microsoft drop almost all of its support for anything outside of the gadget (their diabolical showing at last year's E3 can attest to that), raising the ire of gamers. I hope that the next Xbox will implement motion-control with subtlety, rather than subjecting us to more footage of Han Solo dancing.
Wii Image: Guardian