And here we… go.

next xbox

It’s official. After months and months of wondering when it would finally happen – it should have actually happened by now, in fact – Microsoft has at last announced May 21 will be the day we will finally see the next Xbox, the first such major pre-E3 event from it since the Project Natal/Kinect event at E3 2010.

Of course, it didn’t say ‘next Xbox’ verbatim, but I think the hint comes in the form of the tagline ‘A New Generation Revealed’, followed by the hashtag #XboxReveal.

But after months and months of rumour and speculation as to what the next Xbox will hold, it’s now time for Don Mattrick and the Interactive Entertainment Business team at Microsoft to give the people what they want, at least on the Xbox side of things.

“The box, the box!”

This is essential. Sony showed a lack of casing for the public unveiling of PlayStation 4 in February and its something Microsoft picked up upon with a sense of snark after the PlayStation Meeting. So don’t let it backfire on you.

Show the box and you’ll immediately trump Sony on that front. Dont and you’ll sure look like a big fool thanks in (forgive the pun) major part to Major Nelson, even if you decide to hold off until E3 to show it by a few weeks.

Short and sweet because it’s plain and straight to the point. So do that, Microsoft. Announce the name, show the logo, unveil the console. Then, and only then, you can get to the games.

The games, they fall from the sky?

Mattrick and the two Phils – Harrison and Spencer – need to leave a big starting impression in terms of what it has planned on the software front, an aspect Sony got (mostly) right during the PlayStation Meeting in February. It won’t be revealing everything for the console – Microsoft has said it’ll “continue the conversation” at its E3 press conference on June 10 at the Wiltern Theatre – but a few first-party nukes need to be fired beforehand. Halo? Probably not. Keep that nugget for E3. But we’re talking the likes of teasers for Forza Motorsport 5, Fable IV and a new IP at least.

This is similar to what Sony did in February with the reveals of Killzone: Shadow Fall, inFamous: Second Son and new racing IP DriveClub. Afterwards, at E3, lets see what 343, Rare and Microsoft Studios Vancouver have been up to. Oh and that little matter of Project Gotham Racing 5 from Lucid Games.

As for third-parties, CVG’s reporting that at least one major third-party publisher – possibly EA – are lined up as a partner for the conference and will be unveiling a deal which involves exclusivity in some form or another, either a game or DLC. My guess, given the exclusivity DLC deal announced in February between Sony and Activision/Bungie for Destiny, is this’ll somehow involve some form of exclusivity regarding the EA Partners-published sci-fi shooter coming from Respawn Entertainment.

One other key aspect done right at the Sony event was a decentish third-party presence with Capcom, Square Enix (do they count considering all they had was an announcement of an announcement and a tech demo first shown last year?), Ubisoft, Blizzard (genuine shocker there) and Activision. It was also noticable it had a lack of EA, Take Two (2K? Rockstar?) and thensome. If the rumoured EA presence is a pointer, this is something Microsoft is looking to 1up Sony over.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that, considering its presence throughout every hardware launch ever, Ubisoft will be rocking up with something new to show. ACIV demo? New Watch Dogs content?

What about those we didn’t see in February? Will we see Take Two with something from 2K or maybe even Rockstar (next-gen GTA V anyone)? And what about Bethesda? We’re definitely not going to see Fallout 4 if they get stagetime, but maybe we’ll see Tango’s newly-announced The Evil Within. Or maybe we might see MachineGames’ rumoured Wolfenstein reboot for the first time.

One last thing, Microsoft: indies. And I’m gonna say this slowly – DO. EVERYTHING. IN. YOUR. POWER. TO. ENTICE. THEM. TO. YOUR. PLATFORM! Sony has gone all out with indies since PS4 was announced. And guess what, it’s working. Since February and GDC, a majority of developers have had positive comments on the openness of PS4 as well as the promise of self-publishing for the platform alongside PlayStation 3 and Vita.

Don’t lock out brilliant developers due to a lack of publisher. And the amount of horror stories that have come out in the past (as well as recently) regarding publishing on XBLA don’t help. Open your system up, let it be free. And allow for experiences too that can be found elsewhere. Let MMOs be allowed this time (FFXI may have just slipped through, but look at MMOs like FFXIV and Champions Online as examples), open up to the possibility of F2P – if the recent announcement of MMO and F2P vet John Needham as the new boss of Lionhead is a pointer, it looks like it will in regards to the latter – and more. In a nutshell: LET DEVELOPERS ROAM FREE!

Get that always-on down ye. Good lad

This, like the first point, is also a short one. But it also needs to be down and gone like a child taking children’s medicine immediately. Mattrick needs to clarify the stance on if the next Xbox will indeed be always-on (either partially or fully) as it has been heavily rumoured for the past year or so.

And it needs to be adressed upfront on May 21, not wait a few weeks later at E3. If it’s true, get it out there. The prospect of the first always-on console is always gonna turn heads, especially more so if the ability to play games is tied to it. It’s that pivotal, it seen Adam Orth no longer in his role as creative director at Microsoft Studios (whether he walked or was pushed is unknown) due to his now known always-on argument on Twitter.

The gist is this, Don. Clarify the always-on on rumours come May 21. It’s that important. Deal with it.

Whatever does happen, the run-in to E3 has now hotted up as we approach three weeks-and-a-half weeks from now and the event in Washington. It’s now on Microsoft to lay its chips on the table and make a big bet on its third Xbox, otherwise it faces the possibility of having third-console syndrome.

After all, Xbox 360 is one of the most successful consoles of all time now (it even overcame PlayStation 3, though just after a late surge these past few years after itself suffered third-console syndrome).

Come on, then. It’s time to put up. Or shut up.

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