Stop being a money parasite
Above all else, Microsoft need to stop burning up goodwill with excessive charges. More than a decade ago they had this idea of charging an addition fee to enable online gameplay with other players, a practice that none of their rivals adopted. As the years went by and people began to sour on the idea of paying for something that other companies offer for free, Microsoft decided to ‘add value’ to the subscription by throwing even more things that ought to be free behind the paywall, such as access to Facebook and Netflix (that is, before you buy the separate Netflix subscription). Then you have additional frivolous charges for things like avatar clothing, changing your online handle, those overpriced official hard drives (because they craftily limit the size of your external drives to 32 GB no matter their actual capacity). At this rate a cynic would say the next Xbox is bound to be swarming with ads and charging real money for each individual you add to your friend list. A new console generation is a dangerous opportunity for people to re-pick sides and migrate to a competing service. Microsoft need to be very serious about the way they treat customers and manage their image.
Cross compatibility with Windows 8
Windows-compatibility should be a key area of differentiation for Microsoft’s next console. This advantage should be obvious but MS have failed pretty well to unite Windows and Xbox so far. So Microsoft launched the Windows Store with Windows 8 where you can purchase x86-compatible, Xbox controller-compatible, Xbox Live-compatible games, which it calls ‘Xbox Games’. Current highlights include BlazBlue, A World of Keflings and Rayman Jungle Run. If these Xbox Games on the Windows Store do not also play on Microsoft’s next Xbox console, which by the way has an x86 processor, then fuck those guys.
Treat all games as first-class citizens
There is a weird segmentation on the Xbox 360 where games that originally began life on DVD are afforded more flexibility than download-only or ‘Arcade’ games. These confusingly-labelled Arcade games (doesn’t that word mean something else?) have more restrictions on data size, less achievements to award players, and must fit into a rigid pricing structure. Indie games, yet another category, are even more restricted in their access to Xbox Live features and how much they can charge. Compare this mess to Steam or Apple’s iOS where a game is a game is a game.
Cloud gaming to rival the PS4
Earlier this year Sony demonstrated deep cloud integration with their upcoming console, effectively leapfrogging what Xbox Live currently offers. We know that PS4 players will be able to instantly trial games without waiting for downloads, and stream live gameplay sessions to audiences both on the console and the wider web. Microsoft simply must match this functionality on their next Xbox or risk falling behind.
Bring back Banjo and Conker
Since Microsoft purchased Rare, they have done a good job of stifling creativity at the British developer, effectively cancelling the sequel to Conker’s Bad Fur Day and later tasking the team with a generic sports title that could have been delegated to any talentless nobodies. Rare’s last great creative flourish was 2008′s Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, which still stands as my favorite Xbox game. More Banjo and/or Conker games would be reason alone for me to play Xbox.