Sir Gordon Wheelmeier is a friend (which is why the honorific “sir” is included in his official name). I’ve been chatting with him for the past two years or so, bothering him every other day to run one journalistic idea or another past him, to get his take on some super-secret rumor making the rounds, or just to generally pester him. It’s as good as a relationship that has never been cemented in the really real world can get (that’s cemented and not consummated, thank you very much).
It’s also a reflection of just how knowledgeable, experienced, and– yes, I’ll go ahead and say it– talented the man is. His resume is as long as my arm and includes both journo as well as game development credits (on multiple platforms, to boot). He’s witty, debonair, and he also enjoys long walks on the beach. Gaming nerds, he’s as close to Perfect-san as you can get.
And Sir Gordon’s going to try and get us as close to Microsoft’s future as we can get. Isn’t that nice of him?
Microsoft’s stable of exclusive games has gotten exponentially smaller each year over the past two or three years… excluding, of course, Kinect titles. What will this year’s lineup look like? And will it be enough to hold off both the Wii U and the PS3?
Sir Gordon Wheelmeier:
I don’t expect a “big” year for any of the Big Three, to be honest, at least as far as exclusives are concerned. It’ll be a great year for games as a whole, but I don’t expect Nintendo to have too many first-party titles at the Wii U’s launch, and I’d bet good money that both Microsoft and Sony have many of their first-party devs working on next-gen titles. I might be forgetting something, but the only two major Microsoft-published titles coming out this year (that’s been announced thus far) are Halo 4 and the new Alan Wake.
Will those two games be enough to fend off the Wii U and PS3? I don’t think that’s the real question here. Assuming the next Xbox (and PlayStation) launches in 2013, the goal for both companies will be to make sure that gamers have a lot to play in 2012. With titles like BioShock: Infinite, Tomb Raider, Borderlands 2, Mass Effect 3, and countless other great titles coming from third-party developers, I’d say that a lot of the pressure is off. Send off the system with one last hurrah (Halo 4, in Microsoft’s case), and then focus 2013 on hyping up and launching the next-gen systems.
Microsoft has already added Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and ESPN to Xbox Live. How can it continue to expand the service in the future– and does it need to?
There’s the Xbox TV stuff that’s been talked about for a while. A lot of people would love to be able to cut their cable bill entirely, and while Netflix and Hulu help with that a lot, you’re still missing things like live broadcasts (i.e., sports, news, etc.) and some content that you can’t get when it originally airs anywhere but cable (HBO programming, for instance). So I’d say a full TV service would be a big win, and the existing video options are great, but outside of that, I think people really just want to play games.
Xbox Live Arcade has been one of the single most influential elements of the current generation. How can MS top that for the next gen?
Xbox Live Arcade is indeed an amazing service, and we certainly have Microsoft to thank for helping to shine the spotlight on indie and smaller games. I don’t think it’ll be the games that need to be expanded next-gen– that’s really up to the creators, and the horsepower will obviously be there. If anything, I’d say that maybe more could be done in terms of advertising these games, showing people that there’s great stuff to be had that way. MS already does a great job of that, especially when it’s something exclusive like Limbo hitting during one of the Summer of Arcade blowouts, so I don’t know that more needs to be done, really. But one thing that Sony is doing well right now is offering free games through its PlayStation Plus program– perhaps Microsoft could offer up free titles to Xbox Live Gold members from time to time.
Should Microsoft abandon ship on the Kinect, or has it done exactly what it needed to do? Similarly, will the peripheral end up becoming an EyeToy-esque, flash-in-the-pan add-on, or will it be the anchor of the Xbox 720?
The Kinect is an interesting thing… To be honest, I never expected it to sell, but I guess it’s done pretty well. Does anybody use it for anything serious? There are some kid-oriented games that use it, which is great, but does anyone use it for any “core” games?
You know, I’m not really a fan of motion control at all. Being able to balance your character or whatever from time to time is fine, but I want two analog sticks and some buttons. The Kinect, with its cost and pretty hefty space requirements (I can’t use one– my living room is too cramped), is great for some things, but certainly not for all. When the tech becomes cheaper, or maybe even “free” with every system purchase, then we’ll see what happens. But will people buy Kinect 2 for Xbox 720 if they only sometimes used the current Kinect? We’ll see.
What will MS’s E3 conference end up being this year?
I think your real question there is, “Will Microsoft unveil the Xbox 720?” I don’t know for sure, but I would guess not, for the simple fact that they still want Halo 4 to sell a ton. If they show stuff way beyond it from a technical standpoint, that might impact sales. And, of course, Microsoft could never announce a console without Master Chief being present– which, in this case, would obviously be Halo 5, and not 4. I could be wrong about all that, but, if so, I wouldn’t expect much more than a tease.
There’s a bit of a cat-and-mouse game going on with Sony, though. If Microsoft doesn’t show its hand but Sony does, MS will have come out behind. So if Microsoft doesn’t tease the Xbox 720, then I would think that they’d be very confident that Sony won’t show the PlayStation 4 during its conference (which is always after Microsoft’s). On Sony’s end, I think that if Microsoft does tease the Xbox 720, it will have something ready to show, as well.
Again, though, I don’t expect to see either this year– but E3 2013 will be awesome.
Marc N. Kleinhenz isn’t awesome, but he has written for Gamasutra, IGN, and Comic Related, among a dozen other sites. He also likes mittens, which is pretty tight. Or is that gnarly?