Once every few years, the gaming world is typically rocked by the three major titans of the industry dropping a new generation of consoles and controls. In recent years, these new generational updates to the product line have synced up with each other—causing an effect where people tend to expect that a certain year will be one for the books.
How that it’s been a few years since the Xbox One and PlayStation Four, what’s next for both companies? And whatever happened to the rumored and infamous Xbox 720? Was the Xbox One a replacement for that console or will it turn up here in the next generational cycle?
The future of video games is constantly changing—especially with the development of the Internet and more and more powerful technologies coming out of the PC world. Where does the traditional game console stand in all of this? Do companies like Microsoft and Sony go the way of Nintendo and niche down, or aim for mass appeal yet again?
To break down the speculation and rumors, we’ve taken a closer look at the possible future of the Xbox 720 specifically—looking to the past of Microsoft to see where the future might take us. We’ll also be breaking down the specs and tech we’re hoping to see in Microsoft’s upcoming offerings and new console experience.
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The big three companies—that is, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo—have been in tight competition since the turn of the millennium.
After the fall of Sega as a console maker, and the rise of Sony due to the rampant success of the PlayStation, it was clear that the market was wide open for competition. And Microsoft was one of the only companies with the raw capital to make it happen.
The original Xbox was released in 2001 and right off the bat, wowed audiences with features and support never before seen in a console. It was a direct competitor to the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo GameCube, but it was clear that this box was hoping to carve a path all its own.
After cementing their place in the industry, 2005 came along.
Instead of waiting for the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 to arrive, Microsoft jumped ahead with the Xbox 360, which featured an enhanced focus on features, better online play, and an online store—cementing Microsoft’s place as an innovate company aiming not only to succeed but to show that online gaming had a future with them.
Of course, the Xbox 360 set a naming precedent that many assumed would continue onward. Calls and rumors for the Xbox 720 started as early as 2010, and as the old cycle winded down to a close and the technology became available to improve the systems yet again, it was time for Microsoft to make another move to combat what would be the most fierce competition yet.
For those unfamiliar, Nintendo’s Wii shifted the company completely into the family-friendly market, leaving Sony and Microsoft the only two competitors for the teenager and adult markets. Sony knew this—and was about to release a console that would shake up everything.
So what did Xbox do?
As it turns out, they skipped 720 and went all the way back to square one.
Sales Numbers & PlayStation Competition
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The Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 were similarly released at around the same time—giving just enough space for both companies to roll out there launches. However, it became clear very early on that Xbox wasn’t going to be the clear victor here.
The PlayStation 4 offered better functionality, a more understandable pathway to game ownership, and had the lion’s share of great games. Xbox One, on the other hand, suffered greatly from initial designs that would have crushed the second-hand video game market. The company relented after backlash, but it seemed the damage was done.
Fast forward to the present day, and the sales numbers and PlayStation competition is still too much for the company to handle.
It’s been over three years since the company released sales figures on the Xbox One, and it’s clear that it isn’t because they like secrecy in silicon valley.
There is no nice way to say it—Microsoft is being destroyed by Sony and getting outsold 2-to-1. However, a company as massive as Microsoft has the chance (and the money) for redemption, and that redemption could come in the form of the Xbox 720.
What the Xbox 720 Could Look Like
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That all being said, what would the next generation of the Xbox look like?
First of all, going back to the implied naming system and using “720” in the title of the console could help fans return to the console once more. The Xbox 360 is still beloved for its standalone games and great functionality—even if the red ring of death cut that reputation dead in its tracks in 2005.
As for what video game fans want? Well, that’s a pretty exhaustive list. However, here are the major desires for fans moving into the next decade and beyond:
- More developed and effective online gaming
- Better graphics
- Fewer microtransactions
- More integration with smart devices
- Easier access to features
- Backward compatibility
Many of these demands come from detriments to the Xbox One. As previously mentioned, the current generation of Xbox consoles was almost released with a severe lock on used games. The company learned its lesson by changing up the requirements before release, but we’d like to see another step in the right direction.
Backward compatibility is quickly becoming another demand of fans. Nostalgia is running high for the distinguished intellectual properties that made the Xbox so famous. Likewise, the Xbox controller and basic design have remained stagnant since 2001. Meaning that building backward compatibility into the console is an option.
However, this would also mean reducing the number of microtransactions on gamers overall, such as selling these games on virtual stores to increase profit. For those unaware, microtransactions are smaller payments gamers have to make on a game they may have already paid for.
The gaming world is rampant with season passes, downloadable content, and half-baked games being marketed as ready for consumers. By cracking down on these problems, Microsoft could paint itself as the hero of the video game world once again.
As far as specs go, gamers want to see the next best thing. Better graphics is always called upon in the community, as games continue to move from simple in design to nearly indistinguishable from real life. Compatibility with other disc types, like Blu-Rays, would also be preferable, but given that Sony owns Blu-Ray, we don’t see that happening anytime soon.
As for a release date? It’s anyone’s guess, but 2020 seems like a good a time as any to refresh the console lineup. 2020 would be a similar gap between release dates as the previous (2005 and 2013) and allow Microsoft a few extra years to hone in on what they’d like to do.
The Future of Video Games
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As the Internet continues to dominate and online games continue to proliferate in the community, the future of video games, and specifically the future of traditional consoles, is in question.
More and more programmers are moving software from a “pay once” model to “pay for access” model, and given the state of video games, with season passes especially, we can see the same happening here.
However, it’s not uncommon for gamers to protest such developments—feeling as if the pay-as-you-go model robs gamers of ever really owning or completing a game. Likewise, it allows manufacturers to ship half-baked games, only to place repairs and the second half of the game behind another paywall.
Microsoft, much like Sony and Nintendo, is in a unique position to re-define the traditional console market with their next offering. Pushing for a more innovative console as opposed to the most traditionally profitable may help the company return to its former glory.
Gamers would be happy to flock back to Microsoft if it proved that the Xbox 720 was not only going to right the wrongs of the Xbox One but harken back to the Xbox 360 as a console designed to innovate the game.
There’s little stopping Microsoft from doing so, but with this next generation more than ever, the future of the console market rests in their hands. With the rampant success of the PlayStation 4, Sony may not be in as good a position—or as desperate a position—to rock the boat.
As for Microsoft? The sky is the limit. All they need to do is have the drive to get there in the first place.