About Microsoft Being 'Six Months' Behind With The Next Xbox...

My article on Monday about Respawn Entertainment's first post-Call of Duty game, a sci-fi multiplayer shooter, coming exclusively to the current and next-gen Xbox consoles, turned some heads. So did the part of the piece about Microsoft falling behind with their next-gen machine.

That latter bit has become a thing of its own, separate from the Respawn news, which I should remind you is not officially announced but comes from two unrelated, good industry sources (I heard from a third source, who said he'd heard rumours of that Microsoft exclusively plan earlier this year).

Putting the Respawn thing aside for the moment, let's focus on the Microsoft next-gen woes bit. This is what I had written, emphasis added for your scanning convenience:

We've heard from other sources that Microsoft is not where they want to be at this point in the pre-launch development of Durango. A reliable source — one who was not part of our reporting about the Respawn game — tells us that Microsoft is as much as six months behind in producing content for the new console, despite an expected late-2013 launch. Another tells us that Microsoft recently cancelled several internal next-gen projects because they were not coming together as hoped. These sources have told us that, comparatively, Sony is in better shape and further along with hardware and software development for PlayStation 4.

We'd also heard from an industry insider that Microsoft was aggressively trying to sign exclusive games for Durango. Given the lack of internal development at Microsoft — their internal studios, while talented, are outnumbered by those of Sony and Nintendo — and given some of the apparent recent stumbles and slowdowns internally, signing an exclusive Respawn-EA game would suit the Durango quite well.

I don't have more news for you on that today. Sorry! But I wanted to expand on that a little.

First, bear in mind that we're at least six months — probably even a little bit longer — out from the release of the new Xbox, code-named Durango. We're not even going to be getting official word about it until May 21, most likely. We'd heard official word about the PS4 in February. Did that alone indicate that Sony was ahead? Not necessarily.

The impression my Kotaku colleagues and I have long had was that the next consoles from Microsoft and Sony are going down roughly parallel paths and have both been in the works for a while. We've been hearing specifics — not just vague plans but details shared between Microsoft and outsiders — about this new Xbox system since early 2012. We broke news of the codenames for the next Xbox (Durango) and PlayStation (Orbis) in February and March of that year, respectively. While the latter name actually appeared online the December before, the impression we've long had is that Durango and Orbis were aiming for the same part of the calendar. Microsoft and Sony both want you to be able to buy a new console as soon as this Christmas.

Over the past year, I've heard from industry sources who've been variously impressed with Sony and Microsoft's plans, though, of late, Sony gets the better buzz and Microsoft is deemed as somewhat scattered. Frankly, I'd be surprised if Sony wasn't scattered in its own way but, yes, lately, Microsoft is generating a little more head-shaking among my and my colleagues' industry sources. You can see some of that articulated in the chunk I lifted from my Monday article about Respawn.

With the Orbis and Durango on nearly parallel tracks, comparisons for people who know about both consoles are easy to make. PS4 controllers start popping up at development studios in February, but Durango ones show up in March/April? Easy comparison to make.

Microsoft seems less certain about how to proceed, sources tell us. They don't seem as ready for a launch as you'd expect them to be. It sort of makes sense, if you think of Microsoft riding high on the Kinect-fueled success of the Xbox 360 in recent years. Still, they did launch their last console, the 360, in 2005, a year before Sony and Nintendo's PS3 and Wii.

One reliable source compares Microsoft's current Durango moment to the situation with the Wii U, which launched without a key promised launch service and with a scant number of exclusive games. Remember the Wii U? Expect something kind of like that for the next Xbox, they say. At least in terms of how it's looking now. So much can change. And it's never easy to make a console. I'd expect all console launches to be like the Wii U's. Because they always are.

That's the thing to remember: these consoles never launch all that well. They always launch with a tiny number of games worth having and a great amount of ports and padded content to convince you that there are enough games out on day one to merit that day one purchase. This happened with the Xbox 360, with the PS3, with the Wii U. This is how it goes. The console makers' marketing team tries to play it cool, but these consoles come in hot. You wind up, as I did, with a brand-new Xbox 360 and the only game you want to play on it is a retro-arcade game called Geometry Wars. A year later, at last, the likes of Oblivion and Gears of War have blown you away. But they're not there at the start. Nor are many of the services, like Netflix, that the console is known for.

All that said, the "six month" thing I reported has stuck out. What's it mean? It means, as best I understand it, that we'll see Durango launch like the Wii U did. It means developers — internally and third-party — haven't had a ton of time with development hardware. It means that, as I've been told, the games aren't where they need to be and even the machine's operating system isn't up to snuff yet. Nintendo may have some problems unique to Nintendo, but if you thought Wii U's ungraceful launch was just a Nintendo thing, think again. (Christmas 2013 with a maturing Wii U and newborn PS4 and next-gen Xbox just might look a little different than Nintendo naysayers expected.)

On May 21, Microsoft will at least probably catch up to Sony in terms of publicly, officially-disclosed information. They may, by then, have a clear message that they can express about everything from online requirements to Xbox Live's new systems to the presence or lack of backwards compatibility for older games. Right now you can safely assume that things are a little confused and stressful on the Durango project. This doesn't mean Durango will suck. It doesn't mean PS4 will automatically be better. But it may effect what we're told by Microsoft, what kind of games will show up on launch day and whether the next-gen of gaming will be something you'll want to get involved with this year.

As we know more, we'll let you know. Please remember, console launches tend to be more hype than happiness. It's reasonable to keep your long-term expectations for the next Xbox or any other console high, if you'd like, but in a new-console year, you'd best set your short-term expectations low.


Comments

    Six months my arse. I reckon the next Xbox will be out before the PS4, whether it's got solid launch window content or not.

      That would be suicide for the console, unless they have some truly ground breaking non-game related technology in the box launching without a solid line up would kill it in the water.

      Not to mention if they release the hardware before its ready they face another Red Ring of Death fiasco.

      Last edited 02/05/13 10:21 am

        Xbox have been pimping this thing as the future of entertainment, they'll want to get the hardware out fast to penetrate the market as quickly as possible and get people committed before the PS4 comes along. Of course it'll launch with some crapware and a handful of multiplatform titles, the real games can come along a little later, when they need to divert attention from the PS4 launch window.

          Microsoft have been touting that same marketing BS since the first xbox and yet it hasn't become the revolutionary home entertainment unit they have promised. If they release without a strong line up and fail to actually live up to these revolutionary promises it will flounder, especially if the always online etc rumours are true.

          You can't penetrate the market in the console world without games, the Wii U has clearly shown that.

            I guess the possible difference is that Nintendo aren't really offering much other than games, so lack of games is obviously a big issue. If the rumours that MS are concentrating more on "services" like movies, TV, etc then they may feel like they can afford to launch with a weak line up of games because they're counting on the other stuff to sell it anyway, with games as kind of the icing on the cake.

              As I said, there is a hope if these services are as ground breaking as they say, but it was the same marketing as with the release of the last 2 xboxes, but these features have been lack luster at best. So I wouldn't get your hopes too high.

      I agree with you. I doubt that Microsoft - who has had 8 years - would screw up their next hardware launch or even face delays. It's very un-Microsoft. Especially with their mighty financial backing and their big R&D center. It's not like they've been sitting there on their golden toilet like Sir Howard Stringer for that entire time. I call bullshit too.

        Sony screwing up the PS3 launch after the success of the PS1 and PS2 seemed pretty unthinkable, but damned if that isn't what happened. It's taken them years to whip that into a solid piece of technology worth owning, and its first 12 months can't be described as anything other than disasterous.

    I have a theory that they are going to try to create a pay tv type model for the next console. So they will practicaly give away the xbox, but you have to pay a monthly subscription of $50 - $100. And it will be always online, so that you can access all the "free" content such as movies, games etc.

    I'm hoping that it's a massive fail, microsoft should get out of the console market and just make PC's instead.

      There was a rumour like this in an IGN article. Cheaper Xbox 720 partnered with a 2 year Xbox Live subscription that worked out to be $10 a month or so.

        That seems very in keeping with microsoft's current system. Of all the current gen consoles they have always seemed the most in your face cash hungry and I can easily imagine them looking at the WOW model (buy Now AND pay later, and later, then a few hundred more times after that) and thinking it attractive. I imagine there is probably a fair bit of internal stress between the people developing the system and lining up games vs. the people who use terms like "primary gifting period" to describe the launch window.

      They already do this sort of thing with the 360 in the US I'm pretty sure.
      I'd expect it to be an option, but not the only way to purchase the system.

    Maturing Wii U? Sorry when did I miss the announcement of any must buy games for the console? Sure it might still happen, E3 and all but that's speculation at best

      You must have missed the nintendo direct - mario kart - super smash - zelda wind waker HD - zelda for wii u - new mario etc Pikmin 3 is also around the corner.

      Nintendo did announce playable demo's of kart and bros will be at E3. So it is not speculation.

    Can we all stop saying "penetrate" for a minute please? It's starting to sound like an episode of Law & Order SVU around here!

    Last edited 02/05/13 10:41 am

    With the 3rd party stable they'll have, plus 3rd party exclusives they're paying for, they'll only need 1 or 2 1st party exclusives to have a good line up. The rumour is they;'ll have as much as 4. They're fine.

    This rumour lends credence to my theory that they're launching in September. April is around 5 months from September, and my suspicion was that GTA was delayed to September because MS moneyhatted Rockstar to delay the game and release an up res version on the new Xbox to coincide with launch.

    At least Microsoft aren't known for rushing out broken hardware in order to be the first ones on the market.

      Hardware? No. Software? Yes - Vista was released about 6 months earlier than it should have been,

    Rushing out hardware with little to no exclusives is suicide. PS2 was number 1 before the PS3 came out. Look what happened there.

    Is it possible that ms is trying to force Kinect upon devs and as a result are losing out on games?

      Given that PS4 will be coming with its own Kinect style device... I'd doubt that will be the issue.

      With one being in every box, for both platforms, all games may include at least some rudimentary implementation.

        Kinect is a rip off of the Eye Toy.
        PS4 is coming out with the Eye Toy 4.
        FYI

          really? I didn't know I was using a pastel wand/dildo with my Kinect! all this time I been using it wrong?

    If the new Xbox launches first and comes out with GTA V and Watch Dogs at launch, or vice versa for the PS4 they are the ones that will get the big jump. IMO

    "You wind up, as I did, with a brand-new Xbox 360 and the only game you want to play on it is a retro-arcade game called Geometry Wars. A year later, at last, the likes of Oblivion and Gears of War have blown you away. But they’re not there at the start."

    If I remember correctly I got Oblivion at launch with my Xbox... and PGR3 I think

    Last edited 02/05/13 11:40 am

      Also, Geometry Wars is awesome

        Yeah, that kicked a lot of ass and was better than most other stuff out at the time... and for MANY months after, sadly.

    Honestly, with everything I'm hearing about this generation, I feel it will split gamers down the middle. Gamers that just want a games console will go for the PS4, families will lean towards the Durango. And unless I see a massive change of tactics from Nintendo, the Wii U will likely be left in the dust, like the Wii, but without the casual market (that boomed before mobile gaming took off) to fall back on.

    And I hate doing this, but it irks me.
    "But it may affect what we’re told by Microsoft"...

      What draw will existing gamers achievments and digital libraries have on their purchasing decision?

      I will say, despite the turn around they seem to have made, I'm going to wait and see about Sony's online infrastructure.

        Assuming neither one is backwards compatible then I doubt the existing digital library will be a factor for too many since none of those games will work anyway. Even if you stick with whichever one you're currently with you'll still have to keep the old machine to play the old games.

        Achievements - I'd hope very little, considering they are (for the most part) poorly implemented and meaningless. However there is the gambler's fallacy to muddy the waters somewhat - people find it hard to let go when they've invested so much... only time will tell, I suppose.
        Digital libraries - depends entirely on backwards compatibility. Huge libraries mean nothing if you can't do anything with them. The PS4 is an odd one in this regard, tho, with backward compatibility being dependent on having a good internet connection...

        By and large, gamers should be choosing a system on two things - games available, and what they want to use the system for. Sony has said they're focussing more on games this time around, whereas Microsoft is hinting at a general media centre that also does games. The former will obviously appeal more to those that just want a gaming console, and the latter to those that want a console that can act as a central media hub. Sure, there are other factors (online, multiplayer, peer-pressure, perceived service reliability and security), but overall I think that, if Microsoft differentiates themselves from the PS4 by marketing as a central media hub, it will split the market on this point more than any other.

          When are people going to realise that a game machine with a media centre and a media centre with a games machine are exactly the same thing? It's simply how it's marketed. Both current gen consoles are complete media centres at the moment anyway.

          We already know that the new xbox will play games. Of course they're going to want to bring attention to their value adding features like movie streaming services and pay TV. Both machines are going to play games, and majority of those games will be on both consoles, so the kicker for the average consumer that has no brand loyalty is the console with the most features the whole family can use. Exactly like how tons of people chose the PS3 over the Xbox because it had a blue ray player.

          Last edited 02/05/13 9:19 pm

            Public opinion means a hell of a lot more to sales than fact. And public opinion is that marketing something as a "media centre with games" implies that gaming is delivering a decent gaming experience is no longer a top priority. It's not just marketing, tho, it's each company stating where they intend to focus their efforts with future updates, and the general future of the console. Obviously it's subject to change as companies adapt to the market each year, but it indicates a future for the Xbox that I'm not entirely comfortable with. And I don't look forward to Microsoft spending half it's E3 presentation advertising services I'll never access via my console, that I'd have to pay extra for the privilege of being allowed to subscribe to (even if I could), rather than spending that time convincing me the console is a worthwhile investment.

            But hell, I've never played a BD movie in my PS3 in the ~4 years I've owned it, so I may be just an outlier. Maybe I'm no longer in Microsoft's target demographic. But I can't be the only one - hence my inference regarding the split.

    Third console curse??

    Be a non believer all you want but if I was Microsoft I would start taking a bus full virgins to my nearest volcano. Maybe throw a few goats in too, just to be sure the gaming gods are happy.

    The problem is that Microsoft are a publicly listed company. Once they announce a release date, they are under massive pressure to release the products by the date they announced, ready or not - otherwise their share price will get smashed.

    They are already under pressure because Sony's announcement about the PS4 was generally well received, while Microsoft have had to contend with rumours of the next X-box having an always online requirement (which Microsoft haven't really done anything to dispel).

    Adding to this is the poor performance of their other platforms - the Surface has flopped (3.7% market share), Windows Phone hasn't done anything in 2 1/12 years (less than 5% market share), and Windows 8 deployment rates are lower than Vista.

    There's a lot more riding on the X-box launch this time around.

    Last edited 02/05/13 12:19 pm

    these consoles never launch all that well. They always launch with a tiny number of games worth having

    Unless they're the original Xbox. DoA3, Jet Set Radio Future and Halo all were launch titles here.

    Xbox360's success in this past generation was mostly due to Sony's bad descisions than their own merit.

    That's how I see it. [Think about it]

    If Microsoft wants to start this next gen with a blast, I think they have to get all the basics right and play to their strengths [Interactivity, online features, strong PC background, Money]. This is what Sony is doing. They are playing their cards [Hardware manufacturing, Sony entertainment, First Party]

    And if you are Sony, you just cought the tiger by the tail. Don't let go, don't stop improving, because I think you got everything right so far. Just don't expect to relax. Also Sony better amp up their software and OS devisions.

    What ever happens, as a gamer I don't want neither company to go down.

    "Do not underestimate your opponent"

    Last edited 02/05/13 1:52 pm

      Also, "do not underestimate the power of Playstation"

      ...Playstation 1 i mean, not 2 or 3. Dont underestimate the power of the playstation 1

    so far, what with the little we know, or perhaps even don't know, is that it's looking just like the 360 launch - at this point. six months down the line could look very different, the address in a couple weeks may guide opinions there.

    however, the similarities lie in the fact that publishers are already saying games like COD: Ghosts & WatchDogs etc will be current & next-gen titles, i'm guessing ports, exact same games, just with better graphics, maybe a nifty little extra feature or two a-la G.R.A.W. when the 360 released, and also the original Kameo: Elements of Power clip that showed Rare's original Xbox version was basically the same as the 360 vesion in terms of look & gameplay - only the graphics were slightly less pretty on the original console.

    i emember getting the 360 DAY-ONE - with no internet connection even, traded my old Xbox & about 25 games for a console, HDD, recharge kit, media remote & 6 games: Kameo, Quake 4, King Kong, G.R.A.W., Condemned & Project Gotham - half of those seemed like slightly tweaked ports. i'm thinking a similar thing may happen with launch titles again this time around.

    i'm predicting a beast of a console, loaded chock-full of media streaming options with a buttload of partners like Netflix etc, maybe a free arcade title, maybe a free one month live trial, a core system, as well as a more hardcore system [the one with a HDD that can hold more than 1 bloody game], and not much else. a few ports, an exclusive title or two. i'm willing to bet anything mindblowing in terms of games won't begin to drop until it's been out six months or so. maybe even a year.

    but i'm just a punter, i know as little as anyone else at this point, but if i know how microsoft works these days, games will just be a part of the whole shebang. subscriptions and other shite will be more important in the beginning, get em all hooked, paid up and maybe then we'll dangle some carrots to keep them interested. then again, maybe i'm just a cynical prick at 3 in the morning :D

    Last edited 13/05/13 3:20 am

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