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Xbox One and Xbox 360: Next steps for Microsoft

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Microsoft’s decision to drop the Kinect from the Xbox One and the price of the console by $100 was a necessary first step to bring the console to parity with Sony’s Playstation 4. The Xbox LIVE Gold requirement for entertainment apps was also removed but those aren't the only steps that Microsoft needs to take for both its new console and the last-gen Xbox 360 though. Let’s take a quick look at four things the company must do over the coming year

Remove Xbox LIVE Gold requirement for Free-to-Play and MMO games

Moving entertainment apps, Skype and Internet Explorer out from behind the Xbox LIVE Gold subscription requirement was a long needed move by Microsoft. The next step though is to drop the same requirement for both Free-to-Play and MMO titles.

It sounds as if this may be in the works as soon as Microsoft gets the engineering and partnership details worked out but it would be a huge benefit to existing free-to-play games on the Xbox 360 such as “Happy Wars,” “World of Tanks” and the recently released “Warface.” It would also encourage more free-to-play games for both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One and at least put the Xbox One on the same ground as the PS4 in time for the release of “The Elder Scrolls Online.”

Slash the price of the Xbox 360

With the Xbox One now down to $400 there is no logical reason why the Xbox 360 should still occupy the $200/$300 price points. In addition, the removal of the Xbox LIVE Gold requirement for entertainment apps would make a $100/$200 Xbox 360 an appealing media device to compete with the likes of Roku and Amazon FireTV.

While there could be a concern about leeching sales from the Xbox One, the consumers that will spend $100 - $200 on the Xbox 360 aren’t the same as the ones willing to drop $400 on an Xbox One. A cheaper Xbox 360 would also introduce consumers to the Xbox ecosystem and make them much more likely to upgrade to the Xbox One when the time comes.

Drop the parity clause for indie games

Microsoft’s position towards indie developers has greatly evolved since the introduction of the ID@Xbox program last year but it is still not on the same playing field with Sony’s indie efforts. One significant reason for that is due to the parity clause that requires games to be released for the Xbox One at the same time as the PS4 or even the Wii U.

Since the majority of indie developers are smaller outfits, the cost and effort of deploying a game to multiple platforms at the same time has understandably irked the indie community. Curve Studios recently made news by complaining about the policy in an IGN interview where the parity clause was called “annoyance” and was preventing the developer from bring some of its work forward.

Though the parity clause is said to be considered on a “case by case” basis, how that functions is not always clear. It also demonstrates a bit of backward thinking in the current console market. Microsoft should be incentivizing developers to get them to release to the Xbox One first or at the same time as the competition instead of restricting them.

Nail E3

Phil Spencer and Microsoft have cleared the decks, so to speak, for the company’s 2014 E3 media briefing on June 9. With the Kinect-less Xbox One announcement, Xbox LIVE Gold policy changes, Games with Gold expansion and even the “Sunset Overdrive” gameplay reveal out of the way, the slate is clear for Microsoft to make an appealing case to the gaming consumer with games.

It can’t be stressed enough how critical this E3 will be for the Xbox One as Microsoft tries to make up the approximate three million sales gap between its console and the PS4. For the Xbox One to succeed, the company must present enough compelling games and content to prevent a preference cascade toward the Playstation 4.

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