5 things Microsoft can do to "save" the Xbox One

I can't think of a bigger PR disaster in recent history than the unveiling of the Xbox One. The presentation itself was underwhelming at best even for non-gaming outlets (you get in bed with crappy cable companies but don't eliminate the need for a cable box and don't work with dvrs?). Then the inability to even just keep to "no comment" and instead throwing out several different answers to questions about used games and online requirements caused massive confusion and outrage. Right now it seems like even if the Xbox One is a hit with the so-called "bro-gamers" who only play Madden and COD and the more casual crowd who care about things like it being a set top media center, the core gamers, those people who line up on day one, won't be there to support the console. But there's still time and with E3 right around the corner it's the perfect chance to get on the right track. Here's 5 ways they can do that.

5. Make Xbox Live an actual deal: Xbox live is without a doubt the slickest service out there for consoles. But the competition offers much better deals considering Nintendo's online is completely free and Playstation Plus is an optional service that gets you tons of free and discounted content. Now, it's a good money bet that Sony will incorporate Plus as something you need to pay for if you want to do online MP, it's just leaving too much money on the table. But you would still get all the free stuff and discounts, while most other things like Hulu & Netflix, would be free to watch. That makes sense. Xbox Live Gold does not and rumors are they are raising the price. If you are going to still charge for it and not make me laugh, make it worth my while and don't throw everything behind a paywall. I've got lots of acceptable alternatives to paying for your bullshit.

4. Don't shove Kinect down our throats: I get it, Kinect was a massive success with the casual crowd, so yu are introducing a new and improved one for the next generation and want to makeit an integral part of the Xbox One experience. It makes perfect sense, and the Kinect 2.0 is admittedly an impressive piece of tech itself. But do what makes sense. Don't require it for games that don't need it (see anything labeled "better with Kinect") and if I want to press buttons instead of making obscene gestures, let me do that. Kinect is a potentially great piece of tech just don't push so hard on it.

3. Have a clear message: Again this is probably where the most damage was done. Instead of the usual no comment or being honest we got different answers from different people on just about everything. Unfortunately we probably won't get answers at E3, they are more likely to really just stonewall any questions about used games or connectivity. I don't think that's the right way to go. Be honest and direct and say "this is how we are going to do this and this is how it's going to be and this is why it's a good thing." We'll appreciate it because right now all we have are very bad rumors with no benefits for consumers. Have concrete simple answers instead of this mess you currently have.

2. Make no used games work for us: No used games isn't the ultimate anti-consumer practice many are making it out to be. But you have to explain why this isn't a bad thing. Steam is a pretty good example-You can't trade in anything but there are price drops and discounts all the time. Plus Microsoft had said there would be a way to trade in games. Can I do it digitally? That would actually be pretty cool. So do that and maybe no used games won't be such a big deal.

1. Games, games games: Microsoft has pounded home the message that E3 is all about the games. I hope they keep to that. Showing  commitment to gamers with awesome games we will actually care about will go a longer way towards getting the gamers back on your side than virtually anything else. And I don't mean Kinect games or COD or Sports games. We need new ideas, new IP. We need some risks. Do that Microsoft and the other stuff may not even matter.

So despite how bad Microsoft looks at the moment, they still have a pretty decent chance to turn things around. And as a gamer I'm hoping they do because I would like the decision of what console to buy next to be a hard one...


Don't put all your eggs in Sony's basket just yet...

So in the span of a couple days it seems like everyone had already decided they are buying a PS4 (or a Wii U or nothing at all) and never ever buying am Xbox One. There are plenty of reasons, the biggest probably being their likely stance on used games (I would like to note that Microsoft has confirmed nothing in terms of their plans for used games, but haven't denied anything either). But there are still a ton of unanswered questions about the PS4 as well. They haven't really given any concrete answers on their stance on used games either. While they may not require an online connection for authorization, their biggest touted features such as the share button. Of course price will be a factor as well, I'm sure it will be at least compatible to the Xbox One, but will that still be too much for consumers who are pretty satisfied with what they currently have?

But I think it's also important to remember the games. Did Sony show a more gamer-centric focus at their February unveiling? Undoubtedly, but that wasn't Microsoft's focus for this past Tuesday, and the general consensus for Sony's event was that the games shown weren't extremely compelling. Not a lot of people care about another Killzone or another Infamous title and Media Molecule's segment was pretty reminiscent of the straight up weirdness of stuff like Wii Music. Neither company is really giving a truly compelling case for dropping several hundred dollars on jumping into the next generation at this point. That could change come E3 and I really hope it does, but as it stands right now, if I am picking up something new this holiday season it's more likely to be a Vita than any of these shiny new things that used to play video games regardless of my internet connection...

That's it for today, I'll probably have another post up Monday or Tuesday until then here's you video game music of the week: Zelda Medley


Microsoft doesn't know what message it wants to send...

So the big unveiling of the Xbox One happened today, and if you've been reading any of the internet reactions, it has not been pretty. At All. People seemed extremely upset that games were such a minor point of the conference to the point of the Xbox One barely being a console, and more a DVR that you can use voice commands on. However, had any of them been paying attention, this was pretty much the plan. This conference was never about games. That is being saved for E3. As far as games, MS should hopefully quell our fears with the announcement of 15 exclusive titles on the first year, 8 of them all new IPs. That's pretty promising. Of course we will see if any of those deliver but it shows Microsoft has heard the concerns about no exclusives and weak first party support. Granted, Xbox One is a pretty terrible name, and shoehorning Kinect into everything will suck, but it's all stuff that we can deal with. I think if those were the biggest concerns the chatter would've died down pretty quickly.

And then the question of used games & always online comes up...

And the internet went nuts, quite understandably so. Mandatory installs, not always on but requiring an internet connection for validation and possibly the biggest/worst news of all: fees for pre-owned titles, fees for titles being used on different accounts, etc. This was made even worse by many Microsoft employees contradicting each other as to whether this was the case and nobody outright denying it saying instead they haven't revealed plans as of yet. MS needs to get a clear message out and quick before they are just twisting in the wind. Admittedly if the message is that I cannot buy used titles or even rent titles without paying an additional fee I will most likely not be getting an Xbox One anytime soon. Add to that needing to authorize even single-player titles with an online connection (what if I'm out of town? Do I have to re-authorize any games while my system was off or unplugged? What if my internet is down for a few days?) And I may never get one. Hopefully Microsoft sends a clear message to us gamers at E3 or I have a feeling we'll be making other choices come this holiday be it Wii U or PS4 or nothing at all....


The new Batman trailer has me really worried...

The new Batman game is out in a mere 5 months.We already know a studio whose biggest claim to fame so far was doing a fairly shoddy Wii U port of Arkham City and that it is very likely it will have multi-player, which makes virtually no sense given the style of game. Then the first trailer hits, with no hint of gameplay whatsoever. At best it looks like a pretty impressive fan film. Granted, maybe they are just waiting for E3 as it's a few weeks away, but a 4 minute movie that really shows nothing is not a great start. I'm hoping I'm proven wrong, but it's looking kind of doubtful at this point.

Tomorrow we will finally see (probably) the new hardware from Microsoft. Will it be always online? Probably not in the way we think. Will it be backwards compatible? Most likely not. We will see games? I'm kinda doubtful. Even MS had said their E3 presser will be all about the games, so at least they will hold back any big guns til then. One good thing is that they supposedly have dropped some massive cash to score some key exclusives, which basically covers my number one worry about this upcoming generation-that Microsoft would have very little to offer in terms of exclusives. It's a given that a large majority of 3rd party titles will appear on both systems, so this would be a good move for MS given their current slate of IP is pretty weak. Of course for all we know it could be similar to this generation where they just got fairly pointless exclusive content for 3rd party titles. I'm just hoping it will at least be interesting to watch and get me excited. The relatively short 60 minute run time should mean they don't spend a lot of time on boring crap no one cares about. We'll see in about 24 hours.

That's really all I got for today, but be assured I will have a post up tomorrow sometime after the event with my thoughts on it.


5 Things Lego City Undercover does better than GTA...

Is it blasphemy to say I don't give a damn about GTA V? I haven't even looked at any of the trailers. IV looked pretty but it fell apart pretty damn quickly with the usual terrible combination of bad driving, camera and piss poor shooting along with being an errand boy for various annoying morons has really turned me off the series in general. I've honestly been pretty tired of the Lego games as well. Picked up Lego Batman 2 last year and quickly got bored with it. Surely a Lego game that's clearly a GTA clone would be a terrible choice, right? Well as the Wii U is sorely lacking in games lately and me needing a solid break from rpgs after finishing several in the last couple of months I gave it a shot as it had really good word of mouth. Turns out it's surprisingly excellent. In fact it does some stuff better than the GTA series ever has:

1.It's funnier: GTA started out as a satire. It's still got hints of that here and there, but it's gotten so serious the last few entries that's it's actually a little more absurd than titles like Saints Row that parody it. LCU takes pretty much every opportunity to make a joke or a pun and for the most part it works pretty well, especially newbie Frank Honey, who is pure gold.

2. Better Map: Holy crap do I get lost and turned around in GTA games. I have to constantly pause to check the map. I still get lost. Not in LCU. Thanks to the gamepad it's easy to see where I need to go and even see shortcuts plus an extremely handy trail of green lego studs to point my way whenever I'm in a vehicle. GTA has nothing on this.

3. The City looks better: GTA always has cutting edge graphics. For the time. The problem is cutting edge never ages very well. It's almost always better to go with something with a distinct style and Lego City just looks very clean with no glitches, not a lot of draw-in space and no pop-up.

4. Better Driving: Maybe it's far more realistic but the driving in GTA is absolutely terrible. All vehicles handle horribly, traffic is a pain to get through and cars really can't handle any damage. The vehicles in LCU don't handle incredibly well, but are serviceable and more important, incredibly durable. You have to actively work to destroy one. There's traffic, but not such a ridiculous amount it gets in your way and even if it does most of the time you can smash right through it.

5. It does a better job at distracting you: But most will say the real fun of GTA is all the extra stuff you can do apart from the main storyline. Problem is you have to work hard to find a lot of it and there aren't a whole lot of clues. LCU has shiny colorful things everywhere distracting you from whatever you are supposed to be doing. It's bad for your OCD, but way more of a fun time than most of the side stuff in any GTA.

OK that's the list. I won't say LCU is a game worth buying a Wii U for specifically but it's easily the best post launch game so far and you really should pick it up if your Wii U is just sitting there collecting dust. I will be back tomorrow with a review of Star Trek Into Darkness.


The Top Ten dormant frachises that deserve a next-gen reboot...

As much as people love seeing new IP in new generations, we seem to love seeing old favorites even more, especially if it's been awhile. We've seen that this generation, with series like XCom and Fallout come back in big ways. They are already bringing back Thief and just recently announced the return of Wolfenstein for next-gen systems. I'm psyched about new IP but I'd love to see some classic franchises return as well. Here are 10 I think deserve a new lease on life in the next generation:

10. Mutant League: I really wish the Mutant League franchise wasn't owned  by EA, because this would be a perfect way to make fun of the annual EA Madden juggernaut or just providing a fun solid alternative to the boring stale same football year after year. If EA were able to laugh at themselves this might have a chance but I seriously doubt it. That being said I would be pretty psyched to see a new update.

9. Killer Instinct: This generation saw a pretty good revival of the once nearly dead fighting genre with well-received new entries in both the Street Fighter and MK franchises (along with the surprisingly good recent release of Injustice) and Killer Instinct was a really fun over the top fighter that I'd love to see get another go.

8. Crimson Skies:  Flight combat games are pretty damn rare. Good console exclusive flight combat games are virtually non-existent. I'm not sure why it's so hard to nail down a successful formula, but Crimson Skies made it look easy, as it was some of the most fun I ever had on the original Xbox. Why it's never seen a follow-up is a mystery, and with Microsoft seriously lacking IP coming into next gen, I'm hopeful we'll see a next-gen version of this.

7. Zombies Ate My Neighbors: We are pretty oversaturated with zombies at this point. Movies, TV and videogames all seem to have a neverending horde of the things, and it's all extremely serious. Someone needs to have some more fun with the premise, which is where a ridiculous franchise like ZAMN would come in. I think a modern update with a good sense of humor that skews the whole zombie genre would be pretty awesome.

6. Myst: I am not actually a fan of Myst. That is to say I actively hate Myst because it's more an interactive virtual tour rather thane a real game. But it was a victim of the times. I think a modern update with tight graphics and a bigger emphasis on adventure while still keeping exploration an element would work incredibly well.

5. Earthworm Jim: I seriously just want Insomniac do an Earthworm Jim game. Their great sense of humor and awesome future weapons and gadgets would fit right in with the wacky franchise. Add the Pixar-esque style of the Ratchet & Clank games and you've got a winner.

4.Rogue Galaxy: My favorite PS2 rpg by a longshot. I just loved the world and the characters and it's one of the few PS2 games I've held onto. Level 5 is a great developer and I'd love to see them do an all new adventure with mostly the same cast.

3. Wing Commander: I'm kinda bummed that EA is going to be pretty much focused on Star Wars for the forseeable future, because that makes any chance of a Wing Commander revival pretty slim when they could just make a new Tie Fighter and it would probably sell better. And Bioware would be a great developer to make a long overdue follow-up.Keep the great space combat, add in ground combat, combine the moral choices that Bioware is known for with Wing Commander's history of mission results having lasting repercussions and you'd have one hell of a game.

2. Star Fox: This is beyond obviously overdue for a revival, but it still deserves mention. We've been without a proper Star Fox title since the N64 (the less said about the truly awful Star Fox Adventures the better). It's a revered franchise that has been chomping at the bit for a new entry. Getting Star Fox 64 on the 3DS was pretty cool, but with the Wii U really lacking in software their could not be a better time for a full blown console follow-up. Make it happen Nintendo.

1. Shining Force: Turn-based strategy rpgs have always been a pretty niche market but a few still manage to make it every generation, but they are a personal favorite of mine, and with Xcom really exploding last year and Fire Emblem having it's most successful entry yet I'm hopeful more studios will give the genre a chance. Shining Force is one of my favorite all time series, with II being a particular highlight I still play every now and again. We haven't seen a proper entry since the Saturn, but I would love even a next gen arcade/psn release or something like that.

Ok that's the list. Not much else to say except I'll probably have another post up on Wednesday.


The Medium Entertainment Iron Man 3 review...

So Iron Man 3 had a ton to live up to. Although it's not really a follow-up to Avengers, the biggest movie ever, it is the next Marvel movie after it so expectations are high. It also really needed to rebound for the kind of clunky mess that was Iron Man 2. How does it do that? By being a smart self-contained film filled with the great action and fantastic humor you'd expect from director Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). It's hard to say it's a better movie than Avengers since Avengers has the nigh impossible task of balancing so many heroes and this film pretty much is just Iron Man & Iron Patriot. On that point I think Don Cheadle really gets a handle on the role of James Rhodes in this installment, whereas he felt sort of clumsily shoved into it in Iron Man 2 (though that probably wasn't his fault). The whole cast is pretty much fantastic and immensely entertaining though more in a smart action movie way than in a comic book way. In fact I think comic book fans will probably have a couple big complaints about this movie, and they are completely valid. I will discuss them but be aware that these are some fairly big spoilers so you have been warned:

Ok the biggest beef any fan familiar with the Iron Man comics will have is the treatment of the Mandarin. He is pretty much Iron Man's biggest foe, a genius martial artist scientist with ten rings giving him various powers and occasionally having a big ass dragon named Fin Fang Foom. He's a pretty solid foil, but also a really complicated one. Maybe, just maybe if they had spent the last two movies building him up they could've properly done him in the third film. But there's just no way you can randomly introduce him in one film and do him justice. Maybe that's the fault of the producers for not having enough foresight but whatever. So what is he in this film? A phony actor to cover for the real villain. It's a brilliant twist and it's pretty funny. But I can easily see how this would annoy comic book fans, I mean imagine if the Joker was reduced to such a role?

And aside from amusing post credits clip, there isn't much connection to the rest of the established Marvel movie-verse. I get that you can't have the Avengers show up again, but it was implied that Stark and Banner would have some sort of working relationship. It probably would not have been hard to just have CGI Hulk show up at the climax instead of the Iron Man army...

But after the last movie got blasted for being too much of a bridge to Avengers, I understand making this as stand alone as possible.

There is a distinct possibility of this being the last stand alone Iron Man film we see Robert Downey Jr. in. He's a virtual lock for Avengers 2, but they are moving on to other heroes and sequels and it would be a long time before they got around to an Iron Man 4 if it happens. I think that might put enough distance that somebody talented could certainly take on the role (I think Armie Hammer would actually be a pretty good fit) and people wouldn't necessarily protest because it's not Downey. That being said, I also wouldn't mind if this is pretty much all Downey did for next decade or so...

That's really all I got for today, I will probably put in another post tomorrow or Tuesday. Until then, here's your VGM (video game music)  of the week: The Ultimate Video Game Medley


10 things to expect from from the May 21st Xbox event...

The future of gaming will be unveiled on the 21st. Well, according to Microsoft anyways, since they were pretty much the console of choice for core gamers this generation. But regardless of whether it represents the next big step forward in gaming or not, Microsoft's new console will definitely be unveiled in just under three weeks. The question is with E3 just a little bit after that, what will they show at this unveiling, and what will they hold back for E3? My guess will be that you'll see plenty because this is an even where they will have everyone's attention and won't have to compete with anybody. They'll probably hold back some high profile games for E3, but the biggest news about the next Xbox will pretty much be known after this event. Here's 10 things you can virtually count on to see/find out on the 21st.

1. The Name: It wasn't really a question, or surprising that the next Sony system is called the PS4. The next Xbox's name however has been a subject of huge speculation. I highly doubt it'll be 720, even though that's what it's been called the most. It has been mentioned it might simply be called "Xbox" but given how hard it's been to market Wii U to the average consumer, I doubt that either. Xbox Infinity has been mentioned, which is a strong possibility, as well as Xbox Fusion, which would work as Microsoft has always seen the Xbox as pretty much all your home entertainment fused together in one cohesive box. Either way, we'll definitely know what to call it after the 21st.

2. The Hardware: Sony was called out by many for not showing the actual hardware at their PS4 unveiling, but of particular note was Major Nelson calling them out on it. If Microsoft doesn't show the hardware, he'd look pretty stupid, so expect to see it.

3. Destiny: We know Destiny is a multi-platform game, hell it might be coming to the Wii U. But given that it's Bungee and their history with Microsoft it was a bit jarring to see it at Sony's press conference. I think Microsoft will want to remind people that Destiny is on the new Xbox as well, and odds are they shelled out some major cash for exclusive content, which they will talk about at the event.

4. Kinect will be a focus: Everyone is so concerned about whether or not the next Xbox will always be online and whether it will play used games, they've kind of forgotten about the horror that is Kinect that will be shoved down our throats. Already uselessly shoehorned into otherwise solid titles and responsible for atrocities like this:

I don't expect the "improved" Kinect to be much better frankly. Improved detection doesn't mean better games. But it still sold well to the non-gamer masses so expect it to be in every Xbox and forced onto every game possible. That might be reason enough for me to never buy a multi-platform game on a Microsoft console ever again.

5. It will be always online, but probably not how we think: I really don't think Xbox will require you to be online if you just want to play a game, but "always online" is almost more of a marketing thing. Nearly everything we do in gaming these days has some kind of online component to it, not just multi-player. And that goes for most apps as well. I think that's really all it will boil down to, that's it's pretty much always online because Adam Orth was right, so are we. He was just a being a dick about it which caused his downfall.

6. You won't see Halo: Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they'll at least mention Halo, but if there is one big gun they are holding back for E3, which supposedly ill be more focused on their game line-up, it'll be this one. Quite possibly because it's the only worthwhile original IP they have at this point, which is sad.

7. Illumiroom will be mentioned: Illumiroom might be the first real step towards actual Holodecks, which is pretty damn awesome. Integrating with the next Xbox probably won't happen for years, but I think they will at least mention this as a thing that will happen at some point. Every press conference for new hardware is usually filled with promises of things that take years to come to fruition if they ever even happen, this fits right in that category.

8. They won't talk about price: Odds are we know the price, there have just been too many independent reports pegging the stand-alone console at $500 and a subscription model at $300 with monthly payments. But nobody talks about price when unveiling new hardware, the idea is to get you so excited you don't care what the price is. I wouldn't be completely surprised if they announce pricing at E3, but it's not highly likely there either. Expect an announcement when they are only a few months from release.

9. It will integrate with/take over your cable box: I'm pretty sure Cable & Satellite companies know they are doomed with more people cutting the cord every day in favor of cheaper streaming options. I've been pretty happy with a much cheaper combo of Hulu+ & Netflix for years. One way to stave off this impending doom is teaming up with someone like Microsoft who has always looked at the Xbox as way to completely take over your living room. You can bet it will work with or even replace your clunky box and function pretty efficiently with it.

10. There won't be a lot of games: Did I say not a lot? I'd be surprised if there were more than a handful. In fact even though I earlier said Destiny would be shown, it wouldn't be completely shocking to me if no actual games were shown. Why? Because Microsoft barely considers the Xbox a gaming machine anymore. It something that plays games, sure. But it's more a media center for you to watch Netflix or HBOGO and order pizza with a wave of your hand and to bring you targeted advertising. They may save their entire game slate for E3, which I'm hoping will be great and full of stuff we haven't already seen, but I kinda doubt it to be honest.

Ok, that's all for today, I should have another post up Sunday. It probably won't be an Iron Man 3 review, but I do plan on seeing that by Monday so I'll post thoughts on it soon after.