Xbox 360: Time for a different strategy
Why the 360 needs the real-time strategy genre, and how Kinect could help it succeed
Every console is partly a victim of its company heritage. Like children and their parents, they all suffer from little inherited hang-ups that hopefully they eventually outgrow. The Wii still has the worst online console setup thanks to Nintendo’s crazy reluctance to embrace online play, while the early life of the PS3 was arguably affected by what some saw as Sony’s arrogance, mainly due to success in the previous generation with a hard-to-program-for architecture and a cavalier attitude to getting early dev kits out.
Both Nintendo and Sony have addressed these early hang-ups to varying degrees, but Microsoft has never addressed the phobia it passed onto the 360: the early fear of the original Xbox being seen as a ‘mini PC’.
That was the reason it never allowed mouse and keyboard support for the Xbox or the 360 (which is crazy, as even the PS3 has it), and ironically on a platform that benefited from Microsoft’s PC heritage in so many ways (it bequeathed Xbox Live’s great online networking architecture, and the FPS, a former PC mainstay, is 360’s bread and butter) it’s led to the effective loss of an entire genre on 360 (and, by extension, consoles as a whole): the real-time strategy game.
Yes, real-time strategy games do exist on the 360, but quite frankly they’re awful. They mostly tend to be horrible botch jobs, pale shadows of the real games they’re ported from. Some companies – most notably EA – have tried to break the console RTS curse with little sucess. The 360 pad just simply isn’t flexible enough to make deep RTSs fun to play on console – the constant refrain in any honest review is ‘but if you really want to play it, do it on PC.’ Microsoft’s own offerings in Halo Wars couldn’t really do it, and even the long-suffering developer at EA behind the console RTS drive gave up, shrugging its shoulders with the PC-only C&C4. It didn’t really have to be that way, and it’s a great shame. Microsoft’s silly little phobia has negatively affected the entire genre on console , effectively killing it. As 360 gamers we’re missing out on some amazing gameplay experiences, and a key part of our gaming heritage.
But there’s a great solution with Kinect. If Microsoft can start to push Kinect as a viable control scheme for RTS games, the genre could simply explode on the 360. It makes perfect sense, would work great and could be a fantastic showcase for the new peripheral.
If companies like Blizzard, who has just released StarCraft II (a huge RTS game that’s bigger than most triple-A console franchises), and Relic Entertainment (the studio behind the Dawn Of War games) are actively shown the RTS potential of Kinect, perhaps they’ll start to bring their incredible wares to our console. And the core gamer would have a reason to care about Kinect.
It would enrich the 360 immensely, and 360 gamers deserve nothing less, Time to grow up, Microsoft, change strategy and bring the RTS home.