The middle-aged Xbox

More often than not, platform holders develop and release a new system way before its predecessor has really come of age and it’s usually towards the end of this imposed life cycle that developers really understand the power and architecture of a console. So it came as a bit of a surprise when both Microsoft and Sony said enough’s enough, this generation is built to last at least ten years. Since the Xbox 360 just past its fifth year anniversary last November, that would suggest it’s about half way through its life. Chris Lewis, emea vp of Xbox reminded every one of that fact when talking with MCV (via Videogamer) and how the release of Kinect has will help the 360 go the distance.

“Xbox is defying the normal curve you might expect,” he said. “There’s no doubt that Kinect put a huge shot of adrenaline into the business.” This week’s all format chart can support Lewis’ statement as it sees 505 Games’ Zumba Fitness for Kinect stick firmly in the number one spot with a 33 per cent week-on-week sales spike. It’s amusing that health and fitness has become such a huge part of gaming considering gamers are usually depicted as lazy, unfit layabouts. But then realistically, the types who gobble up such games aren’t necessarily the traditional gamer and Microsoft know this: “What we are now seeing is massive swathes of families and younger audiences flocking to it. As you saw at the press conference, we are now in line with what we projected at E3 2010,” Lewis added.

It was feared, and still is by some, that these casual games will consume the industry leaving little or no meaningful experiences for the rest of us as publishers clamber to make the next Wii Fit – or in this case, Zumbe Fitness. However, it’s evident from this year’s E3 that the core gamer is still incredibly important. After all, casual consolers tend not to buy numerous games a year and even if they do, they’re more likely to be the budget party games. Nintendo’s development of the Wii U shows how they’re very keen to get the hardcore back on board with their system and in Microsoft’s case, there was a good number of titles either being enhanced by or exclusive to Kinect that didn’t involve a handful of mini-games. And before more neigh-sayers prophecies the destruction of traditional franchises, Lewis underlined a point which until now has been more common sense than fact :“What you will see is us using Kinect to enhance the experience and not detract from it. I don’t think our core gamers will tolerate anything else from us.”

Back to the point at hand, can the Xbox 360 last another five or six years? With such an emphasis on Kinect I believe it could well do so. It’s a bit alien for the games industry too that a peripheral has become so popular but since the Kinect is selling like hot, delicious cakes (or is that refreshingly cool ice cream what with today’s temperature‚Ķ) and working incredibly well with this generation of Xbox, there isn’t a great need to upgrade any time soon. Contrasting this however is the widening gap between top end PC and even PS3 graphics and those on the Xbox 360 plus the use of DVDs rather than bigger media like Blu Rays. It wasn’t all that apparent for a good number of years but in the last few more games have come out looking ‘better’ on the PS3 and when a beautiful game like Crysis 2 is being criticised for not being as pretty as it could be, we could be nearing another imposed end of life cycle. What would you rather have? A new system in the next couple of years that is compatible with the current Kinect or a wait of around five to six solar cycles with said peripheral potentially being the driving force?

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