The Xbox 720 is officially a reality, and in mere days, we'll finally have (most) of the answers we've been waiting what feels like a lifetime to hear. I think we're all in agreement here that the gaming industry needs a shot in the arm, stat. So here are seven things I believe the new console needs to address, and how these features will affect the way we play.
1. Games will grow up
As a more sophisticated processing powerhouse will give developers the space and scope to fulfill more ambitious visions, perhaps we can break out of the tropes that have emerged and solidified over the last few years as franchises fell into a funk with regards to innovative action and story. AAA games are also finding themselves caught in that awkward trap where focus on story is having to be sacrificed for solid gameplay, and vice versa. As an addendum, perhaps more sophisticated games will be accompanied by more mature stories and settings - not to be confused with purely adult content. If the current gen's life cycle represented our gaming's confused teenage years, maybe 2013 is the year that we finally grow up.
2. New pricing structures pave the way for new game models
We've seen a bad habit develop in games in recent years, where an expected running time of at least eight hours (but preferably quadruple that) has been plucked out of the air and used as a blanket requirement for every single title to mould itself around. This has resulted in many games being longer than they should ever have been, bloated to gargantuan proportions by repetitive and meaningless sections meant to bulk out their total play time. New ways to develop and sell games will lead to more flexibility in how they are made and enjoyed; think of free-to-play models and episodic series' like The Walking Dead. This will hopefully remove the unnatural margins placed on development studios marching to the beat of someone else's drum and instead allow them to make a game however long it needs to be for the right price. Which of course, makes for better games for us.
3. Easier ways to capture and share gameplay video content
It's clear by now that YouTube and gaming make very cosy bedfellows. Whether it's kids CODcasting from their bedrooms garnering millions of views or pro-players showcasing their skills on Twitch to lucrative subscriptions, being able to capture and share your video experiences has now become an integral part of the global gaming community, and a profitable one at that. The fact that Sony chose to integrate a physical 'Share' button and dedicated streaming support into their core PS4 hardware is indicative of their commitment and how important they recognise video sharing to be, and I'll be gobsmacked if Microsoft don't unveil their own take on it on 21st May. [The latest rumours agree - Ed]