The lights are on
Microsoft isn't known as a company with as many original franchises as Nintendo or Sony, but some research reveals that they own a surprising number of dormant franchises. Here are my picks for the properties that Microsoft needs to bring back from the dead.
Here's a link to a similar story I did about Sony franchises.
Those of us who grew up in the NES still remember Battletoads for it intense beat 'em up action, amazing (for its day) graphics, and extreme challenge. Microsoft acquired Rare in 2002, and with it many of its intellectual properties, including Battletoads. A rumored GBA remake never made it back in the day, but we think a small team at Rare could make a great retro downloadable game with the old 'toads.
As much as Microsoft has struggled to succeed in Japan – even the successful Xbox 360 barely made a dent in the country – it ironically created a couple of the best JRPGs of the past decade. Blue Dragon was a magical adventure cast in a world created in collaboration between two legends of Japanese game culture: Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and Dragon Ball and Chrono Trigger artist Akira Toriyama. Console RPGs of this caliber are (sadly) a rare thing these days, and we'd love to see Microsoft give us another chance to experience the world of Blue Dragon.
Conker's Bad Fur Day
Conker's Bad Fur Day's profane platforming antics have earned the game a cult following that endures to this day. In the waning days of the N64, Rare revived one of its dorkiest creations, a small squirrel named Conker, as a foul-mouthed idiot who went on a gonzo adventure and eventually squared off against a boss called the Great Mighty Poo. It was pretty racy for its day, and I think it a well-written, funny new Conkers game could have a lot of appeal as a downloadable game for a generation raised on South Park.
As much progress as games have made, one of the sad by-products of said progress is the fact that many genres seem to have fallen by the wayside over the years. The arcade flight shooter is one of them. Crimson Skies is a great franchise, set in an alternate version of the 1930s, and has spawned a couple of games and a collectible miniatures board games. Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge for the original Xbox is one of the most underrated games Microsoft made for the console. Surely there's still room in the industry for a well-made flight shooter.
Crackdown is a strange case. It seemed to have everything going for it. At the beginning of the Xbox 360, it was a breakout success for Microsoft – a brand new successful IP in the rapidly expanding open-world genre. Then, things seemed to fall apart. First, developer Realtime Worlds said that Microsoft didn't want a Crackdown 2 and that it had moved on to the development of the ill-fated APB. Then, Microsoft said it did, but handed it over to Ruffian Games. The result? Crackdown 2 sold poorly, APB flopped, and Realtime Worlds went out of business. However, the fact remains that the original Crackdown was great, and that a co-op futuristic sandbox game is still a damn good concept.
Black & White
Peter Molyneux has split with Microsoft for the world of indie development, but the company still owns the rights to the hilarious, inventive Black & White franchise. A "god game" in the truest sense, Black & White allowed you to act as the hand of almighty and lord over the villagers of the world in a humorous and lightly strategic game. While Molyneux is not likely to return, I think an inventive team of young developers could have a ball with this concept. Also, this is one of those games where the imagination of the idea exceeded the polish and execution of the finished product. I think there's a ton of potential here that could be untapped with better technology and design.
The second of Mistwalker and Hironobu Sakaguchi's unjustly overlooked Xbox 360 RPGs was Lost Odyssey, which was more serious in tone and art style than Blue Dragon, but no less impressive. The story tells the saga of Kaim, a man blessed (or doomed) to live for 1,000 years. The title had a great narrative and interesting ring-based battle system. It deserves a second chance on Xbox One. While it couldn't be a direct sequel due to the story of the first, perhaps, like Final Fantasy, it could tell a different tale in the same universe.
Day 1 Studios' MechAssault was a great action game for the original Xbox, and now would be the perfect time to bring it back. An online-only, multiplayer-focused mech game would be an excellent way for Microsoft to enter the free-to-play space on Xbox One. With a low barrier to entry, you could attract a large, World of Tanks-like following of gamers who would be willing to buy different models of mechs, parts, weapons, and attachments as microtransactions.
Sensing a pattern here? Rare has slipped from the ranks of the industry's top developers, and there are a lot of great franchises that have become dormant. Banjo Kazooie isn't the hippest property, but it's also worth nothing that there hasn't been an attempt to do a traditional platforming game in the franchise since the year 2000. With the power of the Xbox One, I believe you could do a great 3D Banjo game on a modest budget as a download-only game.
The Kinect 2 included with the Xbox One is an impressive piece of technology; it's a pity there's not much to do with it besides menu navigation. The Viva Piñata series has a lot of potential to be the kids-oriented killer app for Kinect. The 360 game was cute, but just imagine what could be done with pinatas with Kinect, especially with augmented reality video effects. You'd also have that same appeal of playing with small virtual pets that Kinectimals had, and could even experiment with things pinata creation tools and easiers, gesture-based level creation.