A reader argues that Microsoft and Sony’s plans for the next gen are so different that both companies can succeed at the same time.
Every few years, the internet alights with debate and derision as the newest phase of the ‘console wars’ begins, an argument raged by fans over which conglomerate’s machine is better, Sony’s PlayStation or Microsoft’s Xbox.
However, the wars of yesteryear won’t exist in the next generation. Looking at the previous series of consoles, the victor was decided in the court of public opinion simply by which sold the greater number of units. And when looking at the stats, the clear victor was the PlayStation 4 which sold an impressive 110.4 million units to Xbox One’s estimated 50 million.
However, in this new generation, Xbox is clearly trying a different tactic. Rather than trying to outsell the PlayStation 5, Xbox is focusing on providing different services to its players, such as Xbox Live Gold, Game Pass, or its xCloud streaming services – and providing these services across consoles, PCs, and phones. This can, and will, inevitably lead to the question of why you should buy the Xbox Series X? Xbox boss Phil Spencer even stated that they didn’t want to force anybody to buy any specific device, as it is ‘counter to what gaming is all about’.
Despite designing the most powerful console ever built, there are few incentives to purchasing an Xbox Series X over a PlayStation 5 on launch day. This is a positive step in the right direction for consumers. You can either carry on playing some exclusives through your Xbox One for the next couple of years, or simply subscribe to Game Pass for a monthly fee to receive many of the company’s exclusives on launch, on any platform of your choosing.
This is in stark contrast to PlayStation’s representative, Jim Ryan, who said, ‘One of our tasks is to take that PlayStation 4 community and transition it to PlayStation 5 at a scale and pace that we’ve never delivered before.’ And much like Xbox’s commitment to its 10 million Game Pass subscribers, this makes perfect sense. With much-lauded exclusives developed for the PlayStation 4, such as God Of War, it’s clear that the continuing priority for Sony is to create an eco-system of big budget, high quality exclusives that utilise the console fully.
Indeed, once the PlayStation 5 is launched Sony will not be making any of their first party exclusives available to PlayStation 4 players. This is not as pro-consumer as Xbox, but Sony is determined to shift those 91 million that played on the PlayStation 4 into the new generation quickly; no doubt with the hope that their pedigree among gamers will make for a smooth transition.
To those used to the console wars of old, it would be easily to predict a Sony victory in these early years to come. However, victory for either company may mean different things. For Xbox, it has pioneered a Netflix style of gaming consumption with Game Pass, and its impressive new xCloud feature can mean that gamers without consoles can play Xbox games on their phone or PC, granting Microsoft access to a vast number of new potential players.
However, Sony may view victory as selling a mass of consoles, gathering more and more exclusive IPs (to gamers’ glee or dismay) and providing more AAA titles, such as the already announced Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Horizon Forbidden West.
Arguably the old battle lines of Xbox and PlayStation are fading, and realistically Xbox has a greater threat from other streaming services such as Google’s Stadia. For both companies, the game has changed, turning what was once a tug of war into something entirely different; a new, digital age that might see winners on both sides.
By reader Cameron Sullivan
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