Console Wars. A term that encompasses the spirit of competition between Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. A term which gives games media connoisseurs something to salivate for months together. A term that trends during every transition towards the next generation of consoles.
The term “Next Generation of Consoles” has been dropped a couple of times this year at E3. Sony and Microsoft have been cooking up their respective consoles while we enjoy the current line up of games. And we are on the verge of the next round of the Console Wars. While Sony’s lead in the current gen race with the PS4 is commendable, more than a few signs point towards this mantle being taken over by Microsoft when it releases its next console codenamed Scarlett. Here are 5 reasons why Microsoft may lead during the next generation of consoles.
Phil Spencer was made the captain of a sinking ship when he was named the head of all things Xbox, just after the disaster that was the unveiling of the Xbox One. In an age where public perception can decide the fate of a brand, Xbox had all the hate and negativity a company wouldn’t want at the time. And things looked like they were only going to go downhill from there. But Phil Spencer broke convention and reacted to what people were talking about Xbox. The ‘always-on’ internet policy was taken back, the Kinect was unbundled and eventually scrapped and, most of all, he admitted that the approach was a misstep and a bad business decision. All of these just to begin with. And through the course of Xbox One’s lifetime, Phil Spencer has resonated with the Xbox fan base, made numerous correct/good decisions and turned the tides for the brand, making it the beloved underdog it is today, despite the lack of games and other issues it has. A lot of what is to follow in this list are the doing of Phil Spencer and you will understand its importance as you read through. A gamer himself, this man is a magician, and his magic will certainly be cast on Xbox Scarlett.
Of all things Spencer did for the Xbox brand, perhaps the most important and consequently the most impactful factor that would help them next gen is the investment in creating a talented line up of in-house game studios. Taking a page out of Sony’s book, Phil acquired a number of studios under the Microsoft’s belt which will now be working exclusively on games for Xbox’s next console. This group includes renowned studios like Ninja Theory and in the word’s Tameem Antoniades, head of Ninja Theory, these studios have been given “Complete creative freedom” which means we can expect a truly diverse line up of games just like Sony has now.
Xbox is still in a tough spot, thanks to its lack of games. And it tries to overcome this by offering something that no customer can resist. Value. Xbox’s robust subscription service ‘Xbox Game Pass’ serves as an answer to Sony’s ‘PlayStation Now’, and is far better than its competition. With a constantly changing library and access to Microsoft’s in-house games on day one, Xbox game pass offers tremendous value for money. This service has recently been expanded with the introduction of “Xbox All Access” which provides Xbox consoles in a subscription model. If this service transitions over to the next generation with the same decent pricing, Sony has a very tough hurdle ahead of them.
Sony may have the momentum in sales and games on its platform. But Xbox, as of today, enjoys more goodwill than it ever did since its inception. Once again, thanks to Phil Spencer the brand has been in the news frequently on a positive light. From its vocal support to crossplay, to its focus on tiny things like the release of the Elite Controller for “The 1% of gamers that want more from their Xbox”, to the release of the “Adaptive Controller” and the aforementioned Xbox game pass, Xbox seems to be on a hot streak of fan favouring moves. One of the main factors for Sony’s success this generation was the goodwill it had among the fans during the release of the PS4. And the misstep from Microsoft in the form of Xbox One’s launch only gained more goodwill for Sony. In the current climate though, things have changed. And Xbox is poised to benefit from similar goodwill – if it continues to build it-, thanks to the company’s efforts and our next and most crucial point in this list which is……..
Ten years ago, when the Xbox 360 ate the PS3 for breakfast, Sony was a company that was struggling to make ends meet as most of its electronics brands were losing the market. And the PS3’s turbulent launch didn’t help matters. Sony then turned their focus on what would save the Playstation Brand and focused on delivering great exclusive games, simultaneously while it gained footing with the OG PS3. The PS3 slim was then released with a price cut and Sony eventually gained momentum to stand head to head with its rival. Through the release of the PS4, Sony had mastered the skill of being a pro-consumer brand and made all the right choices. It’s exclusives still are the best and there is not a hint of a price cut for the PS4 which is a healthy sign of how it is doing. However, with all of this success over the last five years, Sony seems to have forgotten what got them here in the first place. They seem to have been making decisions like restricted crossplay, that is pro-business but not necessarily customer friendly. Add in all the goodwill Microsoft gets through its push for pro-consumer moves and Sony suddenly becomes the “Big Evil Corporation”. Interestingly enough Sony has been quiet for far too long letting the internet do the damage, until recently fixing the cross play debacle. Plus Microsoft seems to indicate that the next Xbox could launch as early as 2019, whereas Sony hints at a 2020 release for their console. Early release has always been a key factor for the success of each console in its generation and Sony appears to not mind Microsoft’s pace in this matter. Microsoft also recently announced X018, a PSX like event, presumably to show off more of its Scarlett Console. And to PlayStation fans’ dismay, Sony has cancelled PSX this year. This could not have come at a worse time for Sony, as fans (me included) were expecting PSX would be the place for amends for the lacklustre E3 showing this year. But that turns out to be far from what is about to transpire. It will be very interesting to see if Sony does some damage control (and manage to succeed in it), to get players on their side. But as it stands now, this approach from Sony is only helping Xbox as a brand.
In the end, it is us the gamers who make the decision. As a console’s lifetime shrinks every generation we would need to decide on what gives us the most for our investments. As I am in the Console Game testing profession, I can’t wait to see how both companies try to win us over in the months to come, for their next console. We may have to wait until E3 2019 for this to fully take shape. Until then all we can say is “Let the War begin”.