Last week the gaming world took to Twitch and YouTube for Sony’s PlayStation conference hoping finally to get the much-awaited clarification on the PS5’s price-point, and how it would match up to Microsoft’s Series X launch price
And so, as part of the territory of streaming games conferences online, while Sony laid out a number of their impressive looking launch titles and the announcement of the PS5’s £450 ($499) price-point – matching the Series X price – you may have noticed a few thousand comments flashing by at lightning speed with console fanboys screaming endlessly into the ether that “PlayStation wins. Xbox sux”; or conversely “Xbox best console, lol PlayStation”, or any other combination of empty victory-declarations in a bizarro nerd battle that is as tedious as it is eternally pointless.
Yes, the culture of competition so often endemic to games in their very conception has seeped its way for decades now into the very culture of the industry itself whereby every games conference or release of alike-titles has to also have a definitive winner in the hearts of 20-something “Gamers” so invested wholeheartedly in what is mostly a subjective medium anyway.
Rather than just enjoying the excitement of a new console generation it must be dragged down to an eternal squabble of Xbox Vs PlayStation and their respective fanbases – has there ever been a more bizarre and clear display of late stage capitalism than the undying loyalty of a gamer?
What’s more, however, is that sitting upon this new generation battlefield are two sides which are preparing to charge in two opposite directions away from each other anyway, as the strategies of Sony and Microsoft grow increasingly divergent.
THE SONY STRATEGY – IF IT AIN’T BROKE…
If we’re declaring winners and losers in the industry then it is fair to say that Sony dominated the last console generation having previously found themselves falling behind during the 360/PS3 era.
The PlayStation 4 kept things simple against the Xbox One’s bizarre “new water-cooler” marketing approach with a straightforward ‘For the Gamers’ tagline.
That is all the PS4 needed to be and all anyone wanted it to be: a console which was stronger than the last and could play premiere AAA titles like The Last of Us and God of War; rather than the Xbone’s new all-encompassing media player that you could connect your NFL account to(??) and watch Netflix in a tiny little square in the top corner of your screen while you simultaneously “pwn noobs” in Call of Duty.
Thanks Phil Spencer.
PlayStation has done very well to carve itself out as the console for extremely high polished and well crafted single-player exclusives with a fair number of ongoing franchises that do more to garner excitement than the 17th Gears of War or Halo instalment can hope to achieve anymore.
And so going into the launch of the PlayStation 5 that messaging has largely remained the same with the PS5 purporting for its own self worth as the elite console.
‘Play Has No Limits’ now as Sony has pushed forward a variety of new exclusive titles that are all pointing to the same notion: these are premier titles for a premier gaming console that boasts about its own flashiness with its future-space-modem aesthetic designed to give the very impression of expensiveness and ergo elitism.
They do say dress for the job you want, after all.
Quite simply, in the great debate between an Xbox or PlayStation for this generation, Sony is pinning their hopes on having a more enticing catalogue of big exclusives to draw you in, knowing that the goodwill of the previous generation may see them glide on through once again.
XBOX ANYWHERE EVERYWHERE ALLWHERE – IF THE LAST ONE WAS BROKE, JUST CREATE A NEW GAME FOR YOURSELF ENTIRELY
Knowing the pitfalls of their last console launch Xbox has been forced to go back to the drawing board and has emerged with an answer which quite honestly may change the entire landscape of the industry for better or worse.
All roads lead through Xbox Game Pass.
It is as simple and brilliant as that.
Seeing that Netflix and the subscription model has been king for film and tv through the last decade, Microsoft are dead set on bringing the same to the games industry and are taking huge swings to ensure they can control its success too.
From about 2014, just after the One’s poor launch, Microsoft began snapping up a variety of smaller studios including Mojang which, while interesting from an indie industry perspective, was not wholly immediately obvious where they were going with such a strategy.
It was clear Microsoft was perhaps admitting defeat to the PS4 but they were now already building for the future – something PlayStation have been far more stubborn about.
And so the fruits of that labour came through finally as Game Pass launched and has been an excellent source for a variety of creative indie titles that might otherwise have gone largely unnoticed.
Microsoft’s IP acquisitions end up being beneficial for all: smaller studios get the backing and safety net of a major publisher, a bit more exposure, and the opportunity to really play in a creative and experimental space; Xbox meanwhile get a flood of games to fill out the backend of their new library.
Having then been more than friendly with their huge pricing deals on Game Pass and Xbox Live with Game Pass Ultimate, Microsoft have grown out the customer base of their new subscription, measuring its success and long-term viability along the way.
And boy oh boy are they confident in it now as trillion-dollar company Microsoft have started pulling out the big guns to ensure Game Pass becomes the only place to play anything ever again.
LIKE GAMES? HERE YOU GO WE BOUGHT THEM ALL – LOVE FROM PHIL SPENCER XOX
Just this week Microsoft shocked the entire games industry with the out-of-nowhere announcement that they would be acquiring Zenimax and all its family studios for $7.5 billion – i.e Microsoft ain’t playing anymore.
You want to play Fallout or Elder Scrolls or Doom or Wolfenstein or Dishonored or whatever the hell else you can probably think of? Well, Game Pass is soon going to be the place for you as Microsoft now has the power to publish any Zenimax game day one on Game Pass.
Earlier this month, Xbox also partnered with EA to subsume their EA Play model meaning Game Pass will now also give access to the likes of Fifa and Battlefield if that isn’t quite enough for you.
With the price-point of the new generation of games sure to increase to £70 now, the Netflix of Gaming is looking more and more like it will be the best way to continue to play games especially if Microsoft can continue to promise day-one access to first-party titles and other AAA games.
Sony may have the better first-party exclusives, but Microsoft is ensuring they swamp them on the accessibility of more high-profile titles.
Its the business equivalent of loudly screaming “it’s my ball and so I’m taking it home with me now which means I win”.
And it might just work.
IT’S ALL GAME PASS? ALWAYS HAS BEEN
You’ll perhaps notice throughout this entire discussion of Xbox’s new strategy that I’ve barely mentioned the Xbox Series X.
Well, that’s because – aside from its terrible naming convention – it barely matters at the moment since the relevant product IS Game Pass – the X is merely the best medium to play it on.
And this is obvious if we further look at what Microsoft is doing.
They already have their Xbox Play Anywhere model which allows you to continue certain games on Windows or on console.
Then with the Series X Microsoft is also launching the digital edition – Series S – at a hugely discounted price of £250 which won’t grant quite the same level of performance as the X, but will perform its main function which is to essentially be another Game Pass vehicle.
AND what’s more, Xbox is now testing out the xCloud which will allow you to stream game pass straight to your phone removing the need to splash out on a console entirely.
That coupled with the Xbox All Access which will allow you to purchase an X through a monthly instalment plan has shown that Microsoft is being more than generous with their pro consumerism all in the name of putting Game Pass quite literally everywhere.
Play may have No Limits for Sony, but with Game Pass there are almost no limits to where you can play and that’s exactly how Microsoft wants you to feel.
WHO WINS? WELL, DOES IT REALLY MATTER…
Look, you can get into the minutiae of technical specs if you really want but when it comes to consoles they are largely going to end up performing the same per title anyway.
And of course, we can continue to squabble endlessly over which is better (the answer should be neither, they’re companies for god sake…).
But this needless fandom doesn’t really serve anyone any purpose other than to make YouTube comments somehow worse off than they already are.
When it comes down to it we’re getting a new exciting console generation that is bringing big changes to the industry and we might as well bask in the enjoyment of that for now.
I may have talked far more about Xbox here, and that’s simply because their new strategy is bolder and hence more interesting, personally, since it may well make some lasting changes.
Or it may fall flat on its face eventually and Sony’s penchant for premier gaming and focus on the single-player gaming experience may prove again to be good a pull for the majority of console gamers and the endless loot box driven battle royal season pass microtransaction befuddlery may finally come to an end (please).
Either way, your decision to buy an Xbox or a PlayStation is simply going to come down to which games you want to play. It does not mean you then have to forever champion that console til death do you part and focus all your energy on hating the other console.
You can like both guys…
And besides, none of it is going to really matter soon anyway.
Because Game Pass WILL consume all in its path. Like the Cthulhu-esque world eater it is.
Game Pass will consume all. Everything is Game Pass.
All hail Game Pass.
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