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Play Anywhere is Microsoft’s newest initiative to make the Xbox brand be about more than the console connected to your television. As you may have noticed, gaming has been transcending the physical media that it used to be tied to. With the digital age, many are looking for games to work like other forms of media, mainly being accessible on numerous linked devices. One of the biggest devices desired to be compatible with today’s biggest games are PCs. They’ve seen quite the resurgence over recent years, so there’s no surprise that Microsoft is starting to court that audience – something that Sony should definitely take note of.
For those of you who don’t completely know what Play Anywhere is, allow us to explain. If you purchase an Xbox One exclusive digitally, you will be able to play that game on your Windows 10 PC as well through the Xbox app. That means you essentially get two copies of every game, each of which is connected to your account allowing you to play with friends, make progress, and unlock achievements to increase that ever important gamerscore. You’re not just playing a simple port either. The PC versions take advantage of the power you may have under the hood of your particular rig for better visuals and framerates. It eliminates the need to settle on being glued to a console for games that you’d rather play on your expensive computer. It seems simple, but when you stop to think about it, it’s sort of genius.
Options are becoming more important as the video game industry continues to grow and technology continues to expand. PCs have the ability to expand rapidly with the times, needing only the purchase of a particular component to upgrade a setup. Consoles, on the other hand, require an entirely new piece of hardware. Sony is actually rolling out an upgraded console called the PS4 Pro which offers 4K gaming and streaming, HDR compatibility, and improved VR experiences. This will require fans who already own a PS4 to go out and purchase another Sony console, rather than just simply upgrade what they already have.
Up until now Sony has led the race during this current generation due to a stronger, gamer-focused initial message and a system that proved to be more powerful when it came to most multi-platform releases. The Xbox One being so locked off when it first launched really helped the PS4 soar in the eyes of consumers, and the current sales lead is a testament to that. But the tables are turning as the Xbox One is becoming a much more open console. So open, in fact, that it’s giving players the option to use the console, phones, tablets, and PCs. What once held the Xbox back is now giving it a sizable edge over the competition, one that puts it in a solid position when the next generation comes along.
This isn’t to say that Sony isn’t also making moves. Remote play has been extended to the PC space, though it’s hardly the same thing as Play Anywhere. While the currently library is small for this still young initiative, there are quite a few games in the pipeline that will surely make this an appealing prospect for fans. All future Xbox One exclusives will be part of this platform, opening up the potential audiences well beyond the 15 million or so consoles sold, and definitely surpassing Sony’s 40 million PS4s.
Some may think “well, this is going to hurt Xbox’s hardware sales,” and they may be right… maybe. But one thing that Microsoft has figured out is that things are moving more towards service models. People want to pay for content yet enjoy it wherever they see fit. If that means buying Gears of War 4 then playing it on their gaming laptop while they’re on a trip, so be it. This allows Microsoft to sell Xbox as more than just one plastic box that’s competing with another plastic box. It’s a family of experiences that are tied by what they offer: great games, great visuals, communities, achievements, leaderboards, and more.
Sony has found success in the hardware market in recent years, something they may be paying too much attention to after still reeling from the blows that were the PS Vita and PS TV. You would think that they would’ve been the first to look for a way to deliver their games to other fans who wanted to play elsewhere, especially since they’ve been so adamant about crossplay functionality between several PlayStation and PC titles. But they’re falling behind on this one, and it may cost them in the long run. Sure, they’re leading by a wide margin when it comes to sales right now, but as more people see the benefits of the Play Anywhere program, hardware sales will hardly matter.
The folks in charge of the PS4 and the future of PlayStation as a whole should really consider adopting a similar in program. In fact, since the Xbox Play Anywhere program is just about perfect as is (and it’s planned to grow) Sony should just copy it as is. Microsoft learned that offering free games with their subscription was a smart move after watching Sony’s immense success with PS Plus, so why not follow suit? They say imitation is the ultimate form of flattery, and sometimes you just have to pay homage.
If the PlayStation brand hopes to have longevity as technology and consumer wants continue to shift, this is their best option going forward. It has helped Xbox find a way into more homes than their consoles ever could, and things can only go up from there.