It goes without saying that war is a terrible and ghastly thing —but as you’re about to wish for world peace in that beauty pageant you’ve entered into, it’s worth reflecting on some of the incredible innovations that have their roots in human conflict.
The rocket engines used by the German war-machine during WW2, for example, paved the way for man to land on the moon. And the Soviet high-altitude spy-planes equipped with incredibly expensive camera lenses, deployed to spy on America, would eventually allow millions of amateur photographers to take selfies all over those iconic landmarks you’ve always wanted to visit. Ok, that last one was a bad example, but you get my point, and there are literally hundreds of others you can go and google in your spare time. Right now, I’m going to bend this into an analogy that makes sense in the context of video games, because that’s what we write about here at Twinfinite.
I’m talking about console wars, of course: everybody’s favorite topic.
Before you start getting triggered, I’m not suggesting on any level that the tragedy of human conflict should be comparable to something as trivial and inconsequential as two competing video game hardware publishers duking it out for the biggest slice of the gamer pie. What I want to highlight is that groundbreaking invention is often the result of a desperate struggle, regardless of the context. And Microsoft has certainly found itself in a desperate struggle this eighth console generation. Not the sort that ravages continents and leaves millions of people dead, mind you, but certainly a critical situation as far as its diminishing market share goes. It has forced them to think outside the box (no pun intended) and innovate a string of improvements to the Xbox One ecosystem to remain competitive. The latest of which, Xbox All Access, in combination with its incredibly attractive Netflix-like Game Pass program, is particularly impressive. In fact, it might just tee them up for prime position in the inevitable ninth generation battle for supremacy.
You’ve surely heard of Xbox All Access and Game Pass by now? It’s a subscription that bundles the console hardware, online access, and the 100-game-strong Game Pass library together for as little as $22 per month, interest-free. I’ve already written an article comparing the amount of money you’re saving by opting for Microsoft’s hardware over Sony’s. In brief, it’s a lot —the value isn’t really comparable between the two. Assuming you pass the credit check, you can get set up with everything you need to enjoy thousands of hours of gameplay for the price of a daily coffee. And you get to keep the console at the end of it all. It’s actually less expensive than buying the individual components by over $130 for the Xbox One S package.
In its bid to topple Sony without the exclusive games it can’t yet compete with, an avant-garde Microsoft is doing the most to push the video game industry forward —perhaps, if it catches on, into a space that its competitors might find themselves unable to compete with.
Time for another analogy. Remember Kodak? The company that used to rule the roost in the photographic film industry, armed with their memorable “Kodak Moment” advertisement tagline. After dominating for over a century, Kodak failed to catch onto the digital photography revolution, and by the time it finally did, it was too late. In 2012, the company filed for bankruptcy. In the face of shifting tides, Kodak stuck to the model and technology it knew, and it cost them big-time.
Sony isn’t going to pull a Kodak, I’m sure. But what we can say is that they’re certainly not in any rush to see change ushered into the gaming industry on the same level as Microsoft. They’re comfy, where Microsoft is itching to invent a plan that tips the balance in their favor. That could lead to complacency —something we’ve seen from Sony in years gone by after the dominance of the PS2 era ($600 PS3, anyone?), and arguably we’re seeing now with their insistence not to play-ball with cross-play.
Given just how fast technology moves in the 21st century, particularly with respect to the rise of digital media and the streamlining of technology ecosystems as we’ve seen companies such as Apple do, there’s every chance future generations are going to be won or lost as a result of who introduces change and adapts the fastest. Right now, Microsoft is getting aggressive with its attempt to lure people to their ecosystem and keep them there. These latest innovations are so attractive that it’s only a matter of time before the mindshare between Sony and Microsoft starts to even out.
Microsoft is all about active-users these days, they never stop touting the numbers. Perhaps partly because other numbers, like sales figures for hardware, aren’t impressive enough to shout about in the face of Sony’s steamrolling success. But clearly what they’re trying to do is get as many people engaging with Microsoft content as they can —playing as much content for as little up-front as possible. Because, of course, once you’re invested in an ecosystem, you’re more than likely to stay there. That’s a large part of how Apple was able to conquer the mobile market, and Microsoft will be hoping that it can keep people invested in the same way.
This could all prove pivotal when the next generation arrives. The share of gamers that would typically assess both options and opt for one over the other might not feel so inclined to jump ship when they’re already paying subscriptions or effectively paying-off a hire-purchase agreement. Instead, maybe they’ll just look to upgrade like they do with their phones, and maybe Microsoft will have another attractive package to offer them —one that might look particularly attractive if it involves the streaming & cloud power of the rumored Xbox Scarlett. We can’t be sure how it will pan out, but there’s no doubt that Microsoft is trying to change the way we purchase and engage with game content, and there’s no doubt it’s all becoming very streamlined and convenient to become an Xbox One player. As a result of complacency or deliberate strategy, Sony, for the time being, doesn’t seem to be changing its tune from the same blueprint that’s governed its approach since the inception of the brand. How that shapes the next console war will be truly fascinating to watch unfold.