Think about what went wrong at the start of the Xbox One’s life for a minute.
Xbox 360 had a commanding lead for much of the last generations consoles life span, but niggly little things began to add up. The red ring of death, the paid online service, and being second to throw in games for free with the online subscriptions. This forced Sony to play some wins to get themselves back in the game, and one of the ways they did so was by listening to their players.
PlayStation won hearts with the Instant Game Collection and getting cross-play running with anyone willing to do so, and back then Microsoft were the ones holding cross-play back. Well according to Final Fantasy XIV developers anyway. Microsoft was making bad decision after bad decision, and this culminated in the Xbox Ones first E3, where they showed how tone deaf they were.
Microsoft insisted on telling people how they wanted to use their consoles, the one device your living room will be based around, and the PR pushed that the Xbox One, and everything everybody disliked about it, was what you wanted. A personal favourite was a certain mouth piece telling everybody that an always online console isn’t an issue because the internet is great, and everybody should get it; an arrogant statement that can only come from someone who can’t sympathise with other countries, or other parts of his own country where internet can be difficult, expensive, and can come with down time.
This arrogant inability to see out of their own bubble got in their way, and with that gave some easy PR soft balls for PlayStation PR to hit with little trying, to so much success. PlayStation sat back and said they were for the players, and the PS4’s success shows how much that resonated with gamers.
So, let a few years go past, Sony has continued to ride its waves of success caused by that E3, its ability to say it has the bigger player base, and its ability to point to a solid line-up of exclusive AAA games that have or are coming out. But I see something, they are getting arrogant and either not listening or caring, and this time it’s thanks to cross-play when it has never been more important.
But let’s look over at Microsoft for a moment. E3 happened, and Microsoft said some cool stuff. They continued to talk about how they want gaming to be available to more people and pushed its introduction of the accessible controller. They pointed to the slew of new games, exclusive or multiplatform. They talked about how the next gen hardware design is well under way. But most importantly they spoke about the studios they bought or made with some developers carrying some pedigree.
This comes after years of well designed positive PR for Microsoft, from their support for backwards compatibility, to the game’s pass with a big library, the promise in the future they will release all Xbox games on it, and great moves like the accessible controller. Phil Spencer and Microsoft are winning the hearts of gamers, but their wallets point to where the games are, and Sony still has their noose around some sweet exclusives.
So, let’s picture an E3 in two years, where thanks to that little seed Phil Spencer popped in our heads, we have been speculating about Xbox Two, or Xbox *insert random number here* for years. We are getting hyped and curious, and then along side the console is some of the games, they have been preparing a new Fable, and whatever these studios will be working on. Maybe some are ready for release, maybe some are in that year’s window. Then with the current push, working with other platforms such Nintendo, to provide cross-play, for the players, they hold that mantra.
Suddenly Microsoft could have a lot of great exclusive games and be about the players to boot. Who does that remind you of?
Could the PlayStation brand pull themselves back from the pit of failure? Quite possibly. Two or more years is a long time. Let’s hope the arrogance of PS3 launch Sony, or Xbox One launch Microsoft, is turned around quickly. The two consoles, both making high quality products, and both being engaged and satisfying to their player bases, that would be a dream. But if I were a betting man, I’d be betting on Xbox right now.