Content of the article: "A defense of Xbox and Microsoft’s view of the future of gaming"
Lately, I've been binge watching reviews of the Xbox Series X/S and the Playstation 5 on youtube. I watched Charlie's Moist Meter on both, watched the Act Man's review of the Series X, Yong Ye's review of the PS5, as well as MKBHD's. I also watched a lot of not exactly reviews but opinions/takes on both consoles, besides a shit ton of unboxing videos. And my main takeaway from all of this is simple: people do not understand the Xbox.
I should preface this with a few additional information: I am a proud owner of an Xbox One since 2014, I live in a (quote unquote) third world country where tech is expensive in general, I have been a fan of the Xbox platform since the 360 days and I grew up on the Playstation 2 with friends. I have followed the evolution of the Xbox platform for a while now, and I have to say, I am very pleased with this direction they are taking. And I think most people don't get it.
Sony is obviously big as a media company, but a mere ant near the colossus that is Microsoft. Playstation is obviously the biggest source of revenue for them, specifically PSN store sales, live service signatures and other game and network related features. This puts them on a chokehold where they're stuck to the classic business model: sell this box, make people play on it, offer them live services, profit. They cannot possibly get rid of the "sell this box" step because this is their ground, the place where they have control over. They HAVE to sell playstations.
Microsoft is different. Actually, Microsoft is a whole other beast.
They have windows, thst holds a market share of almost 80% of the computer market. Every PC game/application/program has to be catered to them one way or the other. They can profit from sales on their own store. The Windows ecosystem is absolute, ever-present. Compared to that, Xbox is almost just a side gig to make some splashes and have fun. A little hobby for Bill Gates to throw money at, since he has so much. They are in it by their own choice and would barely be dented by the failure of it.
And that is a great thing.
Microsoft does not NEED to sell their box. They are not stuck to that business model. They have the biggest platform in the world, and if they wanted, they could very well only sell their games for windows, shut down Xbox entirely and still make a fat buck. But they don't, and here's why:
Microsoft has a perfect platform for integration. They have the R&D to back it up. They have the wiggle room to adapt it. So instead of selling boxes, they want to turn Xbox into something much bigger, much more interesting than a game box that plays games off a disc or from the digital store. They want an ecosystem, like windows. They want a live service that can harvest potential from their immense cloud business. They want the future of gaming in their hands, and on our hands too. Phones, Computers, on the living room, remotely. They want games to be everywhere. And they want everyone to play them.
Going back to those reviews, every reviewer of the Series X mentions game pass as a great deal, but criticizes Microsoft for the lack of exclusives, then moves on. When it comes to Sony, they praise the controller and the games, they say how it "feels" and "looks" truly next gen. They talk about new UI, new tech, etc. But at the end of the day, those things are all gimmicks. Yes, I know the controller is great and how it feels "next gen". But it is all a gimmick at the end of the day. We never asked for those things in the past, we asked for better graphics, better framerates and faster loading times, and that is delivered across the board by both consoles. But while Sony does all the shiny new things because they need headlines to seel consoles. They go after exclusivity deals because if they offered their games on PC, they would sell less boxes.
Xbox is not about that right now. It has the same UI across all consoles, old and new, because the OS is supposed to integrate the entire family. They have a similar controller because theirs was already really good, and because they don't want to make you buy a new 70 dollar controller when you already have a perfectly good set of Xbox One controllers at home. Their Backwards Compatibility goes back FOUR GENERATIONS. You enter this new generation already having a library of games that the PS5 does not. Quick Resume and the Instant Storage upgrades are also great moves that allow for speed, versatility and a streamlined experience. The design is simple because the box is supposed to fit anywhere and everywhere, because it services both teenagers, young adults, busy workers who are not all about games, families with a single entertainment center and the most casual audiences. And I did not even have to mention Game Pass on this list.
Game Pass is a monster. It actually seemed too good to be true when I first got it. I paid a grand total of ONE buck for some three months of Game Pass. It gave me the opportunity to play games I would never play because games cost over 200 bucks each where I live, and my father hates spending money on games. From 2014 to 2018 I had one new game a year. From early 2019 to now, I had over 100 games at hand at any time. It literally saved my gaming life, and gave me the chance to not miss out on some of my now favorite experiences I had on my console, like the Metro saga, that I played entirely from game pass, or some indie gems like Overcooked, Celeste, games like Ori and the Blind Forest, the entire Halo Saga.
Game Pass is not just a good deal. It is single handedly the best thing to happen to me in gaming since I got my Xbox in 2014. Because Microsoft's vision is not "sell consoles, have exclusives, profit" but "everyone, everywhere, should be able to play games and have fun", I could experience all those amazing things I would not have. Youtube reviewers that get a lot of money and free review copies of games may think exclusives are the most important thing, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that making games accessible is much more important.
Entering the more business side of things, Microsoft's move here is freaking genius. They are one step away from ending the generational cycle entirely and making the Xbox Brand become much more than this or that box. Their decision fo not have Series X exclusive titles for 2 years into the generation made me so happy, because God knows when I'm gonna get my hands on a Series X. Their decision to allow controllers from the current gen to work seamlessly on the next one actually made me wet my pants in excitement over the fact I won't have to spend 300 bucks on new controllers that are the exact same thing I already have 4 of. I can easily see a future where instead of huge leaps every 6-8 years, Microsoft makes an unified platform across the board with new iterations coming out every two years, but also Xcloud and backwards compatibility bridging the gaps. Actually, the fact this new gen is called Series X (a name many made fun of) is if anything, a big indicative that their lineup is now gonna be all of Series' type consoles. Series X-2/S-2, maybe an all digital equivalent of the X line named Series R? Who knows? The possibilities are endless.
In conclusion, I mean to say Microsoft is definitely on the right track here. Having total integration with PC games, having accessibility over the entire world, Game Pass, Xbox as an ecosystem, all of it is the step into the direction I want to see games and game consoles go. And only Microsoft can do that. Because they are free to do that. Because they don't need the huge profit margins. Because they have set themselves up to being "The place to go to play all your games" as Papa Phill said. And I couldn't be happier about it.
Sony deserves respect for pushing the technical envelope with their new controller. They deserve respect for trying to innovate and bring interesting new things to the table. But at the end of the day, it is with the Xbox that I feel at home.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
- I think Microsoft is onto something and may have a huge advantage over Sony going forward
- PS5 vs xbox series X vs PC
- Xbox’s future is not just services, but games as a service. What do you think?
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