Who’s Really Winning the Console Wars?

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As regular listeners to our gaming podcast Open Source will attest, the ongoing rivalry between Sony and Microsoft is oft-discussed. John perhaps said it best in last week’s episode – competition is good for the industry; without it, companies become complacent and lazy, and innovation dries up. As consumers, there’s nothing worse than one side steamrolling this generation.

The ebb and flow of console wars is always interesting to look back on. The rise, fall and rise again of Sony. The opposite for Nintendo. And somewhere in the middle is Microsoft – a company that made a decent entry into the market with the original Xbox, increased that share to no end with the Xbox 360, and with their latest, have seen sales of the Xbox One hit milestones far beyond their previous efforts.

Unfortunately, their healthy numbers and improved sales have gone largely unnoticed so far this generation, and that’s thanks to Sony’s simply incredible – and somewhat baffling – success with the Playstation 4. Why the PS4 has hit the numbers it has is a question without an obvious answer, one that confuses even those working at Sony HQ. It’s fair to say that the Xbox One got off to a rather rocky start, but we’re a few years out from launch now, and any differences between the consoles at this stage is largely academic.

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Shuhei Yoshida hypnotizes yet another crowd to go out and buy five PS4s each.

Last month saw both companies give very impressive E3 conferences. Sony relied on the promise of future titles to come, banking on nostalgia and unexpected announcements to win over a lot of viewers. As our article noted – it’s all misdirection. Impressive, but without a great deal of substance. Microsoft, on the other hand, laid out a strong and clear plan for moving forward, outlining what titles gamers could expect to play on their console in the next six months. Rather than going for the hearts, they went for the minds – giving solid and impressive reasons to pick up an Xbox One in the immediate (rather than far-flung) future.

Let’s take a moment and look at what the run up to Christmas holds for Microsoft. There’s the cross-platform titles that everyone will be talking about – Fallout 4, Metal Gear Solid 5, Rock Band 4, Rainbow Six: Siege, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Star Wars: Battlefront, Hitman. A pretty massive selection of games (some may argue too massive) that really does offer something for everyone. And all of those can be enjoyed on both Xbox One and PS4 (and most on PC, too).

Then there’s the Microsoft exclusives – Halo 5. Forza 6. Rise of the Tomb Raider. Widen the scope a little and you can include Gears of War Ultimate Edition in there, too. Add in backwards compatibility and the EA Access program, and come Christmas time that is one hell of a gaming system, with an incredibly impressive and diverse gaming library.

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Phil shows off Microsoft’s holiday 2015 line-up. Like a boss.

To combat that, Sony have … well, they’ve got all the cross-platform stuff. And they’ve got Playstation Now, which is, yeah. Until Dawn looks like it could be fun, and The Nathan Drake Collection is a must for anyone that’s not already played the originals (same goes for Tearaway Unfolded). But it goes without saying that Sony’s 2015 line-up is pretty woeful in the face of the Xbox One exclusive trifecta.

So will it work? Microsoft certainly hopes so. They’re clearly ramping up to try and hit it big this holiday season. They’re giving gamers a real reason to sit down and play their console on Christmas morning – arguably far more reasons than Sony currently are. At this stage, it’s difficult to ever see the sales numbers of the Xbox One reaching that of the PS4, but perhaps that’s not the point. Perhaps all they need to manage is to be a thorn in their competitor’s side, delivering solid gaming experiences and interesting tech that can’t be found anywhere else.

They might be losing the sales battle, but that doesn’t mean they’re down and out. The reason we’re seeing such a strong showing this Christmas is precisely because they’re on the back foot – just as Sony was when they launched their Instant Game Collection last gen. Competition brings out the best in both companies, and as each console generation swings back and forth between the players involved, the real winners aren’t those who shift the most stock or turn the biggest profit. The real winners are us.

So long live competition, and long live the Xbox One.

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