Here is my opinion, I’ll open it up right in front of you to see. I believe that the next “console wars” are already over, and Sony won. That’s a pretty shocking statement, I know.
I don’t say this lightly or out of a sense of fandom for Sony or malice towards Microsoft (Nintendo doesn’t count either). I think there are some clear reasons why this is the case and that it might only affect this next generation of consoles.
My theory is that, if you look back at last generation, it’s true that Microsoft went ahead with a steady lead as the preferred console for the majority of multiplatform releases, especially first-person shooters and playing online, which were a major selling point for the platform at the time. That advantage would later be chipped away by the first-party offerings that Sony started to roll out as the console matured and would eventually lead to the PS3 outselling the XBox 360 in total sales by the end of their lives. It never really felt like they had the lead mind you, most of the discussion stayed focused on 360 as they carried their earlier lead. Where it really started to change in that generation was at the end, Sony’s first party games kept hitting big and often and ended on a high note with The Last of Us. It started to show a weakness in the first party offerings Microsoft was putting out for their platform.
With that in mind, this current generation of PS4 and XBox S/X, is the one that I feel is determining the outcome of the next “war”. What I feel is the largest factor that is shaping what the next generation of gaming looks like from a winner/loser perspective is the digital marketplace of the current gen of systems. That combined with the backwards capability of the new consoles.
Sony has been pretty horrible with their backwards capability of the PS4 while Microsoft has been going hard and have been spending the money to get their older games working on their consoles, it’s a major investment and a true value add to their ecosystem. I just feel like they still lost the war on this front, even with the poor effort of Sony as of this writing. Will the PS5 be backwards compatible with the PS4? Certainly it will, without a doubt. Will the PS5 be backwards compatible with the PS3? I’d bet on that being a no and I’d also bet that it won’t matter to the majority in the long run. The switch to digital in the current generation, along with the 106 million consoles Sony has sold of the PS4 means that the backwards compatibility that will really matter is the next gen being backward with the current gen. That’s what customers will really care about. They want to know that the digital games they purchased digitally for the PS4 or XBOX S/X will just work, and hopefully at a faster framerate.
Microsoft has recently revealed that their games, for the first two years will not be focused on the next gen hardware specifically and will instead be focused on the whole line of current XBox systems. They also are focusing on releasing their games on PC which pushes people like me to never even consider buying one of their consoles when I could just play them all on my PC.
Microsoft really needs to get their first party developers to push out some amazing games at a consistent pace. I still have no trust in 343 and what they can do with Halo, I still think their track record is spotty. Can Microsoft keep pushing out Gears games and think they’re selling consoles based on that fact alone?
What does this all mean? If I had to place a bet I’d say that Sony sells 3 times the amount of consoles than Microsoft does, at least. That basically keeps the current sales of this generation to be the same as next. With Microsoft’s move to subscription based revenue streams, that will be more of the metric they depend on. I can see playing XBox games through their subscription on the Switch which would be a great move for them, if the streaming doesn’t suck that is, sorry Stadia (RIP).
In the end, Sony will keep to the more traditional business of a new console and dominate the generation because of it. Microsoft, still playing catch-up, will sway into streaming and subscriptions to try and carve out a new market that they can find prosperity in.