For years now, the ongoing struggle for gaming superiority between tech giants Microsoft and Sony played out on the hardware battlefield, but the gaming landscape is changing rapidly and the current market leader runs the risk of falling behind their competitors in years to come.
The numbers suggest that Sony’s PlayStation won the console battle against Microsoft’s Xbox. Let’s take a closer look at those numbers (Xbox fans look away now): since entering the market with the first Xbox in 2001, Microsoft have sold 170.9 million units of their flagship machine. This pales in comparisons to Sony’s 372 million in the same time frame.
I’m intentionally omitting the sales figures for the latest generation of machines: the PS5 & the Xbox Series X/S, seeing as the rollout of these consoles have been severely affected by both the Covid 19 pandemic and the global chip shortage. (For what it’s worth, the figures are fairly close with 13.4 million PS5’s & 12 million Xbox’s being sold)
Being outsold more than 2 to 1 would be enough for any gaming company to throw in the towel – assuming that hardware shipped is the measure of success. But now the console wars have moved to a different battlefield: software and services. And in this arena the advantage lies with Microsoft, and when one looks at Xbox’s recent business – it shows.
In the biggest gaming news of the week, Microsoft have completed a corporate takeover of Activision – the biggest game publisher in Europe and the Americas, responsible for popular titles such as Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, Overwatch and Candy Crush Saga.
Microsoft will be seen to be getting one over their rivals, seeing as two of the IP’s they acquired in this deal are seen as mascots of the PlayStation. Namely Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon.
While most PS gamers won’t be crying too much over losing these 2 fan favourite mascots from the 90’s, a previous piece of business has given PS players serious FOMO. In a separate blockbuster deal last year, Microsoft acquired Bethesda – the company responsibly for the Elder Scrolls series. The next iteration of which is considered to be one of the most anticipated games of all time. After the acquisition Microsoft announced that Elder Scrolls VI will be released exclusively on Xbox and PC to the dismay of PS gamers worldwide.
Add to this Microsoft’s early adoption of cloud gaming with their popular Xbox GamePass service– essentially a Netflix for games; and their innovative Play Anywhere feature – entitling customers to both the Xbox and PC copies of any single title they buy – and subsequently allowing Xbox to take a bigger bite of the PC gamer market. Looking at all these innovations together you can see why execs at Sony are sweating to counter these moves by their biggest rivals.
Xbox may have come up 2nd best in the console wars, but they are looking like early favourites to win the cloud wars.