Grumpy Gurevitz: Microsoft could outflank Sony (with Nintendo’s help)

Yes, you read that right. With Nintendo’s help, Microsoft could outflank Sony.

Right now, Sony has a commanding lead when it comes to the home console market. Sure, when it comes to the USA, Microsoft are still there in the thick of it. They are making great strides in parts of the UK but, truth be told, Europe has abandoned the Xbox One and Japan never gave it a chance.

Now, Microsoft’s long term strategy is clear. It’s to think long term. Xbox One is a platform, not just a system. It is what the Steam Box promised to be… i.e. a gaming PC under your TV with the ease of use of a console.

I love my Xbox One, from the interface – the latest incarnation of which is excellent (you’re fired – ed) – to the functionality of controlling my TV box, to all the apps available for it. The way I can even control it with my smartphone is sublime, too. It’s a great system, which as we know had an awful launch partnered with the fact that when it came to gaming it offered a less powerful punch than the launch PS4.

So, Microsoft know they can’t just click a button and catch up with Sony. They are playing the waiting game, and building a sustainable platform. The Xbox One S is a well-priced media-friendly system and the new Xbox One X, of course, overpowers the PS4 Pro. For true hardcore gamers, they are betting that over time people will jump system to have the next best thing, and certainly for those who are yet to get a PS4 or Xbox One (yes, those people still exist), the Xbox One X might make the leap to Microsoft more compelling. Just look at the Xbox-One-X-only videos of the latest Assassin’s Creed game on Youtube to see the effort Microsoft is taking to selling the Xbox One X ‘story’.

Of course, you might be thinking, where is the Nintendo Switch in all this conjecture and discussion? Well I do not think the Nintendo Switch is in direct competition with the PS4 or Xbox One, at least not presently. Once again, as with the Xbox One, I think the Switch is a platform, which will be updated every few years; so as the console becomes more powerful, potentially one day it could be competing directly. But as it is now, it offers something different and complimentary to those consoles.

It’s primarily a portable device which can also be played at home, but which offers ‘meaty’, quality experiences which are more in line with what a consumer expects from a home console than, say, a 3DS, PSVita, or tablet. Don’t get me wrong; if you are a family who can only afford one console, and have young kids, the Switch is perfectly placed to win the purchase and in that context will take sales away from the PS4 or Xbox One. However, that won’t be applicable to all households.

Sony, it seems, are happy with where they are. With a huge and fast-growing userbase on PS4, they are the king. They are not ignorant of what the Switch might do to the market, but are confident in their position, consolidating it by having big name games (such as Destiny 2) shipping with extra content or DLC content coming to PS4 first, with the idea of reminding the players that PS4/PSN is the place to game, if you want to be at the heart of the story.

Y’know, with images like this.

Yet, in the last few months, we have seen a few missteps from Sony. First they put up the PSN fee in Europe, by a huge amount. Whilst they have not backtracked on this, they did then let people renew early whilst getting some extra months free. Secondly, Microsoft and Nintendo have been talking cross-play online and Sony have not. They feel they do not need to, whilst Microsoft feel they do; and Nintendo too would benefit from their versions of games working with others.

However, Microsoft could go further with Nintendo. I’m thinking FIFA 18, for example. Now before someone tells me, yes I know… FIFA 18 on the Switch is different to FIFA 18 on the Xbox One and PS4. It’s a different engine, and doesn’t share all the game modes. However, it does share many game modes from Ultimate Team, to manager mode and leagues etc. I’m not suggesting online cross-play as that would surely be impossible, due to the games being in effect different. However, meta data from the save games could be shared, i.e. I could continue my managerial career on the move on the Switch, and then pass the data back to my Xbox One to continue playing on the big screen. Nintendo, you could argue, might not want this as they want you to play on the big screen using the Switch docked. But Nintendo are not stupid. They recognise that FIFA 18 on the Xbox One X is superior, and it would allow a user like me, who is lucky enough to have both platforms, to get the best out of both.

During the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation, especially when the PS3 was so much more expensive than the 360, Microsoft would talk about people buying the Wii360, i.e. a 360 and Wii for the price of a PS3 and getting the best of both worlds.

I feel that such an approach is opening up again. This way of thinking needn’t bypass Sony, but presently they are choosing to opt out; and that is an opportunity for Microsoft and Nintendo, which they need to actively explore as soon as possible.

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Written by Luke K

He plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. He doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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