Imagine if Microsoft had a monopoly on the gaming industry. What would it look like?
Think back to the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) when the Xbox One was announced. Gamers were shocked at not only the system itself, with it’s restrictive digital rights management (DRM) policy and its lack of focus on gaming, but its price. The immediate reaction from gamers, even those fiercely loyal to the Xbox brand was disgust. Many like Angry Joe took to Twitter and YouTube to say that they would being buying Sony’s Playstation 4 since it was clearly the system designed for gamers. Microsoft would eventually lose out in pre-orders and early sales because of this mistake.
Returning to my original question, how would this have been different if the Xbox One was the only next-gen gaming console? What would that console look like? To begin with, there would be little reason for Microsoft to build a system capable of 1080p graphics. 720p would be the standard, if even that. If DRM and a 24-hour check-in is what Microsoft wants, then gamers couldn’t complain. Gamers also couldn’t complain about the price of the system either. If you though $499 was too expensive, imagine what Microsoft would have charged if they had a monopoly. The only choice gamers would have is whether or not they want to continue gaming. Does that sound good to anyone?
It’s not uncommon to hear complaints within the gaming community about the console wars. The main criticism of these gamers is that the console wars promotes high-tech tribalism. Gamers are divided into different camps and judged by what systems they own and regularly play. “Why can’t there just be one system? That way, there wouldn’t be any of this hatred and everyone would be able to play all the same games.”
The problem with this ‘utopia’ is that there wouldn’t be any competition. Without it, the gaming industry would become stagnant and we would see a situation like the one described above. Competition is the key and it is regularly ignored in these discussions.
Without competition, we wouldn’t have the Playstation 4. The system was Sony’s response to Microsoft’s Xbox 360. The company learned from the Playstation 3’s early failure and produced a system which had gamers in mind. Sony not only gave gamers what they wanted, but they did it at a price they could afford. In response, Microsoft must either drop the price of the Xbox One and/or release a new Kinect-less system at a lower price. Considering the feedback thus far from the gaming community, a newer, more powerful, Kinect-less Xbox One would be Microsoft’s best bet.
Whatever the company ultimately decides to do, the gamer benefits. It is because of competition that Microsoft has to listen to the wants of gamers and act accordingly. It is also because of competition that Sony must keep providing gamers with what they want. The Playstation 4’s early success doesn’t guarantee that Sony will win this console generation.
This doesn’t just apply to Sony and Microsoft. Nintendo, with the Wii U’s struggling sales, must give gamers a reason to buy their system. The gaming giant made a serious mistake by releasing the Wii U without any must-have titles, and it has cost them. With Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart 8 and Bayonetta 2 coming out this year, the system’s fortunes may change. Nintendo has already reduced the price of the Wii U because of the competition they are facing from Sony and Microsoft. This, in turn, benefits gamers who have been holding back because of the higher prices.
Once again, the gamer benefits.
It is because of this competition that gamers not only get the systems and games they want, but they get them at the prices they’re willing to pay. Both Microsoft and Nintendo will do what they can to compete and Sony will keep doing what it must to remain on top. It is far too early to decide who will be victorious in this generation of the console wars, but, in the end, gamers will be the real winners.
A Guest Opinion by: Christopher Lancop