The Xbox One begins this fall in a less than enviable spot. One the one hand, it’s doing just fine as a product: it’s selling well, it’s selling better than the Xbox 360 was, and it’s becoming an increasingly important part of Microsoft MSFT +2.38% broader plans for Windows 10 across platforms. On the other hand, all success comes in comparison to Sony PS4, which has dominated current-gen console sales since day one and is poised to do so for the foreseeable future. But that underdog position has made Microsoft hungry, and the tech giant has used its considerable resources to invest in exclusive games from both first and third party developers in an attempt to recover from a disastrous reveal. Last week, gamesindustry.biz had an interesting interview with Xbox executive Kudo Tsunoda, who hammered home the point that Xbox One, despite overwhelming similarities to the PS4, is continuing to evolve and add functionality.
“It’s a really unique value that only we can offer. You still need very gamer-focused values, but there’s lots of things you can do with our technology. We’ve really got a lot more going on [than our competitors]. We’re doing things that can’t be done on any other console,” he told gamesindustry, talking both about technical capabilities and exclusive games. “There’s a reason we’re able to put on two shows of content together. We’ve got seven exclusives coming this holiday, and then everything coming in 2016. Not just the blockbusters, but the ID@Xbox games, the indie games. We’re giving people a lot more.”
His point about exclusive games is a valid one, albeit only in a certain context. Microsoft has more exclusives for this holiday season, but these things have a way of working themselves out: PS4 seems less attractive when Rise of the Tomb Raider hits shelves, but infinitely more so when Uncharted 4 does the same. Exclusives are an arms race of sorts: at this point, it’s going to be very hard for either company to gain a true advantage, but they need to keep trucking to avoid losing.
Tsunoda’s enthusiasm may be a bit premature — right now, I still see the differences as primarily aesthetic, though Xbox One’s backward’s computability will definitely be a thing soon. Going into the future — the long future, probably — I think Tsunoda may be right about certain capabilities the Xbox One will have as part of the Windows 10 ecosystem that neither the PS4 nor any non-Microsoft console will be able to match. Things like robust/extensive cross-play with PC, PC game streaming and, hopefully, a more robust cross-buy system with PC, will be serious advantages for the Xbox One going forward. By that point, however, the PS4 will likely have continued to shore up its massive install base lead, leading to all sorts of secondary advantages with exclusives, third-party development and more.
The PS4 is winning the console war, and will continue to do so. Microsoft has rightly chosen to not be particularly conerned about this, however. This is the company that makes Windows, and not the company that makes Xbox, and I’m most interested to see how best it can use all of its various platforms to provide a great ecosystem for gaming going forward.