This past Friday marked the beginning of the latest iteration of the console war between two tech giants, Sony and Microsoft. With the launch of the Playstation 4 this past Friday, Sony struck a decisive first blow when it announced that the console had sold over one million units within the first 24 hours of availability. This coming Friday, Microsoft will have the opportunity to respond with the launch of its newest gaming console, the Xbox One.
Such buzz has not surrounded the gaming industry since the release of the current generation of consoles, the Xbox 360 in 2005 and the Playstation 3 in 2006. For gamers, these launches are events that occur once every decade and are one of the few moments where gaming enters the mainstream consciousness of the public.
And yet, what is lost in the buzz surrounding these products, is discussion of the huge impact that this new generation of consoles will have on how millions of people experience entertainment in their living rooms. The current generation of consoles was largely about the evolution from standard definition gaming to high definition gaming and, for the most part, the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360 were similar in their regards for this vision.
However, in this new generation of consoles, each company is offering a unique vision of what the future of gaming and home entertainment will be.
Microsoft proposes a future where the entertainment system in the living room is all controlled by one set top. The company wishes to do away with all of the clutter that comes from having a cable box, a DVD player, a Blu-ray disc player, a gaming console and all of the wires that come along. The Xbox One was developed to become the all-in-one box that consumers can turn to for all of their media needs. Microsoft’s then-President of Interactive Entertainment Business, Don Mattrick described the Xbox One as a place “where all of your entertainment comes alive in one place.”
Sony, on the other hand, envisions a future where gaming is a much more social experience than it is now. Since the launch of the Playstation 3 in 2006, the impact of social media has grown exponentially. Consequently, Sony has developed various features for the Playstation 4 to adapt and predict social media’s impact on gaming. Most prominently, the Playstation 4 allows gamers to share clips of their gameplay with their friends via video streaming services such as Twitch and Ustream as well as Facebook and Twitter using the new share button on the controller. Social features that were missing in the Playstation 3, such as cross game voice chat and expansive friend lists, have also been added. With the Playstation 4, Sony encourages a sense of community amongst gamers in a world that is becoming more and more interconnected.
Both of these companies offer a unique and profound vision of the future of gaming and of the future of entertainment as a whole. And though time will tell which vision is best suited to survive, it would be foolish to brush off what the next generation of consoles has to offer by dismissing it as “just a game.”