The Future of Gaming is Not a Box! BOTH Microsoft and Sony Get This. Fanboys Haven’t Gotten the Message

Play Xbox Everywhere!

For decades, there has been a recipe for creating a successful gaming platform. Tie your ecosystem to an expensive investment in the form of a plastic box that effectively locks consumers into your platform. Every game they buy from there on out will be from your store – and you can take a cut of the $.

But, how to get people to buy the box in the first place? Easy, you create a few really compelling games (even if you have to take a loss on them) and make them only available on that box.

Brilliant right? It’s a strategy that has worked so well that nowadays console fans actually cheer the locking of games to specific boxes. After all, the lock-in creates a consumer who is insecure. And, a lot of console-warring is really just the result of people feeling insecure about their own console choice. There is a worry that you may lose your “investment” and that feeds into a need to proactively defend it.

The “Console” Wars Are Over

Despite the success of the above model over the years, I believe the Tyranny of the Plastic Box is now coming to an end! Everyone seems to know this except the die-hard fanboys. When combined, mobile and PC gaming now dwarf console gaming, and yet more ways to play are already here! The Steam Deck has proved you can have console-quality gaming in a mobile form-factor. Game publishers can reach consumers directly on their Smart TVs or on their cheap Chromebooks or expensive Macs via both native and cloud gaming experiences. And, in what is likely to be a major disruption, iPhones are now regularly getting console-quality games, as well.

In addition, there are now many successful examples of gaming ecosystems that aren’t tied to a particular plastic box. Steam (on all sorts of form factors), Epic, Xbox on PC are all good examples. Google Play (and Netflix!) on mobile and other devices is another. Xbox Game Pass in the cloud (both on its own servers and on GFN) is certainly yet another.

There are 8 billion people on the planet. Even the best selling consoles like the PS5 will only reach around 100 million of them – just over 1%. Both Sony and Microsoft want to reach that other 99%. So, it is no surprise they are both actively talking about bringing their games to more screens. Here is a recent quote from Sony’s CEO:

It will be ubiquitous. Wherever there is computing, users will be able to play their favorite games seamlessly. PlayStation will remain our core product [but] we will expand our gaming experiences to PC, mobile, and cloud.”

For Sony, I expect this means bringing more games to PC and mobile (and bringing them quicker) and enabling their cloud streaming services to be accessed on more devices outside of the PS5. In the future, you won’t need an actual PS5 to play PlayStation “exclusives.”

Xbox games are already available on PC and just about every screen imaginable via cloud gaming services like GeForce NOW. And, it hasn’t killed the Xbox console. People who prefer a console-like experience in their living room still opt to buy the box. This change is about growing the ecosystem, not taking away! While Microsoft may also add some games to PS5 and Nintendo as well, the Xbox platform isn’t going anywhere. Imagine being able to Xbox achievements on a PS5! Seems like a good way to bring more people into the ecosystem.

GFN + Xbox

Most importantly, we as consumers generally expect more access! These days, we want all our media on all our devices! That includes our music, videos and… yes… games! And, sorry to say this to all the collectors out there, but we also care less and less about “physically owning” media. Consoles will remain a great way to play games in the living room (just like they are for watching movies and tv-shows in the living room). But, more and more, we want access to our games on consoles AND everywhere else as well – our phones, our laptops, our hotel room TVs and even our vehicles. The console is (and should be) just one place to access the ecosystem.

The Platform/Ecosystem != The Box

I think the biggest error people make is equating “The Box” (aka PlayStation and Xbox consoles) with the PlayStation and Xbox platform. While that might have been true in SEGA’s platform heyday, the “platform” is now the entire ecosystem. It’s the digital store. The sales and deals. It’s the achievements you’ve been collecting for decades. It’s the friend’s list you’ve built. It’s the ease of playing with those friends. It’s leaderboards and competitions with those friends. It’s the safety protections built in. All of this can and will be brought to your PC, your phone, Smart TV and more.

The platform is also the payment methods you have stored. It’s the party and chat system. It’s your back-library. It’s the controller that is designed to work perfectly in all the places you can play. It’s the community of players and fan-sites. It’s the ability to play all your games on all your screens. It’s the ease of use and an overall uniform user-experience (UX). It’s the ability for developers to integrate APIs once and get access to platform users everywhere they are.

The console wars are over… And, good-riddance! The plastic box will no longer be the only way we get to play. It’ll be just one of many ways we play.


Jack Deslippe

Jack Deslippe is an HPC professional with a PhD in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley. As a hobby, he is passionate about consumer technology and Cloud Gaming in particular. He volunteers as an editor for Cloud Dosage in his spare time. See the games Jack is Playing at ExoPhase. Like his content? You can follow Jack on Threads: @jackdeslippe and Buy Jack a Beer.

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