Microsoft and Sony – The Future of Gaming
Last month there was a surprise announcement of a games deal between the tech giants, Microsoft and Sony. Many were shocked that the companies would put aside their fierce rivalry to form a strategic partnership. The partnership talked of new cloud-based solutions for gaming experiences, innovations to enhance customer experience and AI solutions. So, why the sudden change of heart?
The History of Microsoft and Sony
The newly announced partnership came as a huge surprise, not least because of the previous rivalry between the companies. They have both spent more than 15 years battling it out within the gaming arena. From the mid-‘90s, Sony’s PlayStation was the leading games console. It was in 2001 that Microsoft introduced the first Xbox console and put a spanner in the works for Sony. While the PlayStation was the leader at the time, the Microsoft empire soon put the Xbox on the map.
Microsoft has always had some of the strongest programming teams around. They ensured the Xbox integrated with other Microsoft products. The bigger picture being the battle for supremacy within people’s homes. As consoles became the conduits for internet access, music and computing, the competition grew further. The fight for console leadership has gone hand-in-hand with the desire to have a big slice of the market share of the digital homes of the future. The stakes are high, and most of us would have bet that the rivalry would continue for years to come.
What Prompted the Announcement?
It seems very likely that the announcement was prompted by Google’s reveal of its Stadia cloud streaming service. Stadia will allow users to play games without the need for a console. No lengthy downloads will be needed either; the service promises users that they will be able to simply open a browser, choose a game, and start playing. While limited to begin with, It will eventually be available on all browsers and will support desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Stadia wouldn’t be limited to just one game either. Google demonstrated a new YouTube feature, allowing viewers to jump on a link straight to a game.
Google’s big move into gaming suggests some serious rivalry for gameplay as it currently stands. The idea of a cloud-powered streaming service throws some serious competition at consoles. Google has the potential to leverage the popular YouTube platform, enabling users to instantly click and play. Google’s web dominance is a real threat with the potential to entirely change the playing field for gameplay.
Do Microsoft and Sony Have Streaming Services?
Sony has, in fact, had a streaming service, PlayStation Now, for years. PlayStation Now is a subscription-based service that lets users download and stream games from an ever-growing library. However, since its launch in 2015, it hasn’t moved forward enough to compete with the incoming threat. Sony continues to make most of its revenue through games console owners and alone it doesn’t have the infrastructure to compete with the cloud-powered services being launched by the likes of Google and Amazon.
Microsoft also offers streaming services, Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass. As with many other existing services on the market, they require users to pay a subscription and games to be downloaded before they can be played.
Microsoft has the cloud experience and server power that Sony needs to be in the game. To reduce latency, and deliver high-speed downloads, servers will be needed close to players in cities across the globe. Google, Microsoft and Amazon are in a position to make that type of investment. Sony, however, is either unwilling or unable and is under threat from huge competition.
What Will the Strategic Partnership Mean?
To enable it to stay in the game, Sony has turned to Microsoft for help. The simple solution would be for Sony to host its services on Microsoft Azure. However, the agreement looks to be more in-depth. The companies are exploring more options, a joint development for the future of cloud solutions within Azure.
It is likely that Microsoft and Sony will try to align the hardware of each of their existing streaming services on to a single platform. If the hardware is aligned, game developers will be able to more easily target the cloud platform and test games. By working together, they can create a more enhanced experience and build better development platforms.
As well as simply aligning their existing hardware, it seems that Sony and Microsoft plan to consider collaborating in the areas of semiconductors and AI. This could include things such as intelligent image sensor solutions, integrating Sony’s sensors with Microsoft’s Azure AI technology. It is the culmination of creativity and technology that might just give the joint venture the edge to compete in the new world of gaming.
What Does the Future of Gaming Look Like?
There is no question that the future of gaming will be cloud-based. Not only is Google paving the way but the likes of Nintendo, EA and Verizon are experimenting with cloud game streaming. Everyone is working towards a future where games are seamlessly streamed to devices, a ‘Netflix for gaming’ as many of the potential services have been dubbed. The competition looks to be fierce, and that will certainly benefit consumers. The future should see more choice than ever.
Microsoft and Sony are laying the foundations for their future within the gaming marketplace. If they collaborate to the extent that is being suggested, they will without a doubt have a significant impact on the streaming landscape. They are not going to let the newcomers like Google and Amazon dominate the marketplace and take over their reign. Let the battle commence.