The console wars continue

For those of you that follow my podcast on Youtube, you’ll know that i’m a great believer in console exclusives. My theory is simple: if you make awesome games, people will buy those awesome games because all that we as gamers REALLY care about is having awesome games! Sounds simple enough. In fact this is a strategy that Playstation has been executing for years with their consoles. In the mean time Microsoft has been focusing on making their console feature rich. With respect to Microsoft this was how Sony cemented their success with the PS2 when Microsoft were first threatening the market with their first iteration of the xbox. The playstation 2’s integrated Blu-ray player however, made it a popular choice for households over Xbox’s HD DVD.¬†Microsoft hires ex God of War and Red dead staff for new studio.

Microsoft hires ex God of War and Red dead staff for new studio

With this in mind Microsoft recently announced on twitter new staff for their new studio The Initiative. The name alone suggesting this is the first step in a radical move. Eurogamer reported that studio head Darrell Gallagher posted a message on Linkedin congratulating several new staff members on joining their team.

Microsofts new Studio the initiative post new staff announcements on Linkedin
This post on Linkedin was quickly removed despite many of the people involved having announced it on their own profiles already.

For those of you with a keen eye for names, you’ll notice recent God of War’s Lead producer Brian Westergaard. Christian Cantamessa on the other hand was previously the lead designer and writer for Red Dead Redemption, so no shortage of AAA talent here. Other names on the list include Daniel Neuberger and Lindsey Mcqueeney (Crystal Dynamics) Microsofts own senior director of portfolio planning, Blake Fischer and Annie Lohr, the highly experienced recruiter who’s worked with many of the big names in gaming including Riot, Respawn and EA.

An all star cast!

This feels like Microsoft is finally making a strong move into creating console exclusives to rival Playstations ever growing catalogue, though is it too late for the xbox to get back into this race?

Graph showing the total sales for the last year of Sonys PS4 vs Microsoft Xbox One vs Nintendos Switch
Graph showing the total sales for the last year of Sonys PS4 vs Microsofts Xbox One vs Nintendos Switch

As you can see in the last financial year alone, PlayStation has been the consistently dominant force in the market, with even the newly arrived Nintendo Switch starting to close the gap. It does paint a slightly grim picture for Microsoft, and one can argue that with PlayStation believing their console is in the last three years of its life cycle, that one game from Microsoft (that we realistically won’t see for another two years) will be two little too late for them.

Microsoft keep their eye on the prize

Perhaps what we’re seeing is the foundations of their strategy for their next gen console. Sony have a huge head start, having acquired various developers over the years, who now have strong track records of making quality PS exclusives. Is this Microsoft re-shifting to get a strong start on the next level of gaming?

I can honestly see a strong case for this. Perhaps the Xbox One has been nothing more than a stepping stone to what comes next. Bare with me on this. The past few years we have seen them pour in feature after feature to make their product as versatile and capable as possible. Some of these features have been very welcomed and have kept Xbox in the race to a certain degree. For example, backwards compatability is something that Sony have been heavily critisized over the years, something which Microsofot happen to have nailed on the head, re-releasing remastered games for free (to those who owned it originally) on their newest platform.

I guess what i’m getting at is that they have a strong grooming in creating a feature rich device that is doing the things we want as consumers. This new studio “The Initiative” could very well be the next phase in preparing to add some great exclusives to an already well built console (the red ring of death is far less featured in memes these days, so I assume they fixed their hardware issues in that area)

Can Microsoft turn it around?

It feels like Microsoft have made a statement with this announcement, Though the original post was quickly deleted from Linkedin (with no clear reason as to why) we can look forward to more big staff announcements from the new studio as they advertise that they are still looking for a new Art director and Technical director.

Personally I hope that microsoft are working on some new original IP’s for the Xbox, though I think they will have to readdress their release policy with porting many of their xbox games to PC. I think they sometimes forget that they are in fact in competition with themselves on that front and though I appreciate the generous ecosystem between the two I think that if they truely want to compete with Sony on the console front, then they will have to re-address this relationship.

IGN original article

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