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Gameverse | September 18, 2020

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Xbox Series X Proves Console Wars Are Good For Everyone

Matthew Byrd

We’ve spoken before about the sales figures for games and the sales figures of some of the best consoles of all-time. However, it’s important to remember that when it comes to console wars, sales only tell part of the story.

The Dreamcast was a sales disaster, but it expanded the scope of console design possibilities for the next decade. The Xbox 360 trailed in sales behind the Wii and PS3, but its online features were a revolution that even facilitated the growth of indie game distribution. Sales matter in the console wars, but history has proven time and time again that they are not the sole determining factor in measuring the value of a console or the true importance of console wars.

If you want a more recent example of that philosophy, consider the innovations of the Xbox One and what Microsoft is already doing with the Xbox Series X.

Yes, we previously talked about how the PS4 is arguably one of the biggest runaway winners of a console war in terms of traditional data and quality of exclusives. Yes, a quick look at the Xbox One’s sales figures, small library of exclusive titles, and initially controversial policies would suggest that it has been something of a failure.

Those who have followed the history of the Xbox One more closely, though, know that there’s more to the console’s story than that. For instance, Microsoft has long been one of this generation’s greatest supporters of backward compatibility. They’ve also championed the idea of cross-play in the online age. They’ve even worked with their “enemies” (such as Nintendo) in ways that other studios haven’t done in the past.

Yet, when you look at what Microsoft has planned for the Xbox Series X, you start to realize that their biggest contribution to gaming this generation (and possibly into the next) is rather simple: they’ve made Sony better than Sony may have otherwise made themselves.

Sony’s grip on the console industry is strong. They’re basically synonymous with the idea of console gaming across the globe at this point. That’s largely because Sony has a fantastic history of delivering quality consoles and great games at fair prices. They’ve also made tremendous strides when it comes to getting consoles in the homes of those who may not otherwise consider themselves to be gamers.

If, however, you were to describe Sony as being complacent during the PS4’s generation, then it would be hard to argue with you. Right from the start, Sony sold the PS4 as a traditional game console. It was a smart counter to Microsoft’s controversial Xbox One plans, but it failed to acknowledge that times were changing in gaming. As such, Sony fell behind in many of the respects that we just praised Microsoft for.

We’re seeing something similar with the Xbox Series X. We already know that Xbox Series X games will soft support certain previous-gen purposes, and we already know that Microsoft is pushing for most early Xbox Series X first-party titles to still be available on Xbox One for at least the first year. Both of these policies help ease the sometimes awkward transitional process between console generations.

We don’t know if Sony will adopt similar policies, but considering that Sony has already altered its cross-play, backward compatibility, and game streaming services in order to keep up with Microsoft, you’ve got to imagine that they’re working on ways to make that happen.

Console preferences aside, that’s objectively a good thing. Microsoft may be on their back foot at times, but they’re still forcing Sony to chase them. So long as they’re able to do that, they will continue to make Sony uncomfortable and challenge that sometimes ugly desire we’ve seen from the PlayStation team to settle for success.