A lot of people are commiserating over what Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard means for Sony. It means what we’ve already known. Microsoft and Sony are playing two very different games.
The discourse on Twitter over the shocking news that Microsoft is purchasing Activision Bizzard has been, well, something.
Many people are asking how Sony will respond to this, but oddly enough no one is asking how Nintendo will respond. It’s been common knowledge for quite some time that Nintendo isn’t playing the same game as Sony or Microsoft. It’s time people figure out that Microsoft isn’t playing that game either.
Sony wants you to buy a PS5. They are doing a really good job of selling you a PS5. Sony sells these at a loss initially to bring everyone into their ecosystem. Once you have a PS5, that’s where you’ll buy all your games. And once that is in place, then Sony can really start to turn a profit.
This is known as the “Console War”. Make the best hardware. Sell the most systems. Have more gamers in your ecosystem and you win.
Nintendo hates selling you hardware at a loss though, so they stopped playing this game in 2012 with the release of the Wii. Nintendo decided they weren’t going to make the most powerful console. Instead, they’ll make the cheapest and bring in the non-gamers.
By making a family system sold bundled with simple family-centered multiplayer titles, the Wii proved that they could win the console wars by simply not playing.
Nintendo’s reign hasn’t slowed down either. Despite being five-year-old hardware, the Switch continues to sell “like hot cakes” and shows no signs of slowing down.
This brings us to Microsoft and Sony. Sony will likely keep selling more PS5s than Microsoft does Xboxes, but here’s the thing. Microsoft doesn’t want to sell you an Xbox. They want to sell you GamePass.
GamePass is Microsoft’s game subscription service. Think Netflix but for video games. The difference is that after acquiring Zenimax and Activision Blizzard, Microsoft is more like Disney post the Lucasarts and Fox purchase than Netflix. Microsoft owns the biggest properties in gaming, and they want you to play them on Gamepass.
Microsoft doesn’t even care where you play Gamepass, as long as you’re playing. If you want to play on a phone, on PC, on Series X, or Series S, it’s all the same to them. Microsoft just wants you to pay them monthly for their subscription. And with twenty-five million subscribers, they’re doing a pretty good job.
The question of how Sony is going to respond starts to feel irrelevant when you consider how different the games they’re playing are. There will be more PS5s in people’s living rooms than Xboxes. That’s not going to change. But what if you had your PS5 for God of War, Spiderman, The Last of Us, but then rather than buy an additional Xbox, you just pay 15 bucks a month for Halo, Call of Duty, and World of Warcraft?
That’s the future Microsoft sees. One where they don’t compete with Sony’s 500 dollar console, but where they offer you a cheap monthly alternative with a ton of games that you can play anywhere. Microsoft is telling you to have your PS5, and your Gamepass too.