The console wars as we used to know them are dead. Long live the consumer. It is now time for people to slow down their dated and toxic fanboyisms and realize each major company is no longer in the same space they were two or 3 console cycles ago. The differences between Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo used to be pretty small with all of them (Gamecube, PS2, Xbox) providing the same experience, more or less. It was with the introduction of the Wii that Nintendo took themselves out of the fictionalized and hyped battle, opting instead for a cheaper, more unique approach to playing games, essentially marketing themselves as a companion system to the other two “big dogs.”
This is how it has been for the last two generations of consoles. Sony and Microsoft offering very similar products with Nintendo innovating and people fighting over which system is better. But the better or best place to play is and was always subjective to the consumer. If I say I prefer PlayStation, because I enjoy the exclusive games they offer and the ecosystem in which to play those games, I can’t possibly be wrong, unless I say them on the internet, which I guess I sort of am now.
This upcoming cycle is looking vastly different for many different reasons. While the generation of PS4 and Xbox One started off the same as it always has, it couldn’t be anymore clear that the two companies adopted two very different goals during the midway point. Sony made big pushes with it’s controller tech and entries into VR and AAA exclusives and seems to want to push those things forward into the coming years, with follow ups to Horizon Zero Dawn, Spider-Man and God of War coming in the first year of launch. While Microsoft adopted a very strong stance on a service approach, launching Game Pass and making as many games accessible and playable as possible without having to purchase the games themselves. Two very different approaches for a modern marketplace that sees a diverse number of consumers with varying needs, wants and habits.
In the weeks leading up to the launch we’ve seen announcements of huge exclusive characters and which controllers can be played where, prices and further details related to the two. Nothing shocking if you see that the announcements are simply following the respective business plans of each company, one looking to sell consoles and the other looking to sell the service. Looking around the comments section it just ignited further divisive comments from people in both camps.
To still see so much vitriol from “fans” is getting tiring. Look, I get it, we as humans survived for the longest time in tribes, it is ingrained in us. We relied on groups for food shelter and safety. As the world became bigger and more digital our sense of tribalism has changed. Instead of banning together for survival it is now banning together to share sick memes of opposing console choice and calling each other stupid for simply having a preference. We as people need a sense of belonging and to know that the group we chose for ourselves is the right and true group. But when we are talking trivial things like which box you are going to be downloading 156 gb of Call of Duty on, we need to reevaluate how far we are willing to take things.
It is already hard enough to get along with each other given the vast amount of these “tribes” we have put ourselves into theses days, so let’s just let this one go. While I still recognize that each company is competing for consumers hard earned dollars, the competing is on the company and the company alone. When companies compete, consumers win with more choices and innovation. We gain nothing from attacking one another’s “console tribe” except making our shared social spaces shittier and darker than they already are. If we can add more empathy and less judgement we can slowly remove one less tribe from the world and come a little bit more united as one.