Now that the PS4 and Xbox One have both been on sale for a few weeks, even making it through their first Black Friday together, we can safely summarize a few things.
Both consoles have sold just fine, with neither looking like it has a significant advantage at the moment (though Xbox One can claim a Black Friday victory by the looks of things). Some minor problems have plagued both machines, and the launch lineups were kind of underwhelming on the whole. In other words, exactly what we could/should have expected leading up to November.
That hasn’t stopped portions of the console gaming community from reacting with glee every time some bad news broke concerning one console or the other. Whether it was the PS4 having disc ejection issues or the Xbox One making the “grinding noise of death,” you could be sure that, like clockwork, people would soon be posting comments, tweeting, and basically letting the world know how happy they were about it.
It’s okay to have a favorite side in the console war. It’s human nature for us to be fans, especially in competitive situations like the one Sony and Microsoft are in (and Nintendo, if we’re being generous to the Wii U). I’m no exception; I was definitely a PS3 guy during the last gen, though I owned a 360 as well.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I mean are the people who don’t just want their preferred console to win, they want the other one to fail—as in so badly it won’t spawn a successor. And honestly, that sentiment just doesn’t make sense.
Some of it is due to the flag-waving that Sony and Microsoft do promoting their products. They stoke the fames of fanboy-ism, knowing full well what it turns into. That’s understandable given their stake in this battle, and what they’d stand to gain if their largest competitor suddenly threw in the towel.
Developers would never admit it openly, but they too would benefit in a one-console market. The process of creating games, especially the AAA variety, is only growing over time. You don’t think they’d love to save a ton of money by only having to develop games for one machine?
For gamers though, there’s no obvious benefit to a world without at least two consoles on the shelves. Sure, we could probably dream up a kind of Frankenstein’s monster box that would combine all of the best features from the PS4 and the Xbox One and say that would be better than either of them. It would definitely be cheaper than buying both (or maybe not, since monopoly tends to have an undesirable effect on prices).
The thing is, there’s no guarantee a hypothetical lone survivor from this eighth generation of consoles would adopt anything from the other side for the ninth. In fact, it’s pretty easy to think up a scenario where the winner sees the demise of the loser as a kind of mandate against whatever features made it different. To take just one example, given the way the Xbox One is marketed as an all-in-one living room solution, there’s no reason to assume Sony would put the ability to control cable TV into the PS5 if Microsoft exited the console business. I’ll go another step and say they almost certainly wouldn’t.
Let’s talk games too. If the Xbox Two, or whatever it ends up being called, is all alone six years from now, it’s possible that all of the franchises that are traditionally PlayStation exclusives would just switch over. Even first-party Sony games could do that (see: Sega), but we can’t just assume it would happen. More than likely, some would fall by the wayside. Want to see a “Gran Turismo 8,” for instance? We probably need a Sony console around.
There’s also a larger question about console gaming as a distinct entity that becomes more uncertain with each passing year. The appetite for devices whose primary function is to play $60 video games is still quite healthy at the moment, but with the innards of consoles and PCs growing increasingly similar and mobile devices gaining raw power on an annual basis, there’s at least the possibility that all of those technologies are converging.
That’s not necessarily bad, unless you happen to think there’s some inherent value in console gaming remaining its own thing. It’s impossible to predict how the landscape might look five or six years from now, but if we’d like to be talking about a ninth generation of consoles, it would help if there was more than one player in the space.
Above all, having choices is simply one of life’s most worthwhile pleasures. Even if you identify strongly with PS4 or Xbox One, the fact that you can decide between them is a beautiful thing. The debate about which one is better makes gaming more interesting, and each console is better off having the other around to keep pushing it to be its best.
So go ahead and cheer for your side, whether its Team Sony or Team Microsoft. Chide the opposition when they stumble, and beat your chest a little when yours does something great if that’s what you want to do.
Just don’t take it so far that you end up wishing for the console you don’t like to die. You might not like what happens if it does.