Competition Drives Innovation – The Console Wars

Industries do not thrive if competition is non-existent. If monopolies were more prevalent, then that industry would stay stagnant and it would be disastrous for growth as a whole. As it relates to the video game industry, the console wars are actually beneficial. The optics are never good, especially considering how passionate a fanbase can be, but these discussions help push the industry forward.

Without this competition between major console developers, we would be stuck with a stagnant product. Think of Madden or NBA 2K, these are fundamentally solid games, but have only made minimal changes throughout the years because of the lack of competition. The last time Madden had a competitor was NFL 2K and this was all the way back in 2005. Madden has since been heavily criticized throughout the years for literally pushing out identical titles each year.

Innovation only exists due to competition. What’s fascinating is that even with established fanbases, console developers are diligently working to innovate in the hopes of capturing a greater market share. Each generation almost always brings something new, even if it isn’t always welcome. Eventually, the push to implement new technology will catch on and once it does, you can bet that it will become a point of emphasis for the industry.

As far as current trends go, streaming will be the next point of emphasis moving forward. Google has decided to throw its hat in the ring with the Stadia and anyone assuming they won’t be competitive is clearly underestimating how capable the technology giant is. They have the resources to compete and wouldn’t have gone out of their way poaching some of the best minds in the industry if they thought otherwise.

Microsoft in turn will respond with its XCloud streaming service and while Sony has it’s own streaming service in PS Now, they will be partnering with Microsoft for cloud gaming. If Google wasn’t a threat, this partnership would have never come about. The next generation will end up including a new competitor and this will help further the industry even if Google doesn’t last.

It’s no secret that developers want their fans to be passionate. The debates on social media act as free marketing and there are always individuals looking to convert. In the past, aggressive marketing tactics involved taking swipes at your competitors to get the fan base riled up.

Today, a simple tweet is more than enough to stoke the flames as the fans would rise up and do the rest. When Microsoft and Nintendo announced their intent to introduce cross-play, fans were quick to chastise Sony for their lack of participation. Sony begrudgingly relented, because it’s best to go with the current than against it.

Social media should be viewed as a double edged sword as while it allows for greater consumer interaction, it is almost impossible to predict how the masses will react. It does however, allow developers the time to make changes if they send out information within a certain window.

Being able to mitigate these PR disasters will help strengthen the relationship between the consumer and the developer even if it comes at the cost of public perception. These mishaps are not as damaging as in years past because regardless of their size, developers have been able to not only navigate the murky waters, but thrive.

As it currently stands, the gaming industry as a whole has seen incredible growth this generation and should continue trending upward as we move into the next generation. While the term “console wars” should be met with cringe as it immediately evokes toxic reactions, it is what ultimately has defined the competition within the industry. Without it, gaming wouldn’t be where it is now. The future is bright.

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