Microsoft has long been considered the “loser” of this generation, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean failure, it does mean there’s a lot of catching up to do. With the Nintendo Switch already catching up to estimated Xbox One sales numbers (Microsoft has kept those numbers hidden), a lot needs to happen and fast if Phil Spencer and his crew want to be a number one contender again. Luckily, a lot of puzzle pieces seem to be falling in place for the company, enough so that while there are still plenty of uncertainties, we have a huge opportunity to see the company snag a massive portion of the gaming mindshare. Through E3, cross-platform play and studio moves coming to fruition, Microsoft and the Xbox One family (and perhaps whatever’s next) are in the perfect position to blow the lid off 2019.
For starters, there’s something we’ve (the royal we) already talked about throughout the gaming community. Sony Interactive Entertainment famously dropped out of E3 2019 ahead of time, and even dumped its own PlayStation Experience event (in North America). Nintendo always shows up to E3, but doesn’t have the big stage show anymore in favor of its (very successful) Nintendo Direct presentations. This opens up the floor entirely to Microsoft, which will now only be competing with third-party software companies for mindshare during the pre-E3 “press conference” dates. In a recent interview with Phil Spencer, he even spoke about the matter suggesting Microsoft’s Xbox team debated on how to present at the show. Ultimately, they decided to take the opportunity and “be as big at E3 as we’ve ever been.”
Next is the whole cross-platform thing. While this is Microsoft being more opportunistic than anything else, there’s no denying that the Xbox brand has been able to leverage this situation to the best of its ability. Microsoft probably wouldn’t be playing ball either if it was in Sony’s spot, but that isn’t the case, and now Microsoft has built tons of infrastructure around cross-platform play, likely altering the course of video games forever. Nintendo got roped in too, but almost as a beefy little henchman instead of the tip of the spear.
Either way, the whole thing got so loud within the community that Sony even had to cave a little (on its own terms of course), and now Microsoft is getting ready to talk about having Xbox Live services running on other platforms (mobile, Nintendo Switch). As long as this particular fire keeps burning, Microsoft will likely keep upping the ante and altering the way we look at competition in the hardware space.
Finally, we have to talk about the studios. Microsoft of course made a bunch of crazy studio acquisitions that were first announced at E3 2018, including Ninja Theory and later, Obsidian. These are some huge gets, in addition to various AAA development talent that was more or less poached for a brand new studio. Things are moving at these studios, and Spencer has stated he has seen what several of these teams are working on. Meaning, assuming things go well, we could be seeing what these games are earlier than we may have expected. Granted, “earlier” could still mean “years,” so these are still very much long terms partnerships.
Ultimately, this is a big opportunity for Microsoft to set the tone for what’s ahead in console gaming. At present, early 2019 seems to be all about tying up loose ends. Games announced years ago are still being developed, but will soon start seeing release. Meanwhile, the next generation of hardware for Sony and Microsoft are only rumors at the moment. Nintendo is Nintendo, but even its software plans have been disrupted a little. With E3 2019 being halfway through the year, unless Sony tries to pre-empt everyone and do something major, earlier, Microsoft can not only take control of the narrative on a huge stage the competition won’t be on, but could potentially do it first. And first counts for a lot.