It is no secret that Microsoft’s incentive for entering the video game space from the very beginning was in response to the threat posed to the PC (and hence to Windows) by Sony’s successful PlayStation line. Bill Gates saw the potential of home consoles to become a gateway and nexus for all home entertainment, one that could ultimately replace the home computer.
A Decisive Blow?
Flash forward two decades later. After a mildly successful start, the Xbox brand seems poised like it has never been before to take the lead in the home console space, with a flurry of high-profile acquisitions in the last few years — most notably of ZeniMax Media (which owns Bethesda) and of course most recently of Activision Blizzard, maker of popular franchises like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and others.
While dominance of the video game industry would be a nice additional feather in Microsoft’s cap, there are broader implications at play here, with media consumption on a level never seen before and a shift in the way entertainment media is distributed and consumed – i.e., streaming. Today’s gaming audience dwarfs that of just a few decades ago, and the current generation of gamers is the first that grew up with internet-enabled gaming machines, something that was introduced shortly before Microsoft entered the fray back in the sixth console generation with the original Xbox.
This current gaming generation is one that is defined by a gaming-centric culture, with other forms of entertainment such as movie and tv streaming revolving in a kind of orbit around games. And here we get to the crux of why big tech is so motivated to get in on the gaming space: as an entry point to our entertainment lives and a bridgehead toward grabbing not only our gaming dollars but also our music and television streaming dollars as well.
Readers have almost certainly become familiar with the term “Metaverse” of late. It is a reference to the digital worlds that some believe will be the future of the internet, with digital life becoming integrated with real life in the physical world. While some may find this notion disconcerting, that is the direction some think big tech is steering things with the metaverse concept, as each tech giant vies to grab a central role in it. And video games have become pathway a into our living rooms, and from there into our digital spaces, with well over 2 billion people on planet now playing video games regularly.
All this is part of the vision Microsoft leadership saw all those years ago, at the turn of the 21st century when the internet was just really beginning to take off and unalterably change our lives, with video games just beginning to get in on the net’s potential. The struggle between Sony and Microsoft has been fierce and certainly interesting throughout the years, with the two vying for a central place in the living room. Where it will all lead in terms of how we experience media, and how our lives as digital citizens will be impacted, it is too early to tell.