In the English language, two words can either influence people to embark on various paths in their lives or drive them completely crazy: what if? Whether it’s cheering on your favorite sports team, deciding on what field of study to pursue in college, or debating if you should ask that special person on a date, people ask themselves “what if” as a way to envision an altered version of their reality. Sometimes, it’s fun to think what life would be like if you won the lottery, for example, but thinking too much about “what ifs” can detach oneself from reality entirely. As with most things in life, balance is key. Finding the right balance in thinking about “what ifs” can actually be beneficial to our society, because it helps develop a blueprint toward building a better future.
Talking about the concepts of “what ifs” can lead down some pretty enlightening, deep conversations, but luckily we’re going to keep things a bit light-hearted. One of the biggest and fastest-growing markets in the world is video games. Since 2013, the trifecta of the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch have sold over 200 million consoles combined worldwide. Each day, games become more and more popular, which means the decisions behind their development become more and more of a hot topic. Be it games media outlets or average players, everyone has their two cents on how companies should be conducting business, especially as we enter a new generation of gaming consoles with the PS5 and Xbox Series.
Although the two consoles operate virtually the same, Sony and Microsoft possess slightly different philosophies. Microsoft focuses a lot of time and energy on backward capabilities and the widely popular Game Pass subscription service. Even though gamers are eager to have the latest console, many still want the opportunity to play old games they’ve grown to love. On the other hand, Sony doesn’t care as much about older games working on the PS5, nor does the company have a suitable counterpart of Microsoft’s Game Pass. And then there’s Nintendo. The Switch is one of the greatest inventions in gaming history, and Nintendo is on the verge of announcing a Switch Pro soon. While Sony and Microsoft tend to be a bit closer in comparison, Nintendo is in a category all to itself. Neither Sony nor Microsoft is necessarily wrong in their decision-making, but that won’t stop people from offering their opinions on how they’d run the show. So, here’s our chance to use those two words to envision our altered version of video game reality: What if you were in charge of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo?
For the past decade, Sony has dominated the games department. From Uncharted to Horizon Zero Dawn to Ratchet & Clank and everything in between, Sony’s exclusive games have exceeded plenty of expectations. Given the choice between quantity or quality, it’s clear that Sony will pour endless resources into developing top-notch experiences. While fans (rightfully) have brought up concerns about Sony’s lack of desire to preserve older games, there isn’t much that Sony has “done wrong” entering the PS5 era. But that also doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, as MP1st writer Sean Mesler pointed out.
“In all honesty, I would stay the course with one caveat,” explained Mesler. ” They have almost consistently proven they can deliver high-quality games from both their first-party studios and second-party partnerships. Just look at the past 12 months: The Last of Us Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Astro’s Playroom, Sackboy, Demon’s Souls, and now, Returnal with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart coming soon. They can improve on services and such, but what matters most are games. The caveat is that I would ditch last-gen sooner rather than later.”
Mesler brings up an interesting point regarding cross-gen support. With a new console on the market, it’s not uncommon for studios to continue developing games that would work on both current-gen systems and the next-gen systems. In other words, Guerrilla Games is developing Horizon Forbidden West, the sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn, for both the PS4 and PS5. Mesler’s desire to cut back on this type of cross-gen support would give developers more creative flexibility by fully embracing the power of next-gen systems, instead of having to fit within the power restrictions of a soon-to-be outdated console. Speaking about “power restrictions”, what if Sony went back to the portable drawing board?
“You know, I would love for Sony to take a crack at the portable side of business again,” senior editor James Lara explained. “Maybe it’s wise to explore a hybrid as Nintendo did with the Switch, but my only issue with that is the cost and the likelihood of it just gimping the main hardware. I would rather just have Sony look into getting as much power out of a new handheld, all while keeping cost down, lower than any of the given consoles on the market. The software has always been the key to consoles, so there would need to be a slate of titles exclusive for it. It would be a perfect opportunity for Sony to restore “dead” classic IPs.
Then again, I have been messing around with remote play on my iPhone a ton recently and as long as my connection is stable, the experience makes up for the lack of portability”
The idea of Sony reviving the PSP or Vita in a modern sense is tantalizing. Based on the massive success of the Switch, there’s clearly a portable market. It might be a pipe dream to wish for Sony to get back into the portable ring, but if done correctly, could open a plethora of opportunities. Even if this modern Vita wasn’t constructed in the same light as the hybrid Switch, being able to play Sony’s extraordinary titles on the go would be a game-changer.
Throughout the Xbox 360 era, Microsoft was in a good place. The tech company managed to break through and “win” the 360-PS3 era but stumbled a bit during the Xbox One era. While Microsoft’s Game Pass service is arguably one of the greatest subscription services ever invented (still don’t understand how Microsoft makes money off of it), the company is lacking in the exclusivity department. Aside from Game Pass, there isn’t a compelling reason to own an Xbox, other than being a die-hard fan. Microsoft needs to give people a reason why buying an Xbox is a good investment, and no, a subscription service (so far) doesn’t cut it. Luckily, Microsoft’s recent splurge of acquiring studios, like Bethesda, will certainly bolster its exclusive lineup in due time. But the lack of games, even if they’re coming in the future, is Mesler’s main issue with Microsoft and the first thing he’d change.
“With Microsoft, I would do the complete inverse of what I’d do with Sony,” Mesler said. ” The fact that Microsoft released a next-gen console without a single new first or second-party triple-A game, and still haven’t released one yet, is unacceptable. Microsoft can buy all of the studios and publishers it wants, but it still needs to deliver on games. So my main focus would be making sure my first-party studio had actual good games and not just titles to fill out the Game Pass library.”
Lara presented a similar course of action and agrees that the lack of games is Microsoft’s biggest area needing improvement.
“I would take the ‘less talk’ and ‘more action’ approach when it comes to upcoming titles,” Lara explained. “Every year it’s the same old talk, ‘we’ve seen what X developers are working on and it’s exciting,’ yet nothing ever comes out of it. I feel like the company has been doing the same thing for the last decade, where it expects people to wait for a gaming event, and then literally nothing happens. I love my Xbox Series X, but I can’t ignore that it has an issue when it comes to new IP releases. However, I will credit Microsoft on the console features, which have been great so far.”
At the end of the day, games are what will move the needle. Not console features or subscription services, but exclusive games. Microsoft didn’t shell out $7.5 billion for Bethesda to see the next Fallout appear on the PS5. Acquiring Bethesda eight months ago opens up many possibilities for exclusive Xbox titles, but patience is running thin. Microsoft has turned into a broken record telling its fans that exclusive games are coming, but when exactly? Halo Infinite was scheduled to release alongside the Xbox Series X last November, which would have been a huge boom to its sales. New exclusive games are important, but also succeeding in delivering the few exclusives it has is equally as important. Delaying Halo Infinite (presumably) a calendar year needs to pay off for Microsoft, otherwise, it might be too deep of a hole to climb out of. E3 2021 should certainly shed some light on that, but the clock is ticking.
Nintendo is essentially the black sheep of the gaming industry but in a good way. The storied video game company doesn’t play by anyone’s rules, except its own. While Sony and Microsoft were exchanging haymakers with their traditional consoles, Nintendo was pushing the boundaries of video game innovation. By creating the Switch, Nintendo successfully fused the concepts of traditional and portable gaming into one remarkable machine. As of January 2021, the Switch has sold over 78 million units, and according to various rumors, Nintendo is on the verge of unveiling an upgraded Switch Pro. So, how exactly can Nintendo improve even more on its current success? Just like Microsoft, Lara thinks it’s all about the games.
“The big thing that bugs me about Nintendo is the lack of updates on its big games,” Lara explained. “It’s kind of like Microsoft to a degree, but you also know that Nintendo will eventually follow through. From a business standpoint, I can see why announcing something so early works, as it draws up hype and sales, but as a fan, it’s frustrating not knowing when the next drop of information about a game is coming. Look at Breath of the Wild 2 for example, haven’t heard anything since Nintendo showed the teaser trailer to prove it existed, and I have my doubts that Pokémon Legends: Arceus will launch next year given the early bits of gameplay we’ve seen. I think, ultimately, Nintendo needs to be more in the spotlight when it comes to talking about games and showcasing them more often.”
As previously mentioned, Nintendo doesn’t play by anyone’s rules. Unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo will announce a direct showcase for a random Tuesday to talk about Animal Crossing for 30 minutes. There’s a reason fans joke about Nintendo shadow releasing games because there’s typically not a whole lot of information to go off. It’s not a surprise Lara’s biggest concern with Nintendo is the lack of information, and while it would be greatly appreciated for fans and the media to know more about the inner workings of Nintendo, it’ll be more of a surprise to see the company succumb to those wishes.
Mesler, on the other hand, wants Nintendo to provide a bit more “oomph” in its console.
“For Nintendo, I would do the same thing I’ve been wanting them to do for decades: release a console that is powerful enough to compete with Sony and Microsoft,” Mesler explained. “Having more power wouldn’t diminish its output, and it would greatly serve Nintendo to have the strong, current-gen third-party support. Sure, Switch is selling extremely well, but I truly believe it would sell even better if Nintendo could get the current-gens best third-party games instead of ports of games from ten years ago and severely gimped versions of last-gen games.”
Nintendo has some of the most beloved game franchises in existence with Zelda, Mario, and Metroid to name a few. While those franchises are critically acclaimed in their own rights, imagine how those games would look and feel with the power of the PS5 or Xbox Series X? Or maybe, those games would lose some of their charm if given a boost in power? Regardless, Nintendo isn’t doing itself any favors by limiting its games due to an insufficiently powered console, which makes the Switch Pro so captivating.
Although some of the suggestions here might seem unattainable and simply wishful thinking, there are a few that are within the realms of possibility. Making its long-awaited return, E3 2021 looks to re-ignite the gaming industry with a slew of highly-anticipated reveals. Fans expect Microsoft to finally unveil many of its upcoming exclusive titles and Nintendo to showcase more gameplay overall (looking at you Breath of the Wild 2). While Sony won’t formally attend E3, it will have its own separate showcase to announce release dates for the latter half of the year. It’s been seven months since the release of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the honeymoon phase has come to an end. With E3 and Summer Game Fest returning as well, it’s going to be an exciting summer (hopefully) packed with gaming news.
Editors’ Note: Views expressed here are solely of the contributors who participated, and don’t reflect MP1st’s views in their entirety.