With gamers anticipating the next generation PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two consoles, industry analysts are assessing what we can expect from the Sony and Microsoft machines. Undoubtedly, there has been a massive evolution in both technology and the video gaming industry since Sony first dreamt up the idea of the PlayStation franchise, and the PlayStation 5 will thus arguably be the most important console that the consumer electronics giant has ever released.
The recent announcement that online multiplayer play will be supported for cross-platform users on Xbox One, Windows 10 and other “online multiplayer networks” is massive news for the industry, and suggests that the Xbox Two and PlayStation 5 could offer this as well. This paints a picture of a more collaborative future for Sony and Microsoft, as both companies face competition from PCs, smartphone games and other sources in an increasingly competitive industry.
It is not yet known what this means for the future of exclusive titles on the two console platforms, but it does suggest that both manufacturers are considering how to get gamers onside with the console concept, rather than fighting each other mercilessly.
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Playstation 5: Last Sony console?
It is increasingly predicted that the PlayStation 5 will be the last ever machine that Sony releases in this particular niche, as the technological need for consoles has simply declined significantly. With this in mind, it is being strongly suggested in some quarters that both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two will be based around online, downloadable and streaming components from day one.
Reports are already suggesting that the PlayStation 5 could be announced this year, but that there will be something of a surprise when it is indeed confirmed. Rumors from close to the Sony supply chain have suggested that the console may be announced before 2016 is out, and that the unveiling may take place alongside the hugely anticipated PlayStation VR virtual reality gadget.
Effectively, Sony could soft-launch the PlayStation 5 in 2016, with a new type of virtual reality technology central to this process. A glove-based controller has been spotted among patents applied for by Sony recently, and it is suggested that this could pave the way to a cloud-based gaming system.
There’s nothing particularly unusual about this, as both existing mainstream video games consoles allow some form of cloud-related functionality. But the suggestion is that Sony and Microsoft could be tempted to move away from hardware in the next console generation, and that Sony could steadily build a PlayStation 5 based on the streaming and downloading of software.
Essentially, the PlayStation VR system is viewed as a foundation for Sony to launch a fully cloud-based gaming system, in which the disc drive, and possibly even hardware itself, is eliminated from the console. Whether this would be a standalone device, or whether Sony would also manufacture a more regular PlayStation 5 console, delivering disc-based gaming to all those who desire it, certainly remains to be seen.
It is anticipated that this glove system would enable PlayStation 5 users to connect their consoles to a remote server via the Internet, with the server then transmitting data to the PlayStation headset directly, as opposed to going through a computer or console. The technology is similar to the downloading of files, but data will not necessarily be saved to the device; a similar system to existing online streaming.
Sony has certainly not confirmed anything of this nature as of yet, and it should be emphasized that there is no commercial need for the corporation to take risks with the PlayStation 5. The PlayStation 4 has significantly outsold the Xbox One, and it is already ensured that Sony will dominate the existing console generation.
Xbox Two challenges
There is more onus, though, on Microsoft significantly improving the commercial performance of the Xbox Two, and this has already led some analysts to question whether Microsoft will indeed ever release such a device. Microsoft has publicly confirmed that it will release an Xbox Two, and that it will be a standard mainstream console. But the last thing that the corporation will want is another flop like Windows 8, so there is no doubt that the hierarchy at Microsoft will be assessing the market and its forthcoming strategy very closely.
Reports over the last couple of weeks have already indicated that Microsoft is looking to strengthen its ties with PC vendors in order to create titles that can be played on PC platforms. It is suggested that it is not inconceivable that the Xbox Two could become merely a platform for PC gaming, with Microsoft concentrating on this fertile and growing market.
Regardless of this suggestion, it is likely that Microsoft will significantly tweak its strategy when the Xbox Two is unveiled. The console manufacturer cannot afford such a massive investment again, only to be completely wiped out in the marketplace by Sony. So we could see Microsoft seriously considering releasing an Xbox Two variant that is online-based from the release date of the machine, which would be a significant departure from previous consoles.
This would be advantageous to Microsoft, as it would help the corporation significantly keep down development costs, particularly if it was possible to deliver Xbox Two game streaming from the release date of the console. But the corporation must also consider some of the lessons that it learned from the release of the Xbox One.
The existing Microsoft console was hamstrung even before its release because Microsoft failed to ultimately deliver on the desires of consumers. Although online and cloud-based gaming is becoming more popular, there is also no doubt that many gamers continue to favor disc-based gaming, and Microsoft must be extremely careful not to alienate its core consumer base before vastly altering the existing console model. It would surely be wise to investigate online gaming as part of its overall strategy to provide the consumer with choice, rather than phasing out the mainstream Xbox Two console completely.
Another complication for both Sony and Microsoft is that the market is both accelerating and splintering rapidly, with numerous devices all competing for a slice of the gaming pie. Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two will be required to deliver some outstanding gaming features, with 4K resolution expected to be mainstream by the time that the machines released, and virtual reality will also almost certainly be part of the mainstream gaming landscape at that time as well.
This will pose more technical problems considering that even though the PlayStation Now service has been established, it is yet to really deliver what could be described as contemporary gaming. If the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two are to deliver online gaming out of the box, both Sony and Microsoft will face technical challenges. But the economics and the practicalities certainly make sense even for the market-leading Sony.
What does seem likely, though, is that both PlayStation and Xbox gamers will be more united than has ever been the case previously.