You'd Be Foolish Not To Buy An Xbox After E3
Before getting started, we'd like to reiterate this isn't one giant ad for the Xbox Series X/S. However, if you work at Microsoft and fancy sending one my way, it'll save me buying one!
After sitting out 2020, the rebranded Electronic Entertainment Experience was back with a bang and delivered one of the biggest in its 26-year history. We're not even at the end of this year's E3, however, it's unlikely that much will be able to top the Microsoft and Bethesda showcase.
These two gaming giants have joined forces, with Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax Media being one for the ages. There are questions about what the future holds for Bethesda titles like Starfield in terms of Xbox exclusivity, but for the time being, Microsoft has made some major moves in cornering the market.
What does E3 2021 mean for Microsoft?
Whether it was a closer look at Starfield, the announcement of vampire-hunting Redfall, more space exploration with The Outer Worlds 2, or the long-awaited glimpse at an improved Halo, there was plenty to keep you invested during June 13th's Microsoft showcase. The jam-packed schedule reminded us that Microsoft now has its fingers in the pies of Obsidian, Mojang, Ninja Theory, The Coalition, and (most recently) Bethesda.
Considering Bethesda is an overseer of smaller studios like Arkane, MachineGames, and id Software, the $7.5 billion purchase of ZeniMax Media sounds like it was well worth it for Microsoft. Even if we didn't get an update on the long-awaited The Elder Scrolls 6, Starfield gave hope to a truly next-gen title that will be well worth its decade-long development. Importantly, there was a sense of symbiosis as things like Captain Jack Sparrow joining Microsoft favourite Sea of Thieves and new titles like Arkane's Redfall. It meant the ZeniMax announcements didn't jar against Microsoft's usual slate.
While Sony has dished out updates through its State of Play announcements, Microsoft saved most of its big news for E3. Missing out on the action, Sony opted not to appear at the expo's return. It comes after a pretty disastrous month when Santa Monica Studio confirmed God of War: Ragnarok won't be released in 2021. This gap in the market left room for Microsoft to slip in and potentially annihilate its biggest competition.
How is Microsoft going to overtake its rivals?
The pricing of the Xbox Series X compared to the PlayStation 5 was already competitive. Yes, Sony has PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now as subscription gaming services, but how can they compare to the Xbox Game Pass? Barely an E3 announcement went by without the words "day one to Game Pass" flashing past. There's already a tempting pricing structure for the subscription service, but with a plethora of Bethesda games also on board, it's a big win.
Elsewhere, Sony is sticking with a more traditional model of releasing games physically and digitally as individuals AND increasing the average price by £10/$10. Sony boss Jim Ryan is sticking to his guns, which could be another undoing for Sony as Microsoft charges ahead with making the Game Pass well worth the money.
If you do the maths, you could be spending $360/£255 on 12 Xbox games over three years, compared to $840/£595 for the same on PlayStation. The numbers simply don't add up, and over a longer period of time, you can pretty much buy a second console outright. Putting it plainly, Microsoft's structure of game releases is putting Sony to shame.
Looking at what the Game Pass has in the works for the near future, we've got Yakuza: Like a Dragon that arrived on June 13, The Ascent is coming on July 29, and the runaway success of Hades will make its mark on August 13. To say the Game Pass is competitively priced would be putting it politely. As Microsoft also puts its sights on the future of cloud gaming, other subscription services are being left in the dust.
Is there still room for Nintendo and Sony in Microsoft's world?
Of course, only a noob would completely write off Nintendo and Sony. For years now, Microsoft has been criticised for its lack of exclusives and overly relying on a handful of IPs like Halo and Forza. Those who listened to Phil Spencer and stuck with Microsoft are about to be rewarded, however, let's not abandon the PlayStation and Switch ships just yet.
In terms of family-friendly titles and portability, Nintendo has Microsoft licked. There's a reason the Switch was the best-selling console of 2020 and continues to sell great guns in 2021. Elsewhere, Sony still has a strong stock of exclusives that have seen the PlayStation 5 massively outsell the Xbox Series X/S. Bethesda's loss might be a blow to Sony, but with everything from Marvel's Spider-Man to The Last of Us, God of War to Horizon, there's a strong argument for PlayStation exclusives.
Ultimately, it looks like it's a trip to the bank to stump up for a trio of tech. Unless you've got the funds of Epic Games' Tim Sweeney, the thought of playing for three next-gen consoles might leave you in a cold sweat. Unfortunately, that might be the only way to play everything you want to.
As we head into a new generation of consoles, the big three are arguably further apart than ever. Instead of dreaming of a land made from rainbows and sunshine where Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony hold hands for a truly cross-platform catalogue, each is branching out on its own. As someone rightly put it, we shouldn't see Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony as opponents - merely competitors moving in the same space.
I'm a life-long Sony kid and play my PS5 on a daily basis. That being said, I'm currently scouring the internet in hopes of snagging an Xbox Series S for its cut-price offer. Couple that with Game Pass, and you probably won't be seeing me for a while. There's no escaping the fact that the console wars are heating up. Like Jedi vs. Sith, Alien vs. Predator, and Marvel vs. DC, we can't wait to see this one play out and whether Microsoft will come out the other side as the victor that claims the software spoils.
Images via Microsoft