A month or two ago I wrote down my thoughts on the Xbox Games Showcase. In it I expressed frustration with the Xbox team. It was a showcase highlighting games in a CGI fashion. What the games actually looked and played like was beyond the viewers imagination. Although the showcase fell flat, almost every publication online said the same thing, the showcase wasn’t about the new Xbox console, it was about Game Pass.
While I agreed that becoming the Netflix of gaming would be a huge win, I wasn’t convinced Microsoft would be the one to accomplish it, at least not in the state they were in. At that time Microsoft had a trove of studios behind them but most of them had yet to prove themselves. With most of the games highlighted at the showcase being perhaps 2-3 years away, Game Pass would rely on studios that could easily miss their mark. It was then that I realized if Sony were ever to become serious in the cloud gaming front as Google and now Amazon have, Playstation would instantly become the front runner to gaining the title of Netflix of gaming. That all changed with the Bethesda acquisition.
The Xbox Games Showcase highlighted several titles coming down the line.
I will never forget that twenty first day of September. The headlines that day were everywhere. Microsoft was acquiring Zenimax for 7.5 billion dollars. Deals of that size in gaming are almost unheard of. The scale was finally balanced. Before I didn’t have an issue saying that Sony could make a Game Pass rival and easily lead the pack. Now I am not sure if Sony would be assured the top spot.
The difference between the time of the Xbox Games Showcase and now is that before Microsoft had plenty of small to medium sized studios that had a lot to shoulder. Microsoft was looking to finally come back from the Xbox One generation that nearly destroyed the brand. Sony on that other hand had already cultivated premium AAA studios and is currently on top off their game. No pun intended. The Zenimax acquisition is a confirmation that yes, this generation of the console wars will be a blood bath. Microsoft is looking to compete and acknowledges that Playstation will be a tough challenge so much so that they needed to acquire Zenimax and their entire roster of studios.
Today is a special day… We are THRILLED to welcome the talented teams and beloved game franchises of @Bethesda to Team Xbox!
— Xbox (@Xbox) September 21, 2020
What this move shouts out to the world is that content is king. Without the strategic acquisitions made by Microsoft, the Xbox team would be nothing more than a NBA team with a nice arena. That’s what Google and Amazon are, NBA teams with just a nice arena. Yeah they have the infrastructure to build their cloud gaming services but without the teams to put out amazing games no one will come to your arena or service. The difference between Microsoft and both Amazon and Google is that Sataya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, is fully invested in gaming and has assembled the Los Angeles Clippers of video game teams. Sure they are not the Los Aneglees Lakers meaning they’re not assured a spot at the NBA Finals but at the very least they have the potential.
According to CNet, Nadella claims Microsoft will continue to acquire more studios in the future. A few years ago this would be unheard of coming from Microsoft. Former CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, kept the Xbox brand at arms length making the Xbox leadership answer to the Windows team when it came to any acquisitions. Now under Nadella, Phil Spencer head of Xbox can use the full resources of Microsoft and truly compete against Sony. It’s hard to dismiss how both Nadella and Spencer have turned the ship around.
Now I am not saying victory is assured for the Xbox team over at Redmond but their content line up is finally looking on par to Sony’s in-house talent. Team Xbox only needs one or two more studio acquisitions to pull ahead. With the lack of eastern JRPG support, a good acquisition for Microsoft would be Sega. As the owner of one of the biggest JRPG studios through Atlus, Sega is the prime candidate in content the Xbox team needs. That being said Capcom also hosts unique content highly valued in both the eastern and western market with games like Resident Evil and Monster Hunter.
For now it looks like Microsoft is looking to compete with Sony on even footing. No more set backs, no more excuses. This is sure to be an exciting console generation.
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