It sure seemed like the new Xbox Scorpio was the big news out of Microsoft press conference last week. It’s a new console, after all, and that’s usually the most important thing we can hear about from a console manufacturer. The Xbox Scorpio is a 4k-enabled improvement over the Xbox One, designed to play the same games at a higher resolution with more stable framerates. It’s a big risk in much the same way as the Playstation Neo: both Sony and Microsoft want to sell us new consoles without making our old ones obsolete, which is a marked departure from how console generations have worked for decades. It may not work, and it may work. Luckily, Microsoft wins either way.
The biggest news out of Microsoft’s press conference was not the Xbox Scorpio. It was the “play anywhere” program, which will allow cross-buy, shared achievements and shared game saves between Xbox One, Xbox Scorpio (assumedly) and PC, thus offering the biggest assault to date on the wall between Xbox and PC gaming. So far, only a dozen games will be supported, but this is clearly Microsoft’s gaming strategy going forward. In a word, the company is finally starting to care about PC gaming.
So we have a world where owning an Xbox offers fewer and fewer tangible benefits over buying a PC, but also a world where owning a PC for gaming becomes a better proposition every day. PC gaming still has plenty of drawbacks, to be sure — chief among them that PC gaming is monumentally complicated when compared to console gaming. But Microsoft appears to be actively pushing back against that idea, which dovetails nicely with the ever expanding ecosystem. Microsoft and Phil Spencer have an idea of why people game on consoles, and they’re trying to bring some of those advantages to PC, as well.
Which brings us back to Scorpio, and to PS4 Neo. This new concept of console gaming looks a whole lot more like PC gaming, and it could arguably start to erode some of the traditional advantages that consoles have enjoyed over PCs. It’s not hard to imagine a world where this idea doesn’t quite resonate with gamers, and where the confusing messaging surrounding new(ish) systems only serves to bolster the still-ascendant world of PC gaming. And Microsoft stands well-poised to take advantage of that.
That’s Microsoft’s not-so-secret weapon in the gaming world. The Xbox One may be struggling against the PS4, but Microsoft remains one of the biggest tech companies out there and the owner of the most popular gaming platform on the planet. So if consoles take a hit on this gamble, PC is right there to take up the slack. Any increased traffic to Windows 10 is solid for Microsoft, even if it comes out of its own ecosystem.
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