Last night, both Apple and Sony held events that changed the shape of the video game industry and will most likely have strong reverberations for how people game going forward months and years.
First, let’s start with Apple. The event was ostentatiously about the iPhone 7, but the first 30 minutes were more-or-less dedicated to one company: Nintendo.
After the success of Pokémon Go, the users of which have walked 4.6 billion kilometres since launch, Apple was obviously feeling generous and let the company unveil what will most likely turn out to be its future beyond the Wii: iPhone-based games.
The first game announced was Super Mario Run, a side-scrolling iPhone exclusive (an Android counterpart is coming, but no date was given) that looks to take the success and name recognition of Nintendo’s games to Apple’s devices. More games are likely in the works.
Nintendo has become something of an oddity in the gaming world as the iPhone crushed its business but its name recognition is still vast. The deals with Apple and Niantic, the coding brain behind Pokémon Go, are clever.
Even if the strategy fails, the shift away from the Wii and other Nintendo-made consoles by Nintendo is interesting and sits in stark contrast to the strategy Sony is pursuing.
Sony’s event, held minutes after Apple’s finished, showcased two new consoles. The first, leaked as the PS4 Slim, will replace the current PS4. Its main defining feature is a slimmer casing, with no power drawbacks, which makes it easier to house.
The second console announced is far more interesting. Sony has doubled down on its high-end credibility for the PS4 Pro, upgrading almost all the internal components to deliver 4K gaming. The price is higher, but that’s expected.
Right after the event, Microsoft hit back on Twitter, outlining the features of the Xbox One S, including 4K gaming.
As anyone following along at home will know, the PS4 has been beating the Xbox One when it comes to sales for a long time, almost since launch when there was confusion about how Always On the console had to be, especially regarding the Internet for gaming.
Some of the criticism that Microsoft levelled at the PS4 Pro are legitimate, including its inability to play 4K BluRays which, for a console that pioneered the technology, is slightly baffling.
Microsoft isn’t stopping there, either, as Aaron Greenberg, head of Xbox Games marketing, pointed out. Project “Scorpio” is set to be released in the holiday of 2017 and, according to Microsoft’s official marketing materials, it’s “the most powerful console ever.”
What Scorpio will actually look like remains to be seen—and will stay that way for a long time. Sony has evidently decided to get out in front and release something, hoping that new console users (and current PS4 users) will be tempted by either a drop in price (Slim) or improved performance (Pro).
Some have worried that console gaming is going away, but the vibrancy of the platforms, especially when it comes to games, begs to differ. The iPhone has forced Nintendo into capitulation—as evidenced by Super Mario Run—but Sony and Microsoft are holding true and firm.
Sony, of course, has an edge as it stands right now. Two newly minted consoles on the market compared to Microsoft’s one with a promise of another, which may or may not be worth waiting for. The past few years have also had a big affect on the market for consoles, mostly to Sony’s benefit.
There is always room for manoeuvre and Microsoft’s war chest, largely generated from its other unrelated businesses, and inclusion of Windows 10 on the Xbox (which brings it closer to those businesses) could provide a lot of upside in the near-term.
Really, it’s all to play for.