How things can change in nine years. In 2013, the world seemed relatively stable, even lackluster. The global economy was working fine, you could cough in public without anyone batting an eyelid, and Microsoft had done such a terrible simulation of its Xbox One revealing that it had practically lost the console before it even started .
Fast forward to 2022, and it feels like the world is about to implode, but there’s a silver lining, and that’s Microsoft: the people’s champions, those who give their all to gamers, the company that transformed Xbox and everything around it is not just a great gaming platform, but a pioneering one, with its bold moves since 2013 forcing its rivals to constantly adapt.
Ok, so I’m obsequious for the effect, but the fact is Microsoft and Xbox have had a positive impact on the industry over the past few years. I’m saying this following Microsoft’s announcement that they’re testing a new family plan for Game Pass, which will bring it closer to that “Netflix of Gaming” dream by allowing five people to have separate accounts in a single subscription. . The family plan will be a little more expensive than a regular subscription, but apparently it will be much cheaper than having five separate accounts.
Then there’s the even bigger news that Microsoft plans to make games people own outside of the Xbox library available to play through cloud gaming (with recent news from VGC suggesting some of those early games could include GTA V and Elden Ring).
Microsoft constantly delivers great value systems for gamers, and Sony constantly has to adapt, which means they too are forced to deliver great value. Just look at Playstation Plus, which was only recently redesigned to look more like Microsoft’s Game Pass offering.
Sony chasing Microsoft has become a recurring theme in recent years. The PS5 may still be comfortably ahead of the Xbox Series in terms of sales, but it’s just the latest of many user-friendly moves of varying sizes that have forced Sony to respond with its own equivalent offerings.
It started with the launch of the Xbox One Backward Compatibility Program in 2015, which over the next few years made hundreds of original Xbox and Xbox 360 games available to play on Xbox One. It was a huge public relations win for Microsoft; several years of regularly revealing that hit games like Red Dead Redemption, Halo, Gears of War, older games like Oblivion and Morrowind would be playable on the Xbox One at higher frame rates and resolutions was a great look for the company.
Suddenly, those beloved old games were no longer becoming obsolete, but . Taking consoles a step closer to the luxury that PC gamers have enjoyed since the dawn of time, owning an Xbox One has suddenly become a viable way to enjoy your older games as well as the latest. Backward compatibility was of course nothing new – in fact Sony did it from the PS2 to the early models of the PS3 – but it seemed for a while that the major game consoles had simply abandoned this user-friendly practice. players (yes, you could play Wii games on the Wii U, but we said Major consoles – sorry).
Following the success of Microsoft’s program, backwards compatibility has become the buzzword for the PS5 and Xbox Series launches in 2020, with both consoles offering it to some extent. Sony was forced to catch up, and even then it couldn’t match Xbox which had a head start. Where the Xbox Series offered support for Xbox One games, as well as all the OG Xbox and 360 games it had already made playable on the Xbox One, the PS5 was limited to PS4 games, while games more old ones were only available through relatively restrictive cloud games.
Since then, Microsoft has continued to flex its financial muscles in the gaming space. After the backwards compatibility revolution, Microsoft began to increase the value of Game Pass; it added Cross-Buy and Cross-Play to many of its games between Xbox and PC, and then Game Pass came to PC in 2019 with the promise that all future first-party Xbox games would launch on Game Pass on day one.
We’ll never know if Sony’s steady rollout of some of its most valuable first-party Playstation games to PC since 2020 is a direct response to Microsoft’s cross-platform shift, or if the recent PlayStation Plus redesign that just so happens to make the service more like Game Pass is actually something to do with Game Pass. However, as long as Microsoft makes all the moves player friendly first, then anything Sony does along the same lines will just look like an answer. Right now, Microsoft is the floaty-footed boxer dancing around the ring and firing laser-precise punches, while Sony is pumping up trying to keep up.
It’s not often that a company in charge of a monopoly gaming platform does something that is in the best interest of the player at their own expense. Now, I’m not saying that Microsoft does this out of the goodness of its heart; there’s definitely a “long game” here, and Sod’s Law would have it that shortly after this article, Microsoft announces a Netflix-style 50% price hike for Game Pass that pushes gamers away in droves. But for now, after years of very good moves that have reshaped the industry on their terms, it has to be said that Microsoft has “done some good.”