It’s that time again when the much hyped and anticipated gaming consoles hit the shelves and shoppers scramble to get their hands on them. If you’re not fast, you’re last and will be left stumping up for an overpriced console on eBay or patiently waiting until the prices drop.
Microsoft vs Sony!
This month both Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Sony (NYSE:SNE) brought their latest offerings to consumers in time for Christmas. There’s Sony’s PlayStation 5 (PS5) which comes in two versions, and there’s Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and its cheaper sibling the Xbox Series S.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Both consoles are still rocking their current versions, but these latest upgrades include much faster downloads and a new feature called ray tracing, which improves the graphics to another level of reality. It makes light and shadows appear around the figures and objects in the game, improving the realism to fully immerse players in their online environments.
It’s actually a whole seven years since the PS4 launched on the gaming scene, for that reason alone gamers can expect a significant improvement in graphics and overall performance. The Xbox Series X is a black box, similar to an old-school PC hard drive. It’s not sleek or stylish, just boxy, black and inconspicuous. It does, however, sport a futuristic grid on the top, from which it can emit that symbolic green glow. Xbox games also load much quicker than in previous versions.
The PS5 is taller but flashes a stylish design reminiscent of a superhero in a striking white coat. According to Reuters, in the US, Sony pre-sold as many PS5 consoles in 12 hours as in the first 12 weeks for its predecessor the PS4. And it’s widely expected that overall the Sony console will ultimately be the more popular of the two.
Are Amazon and Google joining the big leagues?
Some analysts believe this could be the last big stand-alone console launch. As the pandemic shone a spotlight on the pros and cons of gaming this year, it highlighted several things. Video games are a fantastic way to escape the troubles of life. They pass the time, provide competitive interaction with friends, family and associates, and can even be educational.
Results of a recent Oxford university study of 3,270 players even show time spent playing video games can be good for your well being. This is based on the feeling of competence and social interaction derived from play.
However, these gaming consoles are expensive and out of reach for many families. Just like Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) changed the movie business and Spotify changed music, there are now cloud gaming efforts in the mix to challenge the status quo. Two major names working in this field are Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL).
Amazon has launched a cloud gaming service called Luna. It’s still in the early stages of launch and only available across the mainland US. However, it offers a glimpse into what the future of gaming may look like and could render the current console business obsolete.
What it shows is the potential for players to enjoy console video games on devices like a Fire TV, PC, Mac or even iOS and Android phones. There will be no need to worry about having enough space for downloads or significant updates. And it starts at an affordable $5.99 a month.
Google’s offering is similar. It’s called Stadia and has been around since last year. Stadia is gradually improving but can no way yet be considered a viable competitor to the PlayStation or Xbox. It does offer a subscription-free option including 25 games, but doesn’t have many popular games.
At the moment Sony and Microsoft have nothing to worry about and their consoles continue to be big money-spinners for the businesses. They’re also venturing into the cloud environment.
Gaming in the cloud
Microsoft has its Game Pass service, which lets players stream over 100 high-quality games from the Xbox One or other devices. While PlayStation has a similar game subscription service called PlayStation Now.
Microsoft recently spent $7.5 billion acquiring game studio ZeniMax. While PlayStation bought a $250 million stake in Epic Games, which makes Fortnite. The gaming business is booming, and this trend is set to continue, with the likelihood of a $200 billion market within a few years.
As the world becomes more reliant on the cloud and businesses transition to home working permanently, Microsoft in particular should continue to thrive. But both businesses are heavily diversified and should be able to weather the changes.