When Sony announced their upcoming PS4 Pro at the PlayStation meeting, it was met by some backlash because it is significantly weaker than Microsoft’s upcoming Project Scorpio slated for release in 2017. At the time, Sony came out and said that the PS4 Pro wasn’t competing with the Scorpio but in fear of gamers jumping to the PC.
In an interview with the UK publication The Guardian, Sony’s Andrew House had this to say on the topic:
“It suggested that there’s a dip mid-console lifecycle where the players who want the very best graphical experience will start to migrate to PC, because that’s obviously where it’s to be had. We wanted to keep those people within our ecosystem by giving them the very best and very highest [performance quality]. So the net result of those thoughts was PlayStation 4 Pro – and, by and large, a graphical approach to game improvement”
However, Microsoft’s head of Xbox Phil Spencer doesn’t seem as threatened by PC as Sony looks to be. Here’s what he had to say in an interview with NZ Gamer:
NZGamer: The main push for the Scorpio has been that bump in fidelity; 4K, HDR. You claim that first party titles will run natively at 4K, instead of being upscaled compared to the Pro. Microsoft has been very bullish in its claims in social media – that Tweet with all the check-marks, saying what our systems can do. If you’re so power conscious – if a big push for you is to reach a subset of the console market that really cares about performance – aren’t you just making a case for the PC? What is it to stop people from jumping right over the Scorpio, and going to the PC?
Spencer: Yeah, it’s like you’re in our design meetings in a way, as we’ve talked about this. I usually don’t do this, but for this one I will specifically talk about Sony. I think they’ve come out and said PC is their competition.
Spencer: And I just don’t look at it that way. I know that some of our best Xbox customers also play games on the PC. I think for many gamers, there’s this artificial decision when a new game comes out – let’s use an example like Overwatch, because it’s an incredibly popular, great game from Blizzard and not one of ours.
So with Overwatch, when you go and buy this, you’ve got to make this decision on day one: “Are my friends playing on PC, or on console? If they’re on console, which one are they playing on?” And that’s going to dictate which version of Overwatch you’re going to buy.
When I think about it, I think that’s an unnatural decision tree that doesn’t help Blizzard, and doesn’t help the gamer. Really, what I want is people to be able to buy games, and play it where you want to play it right now. If that means you want to play it on your PC because you’re at work, and if you want to use the controller we have Bluetooth, or keyboard or mouse then PC games support that. Then when you’re at home, if you want to sit on the couch with a controller in your hands and play on your TV – you should be able to play the same games, with the same state, the same friends, the same progress and achievements. That’s kind of what led us into XPA.
So if I get to your question, I don’t think I’m pushing people over – I think I’m actually putting the game at the centre of how we think about our platform. What do they want to do? If they want to play their games on PC, I’m not trying to trick anybody into buying an Xbox.
What I’m saying is, for our first party games we’re seeing more adoption of XPA, and with third-party games as well. Just buy the games that you want to play. If you want to play them on PC today, and console tomorrow, we’re going to support that. If you never want to play on an Xbox, that’s OK. If you said you only want to play an Xbox that’s OK as well. You make the decision about the games you want to play, and where you want to play them. We’re going to build a platform that supports that.
NZGamer: Where do you see Microsoft at the end of this console generation, if that is even a thing anymore? Are you confident that you’ll catch up with the competition? Where do you want to see Microsoft at the end of this?
Spencer: The thing that’s probably most important to me and the team is not a direct competition with Sony and PlayStation in terms of catch-up. And people question whether I’d say that if we were in the lead, but I honestly kind of believe that. We don’t drive our program, thinking about how that’s the primary goal.
I want to be the best platform for developers and gamers. I want gamers to feel like they’re best gameplay experience is on an Xbox – from an Xbox Live performance standpoint, from a feature set like cross-play and mods, and game previews and stuff like XPA that we’ve been adding.
Developers see it as a place where they can deliver their best content, reach the most customers. And while it’s not the most sexiest [sic] thing to say, make the most money. That’s the thing that keeps game development going. I’m listening to them on things like game preview, supporting things like EA Access, and unique business models that publishers and studios are coming up with.
The indie community. The indie community here in Australia and New Zealand is really critical. I know a lot of the big publishing work isn’t here anymore. On Thursday I’m going to see Swinburne [University] and go to the arcade. There’s a real vibrant indie community here. A lot of them are publishing on Xbox, and that feedback we get from them to be successful is critical.
So I’ll say at the end of this generation – and I don’t think you and I know what that is yet – but I’ll say I want Xbox to be seen as a great consumer, gaming brand. Where gamers feel like they have the best experience from the capability of the hardware, all the way to the service. And developers see it as the best platform for them to deliver their best work, and make the most money.