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Game Developer Consolidation Is The New Console Battle
Most gamers know of the console battle, but the stakes recently evolved. Rather than a conflict of platforms, it has become a conflict of game developer ownership for major publishing companies.
The internet has been talking about the console battle for years, and every new system release re-sparks old comments. However, recently the idea of the “console battle” has been shifting as platform graphics and developers are streamlining into a similar experience. With the acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft, many online experts believe that it’s the spark to a new level of the traditional console war.
The Console Battle Thus Far
Originally, new hardware releases would cause a sales conflict as cross-play wasn’t allowed for most platforms. PlayStation fans had to buy PlayStation if they wanted to continue playing with friends, and Xbox was in a similar position. Meanwhile, Nintendo continued to hold exclusive rights over titles and releases making their platform the only way to play the newest Smash Bros or Mario game.
Fans considered each season of new games for the platform a way of gauging progress, and as the console battle raged on each company made a bigger show of their new hardware’s exclusive perks. In truth, the console battle has always been about exclusivity one way or another which made the introduction of PC gaming an interesting evolution to the discussion. With hardware and custom builds being made by fans, exclusivity shifted from a hardware discussion to the developers themselves.
Acquisitions Are Power
Years later, the platform became a matter of preference with many discussions revolving around which games are coming to which system. This shift in focus makes new releases valuable, and by purchasing a gaming giant like Activision Blizzard, Microsoft ensures that they have what fans are looking for. However, it is much more complicated than simply trying to own every studio.
Sony responded by buying Bungie, but the weight of the studio is way different than it used to have. With indie developers growing at a steady rate and new names appearing in the AA publishing world, old studios are not holding all the power anymore. However, acquisitions are still expensive and valuable, and as studios shift across the board, many are viewing this as a new phase in the console battle.
Not every studio can be acquired, however, as some are bound by law to stay within their home country. Ubisoft, for example, can not be owned outside of France due to domestic law. So despite having a massive IP collection, Microsoft and Sony will never be the sole owner of the “Assassins Creed” studio.
So the new age of the console battle, the question will cycle around platform exclusivity and access to games. With hardware becoming more accessible, the cycling of developers and trading of IP will be the core deciding factor for Xbox, PC, or PS4. Nintendo was very aware of this initially and announced that they were allowing 3rd party titles on the Nintendo Switch. This expansion of content mixed with the affordability of the mobile system opened up the door to a surge of new sales.
Platform exclusivity can only be achieved through developer consolidation, and the recent acquisition of Bungie and Activision Blizzard is only the beginning. As more studios are claimed by Sony and Microsoft, the terms of the new console battle will become clearer for gamers everywhere.