You know, I just realised something. We’re in a sort of golden age of gaming, gaming platforms, and gaming services, if you will. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo; the big three platform holders are all doing amazing in their own right and for different reasons, and it’s all happening concurrently.
Let’s start with Sony. The PS4 is one of the strongest consoles in recent memory, both in terms of being a solid option for people to play games, and in terms of the games Sony Worldwide Studios and their partners are producing for it. Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War, The Last of Us, Uncharted 4, Persona 5, Spider-Man, and with Death Stranding, The Last of Us Part 2, and Ghost of Tsushima still to come. PlayStation games are stronger than ever, and they’re letting their studios experiment with new and exciting things.
Media Molecule also just launched Dreams in early access (to massive critical and commercial praise, I should add), a creation tool akin to a game engine, but without the complications of coding. A sort of easy access point for game development, and something that you would never expect to really see from a game studio, let alone a first party one. I find it amazing that Sony are willing to let their studios take such creative risks, and it’s really exciting to see the potential of putting those tools out there and seeing what the community does with it. Dreams is only a few months into early access and there are already some incredible things coming out of it.
Sony are also continuing their tradition of always letting their studios move forward. They’ve historically never latched onto IPs for too long, no matter how popular. They could have Naughty Dog churn out 20 more Uncharted games for guaranteed profit, but no matter how successful the franchise, they let those studios develop new and exciting things that let the studios themselves move forward and experiment. Which also lets us as fans find new things to get excited about, and that’s how The Last of Us came to be, arguably one of the best story games of this generation. Not to mention how they’re also letting Sucker Punch leave Infamous behind for a while to work on Ghost of Tsushima, a game many of us are dying to see more of.
Microsoft have also bounced back from a lackluster generation launch with huge stride. With Phil Spencer as the head of Xbox, Microsoft are pushing a sort of revolution in user-first policies. Pushing for cross-play, bringing games like Cuphead and Minecraft to other platforms, and launching an incredible service in Xbox Game Pass as well as pushing new technology in their upcoming XCloud streaming service. They’re doing things that will impact the industry for years to come.
Cross-play is a huge step for knocking down the stigma between platforms and platform holders. We can now play games like Fortnite and (soon enough) Destiny with people on competing platforms? That’s pretty incredible. And what’s even more incredible is that it doesn’t necessarily benefit Xbox as a platform in the long term, but it does benefit the industry as a whole.
Microsoft are also making exclusives a lot less exclusive, giving us all more options to play some of their best titles like Cuphead on Switch and Halo: The Master Chief Collection on PC. Soon you’ll finally be able to play all those Halo games on PC and, more surprisingly, on Steam! That’s an outrageous statement, and one I didn’t expect to be able to make, but thanks to Microsoft’s ever expanding vision of breaking down those barriers, it’s a reality.
Game Pass is also criminally good value: £7.99 a month for an all-you-can-eat buffet of quality games from Xbox first-party titles like Ori and the Blind Forest and Forza Horizon 4, to third party blockbusters like DOOM and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The value of Game Pass really can’t be understated, and it sets a fantastic precedent for subscription services in the future. Xbox might have been the last out the gate, but at least they’re using all that space they’ve been afforded to benefit us all, and not to mention how they’re building a relationship with Nintendo.
Nintendo may not be competing directly with Xbox and PlayStation, but they are currently supporting what is possibly the greatest portable console ever made with the Switch. I bought my Switch for Zelda and Mario, and those are some incredible games that ooze that classic Nintendo playfulness.
They’re going all in on support for the Switch, and I couldn’t be happier. Super Mario Maker 2, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Luigi’s Mansion 3 are just a few of their big titles coming in the next year. I may not be the target audience for all of those games, but I’m incredibly happy that they’re being made for the people who are.
On top of that, the Switch is the best place to play indie titles, and really is giving those smaller games the huge audience that they deserve. 95% of my Switch games are indie titles, and I bring my Switch with me whenever I’ve got a long train journey ahead so that I can sink my time into finding those last few strawberries in Celeste or trying to defeat that next boss in Hollow Knight.
It can’t be overstated how good we’ve got it right now, with so many great and unique experiences coming from all the different platform holders. It’s not all about the competition, and I’m glad the big three can succeed alongside each other. Let’s not take it for granted, because we’re just a couple of years away from the next generation where everything could change. But for now I’ll keep enjoying Cuphead on my Switch.