Console wars are a bit silly, but they can also be very important. It’s the paradox of being a full grown adult whose employment and major interests revolve around what are essentially toys – very important things are often silly. MLB: The Show coming to Game Pass is probably the first major victory in the console war of this generation, but sometimes, it’s better to lose the war than it is to win.
There’s no question that PlayStation won the last generation. It feels like the Nintendo Switch is off doing its own thing in its own little ecosystem, and between Sony and Microsoft, there was only one winner. You buy a PS4, and you get to play God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, Spider-Man, Persona 5, The Last of Us, Ghost of Tsushima… I could list several more amazing, generation defining games in this fashion. On Xbox, you could play Sea of Thieves, Gears of War, and Sunset Overdrive. There were some great cross platform games, sure, but when it comes to exclusives, it was slim pickings. It’s why, despite both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X being in short supply, all of the chatter and memes revolve around PlayStation. Anyone even vaguely aware of pop culture will know a new PlayStation released recently; the same could not be said for Xbox, despite the might of Microsoft, because PlayStation won the battle of the generation, and therefore dominates the conversation.
There are obviously some people who take the console wars far too seriously and make owning a PlayStation a central characteristic of their personality, but I can understand people being invested in their console’s success. Most people, especially those who play games rather than working in games, do not have both consoles. If they have a second, it’s likely to be a Switch, since that’s a very different type of machine with its own games and style. So if you stood in a shop and chose either Xbox or PlayStation, you want to know you made the right choice. Last gen, I chose Xbox, and a few years in, realised I made the wrong choice, and managed to switch over. But the industry progresses more off the backs of people making the wrong choice, and that’s why MLB: The Show coming to Game Pass might actually be a long-term victory for PlayStation.
Make no mistake, it’s a big win for Xbox. It’s the first real strike in the battle for this generation, and it feels like a major one. For those of you not into sports games, it’s easy to dismiss a baseball sim as nothing special in the world of video games, but MLB: The Show has been a PS exclusive since 2006, and is developed by Sony San Diego and published by PlayStation themselves. To the general public, it might not have the prestige standing, but it’s Sony’s game as much as God of War is. Coming to Xbox was one thing, but now it’s free on day one (provided you have Game Pass, which most Xbox players do), while to get Sony’s game on Sony’s machine, you need to shell out at least £49.99.
But to figure out why this might be a win for PlayStation, we need to look at how MLB: The Show came to be on Game Pass in the first place. I know the final call was made by the MLB itself rather than Sony, but that’s not what I mean. The whole reason Game Pass exists is because Xbox was losing the console war. MLB: The Show isn’t even the only day one release this month – Outriders kicked off April on the service too, despite being available for purchase on Sony platforms. Microsoft needed a way to turn the tide, and Game Pass was part of the solution. Now, if someone is standing in the store deciding which console to buy, the choice is more difficult. Obviously, this is a hypothetical future when it’s safe enough to stand in stores and when the PS5 and Xbox Series X can actually be bought by people other than scalpers. PS5 still has the exclusives, but through Game Pass, Xbox gives you hundreds of games for a single low subscription price, with many being immediately available on the day of launch.
Xbox lost the last generation, and that has forced the company to come up with creative solutions. You fight exclusives with exclusives to an extent, with Microsoft buying up Bethesda, and it’s harder to spin that as a victory for players, but it’s all part of a larger plan. Microsoft has also invested in setting up smaller studios to create exclusives for Xbox in a way that can rival Sony’s own blockbusters, but Game Pass remains the ace in the hole. Sony’s PlayStation Now is a paltry service in comparison, and while you do get some free games with the PS5, these are all older titles most PS4 owners will have already played.
Sony still has God of War, Horizon, and Ratchet & Clank due out this year, along with some other exclusives to pull people towards the PS5. But as prices keep going up and with only a handful of games justifying the increased outlay, Xbox is using Game Pass to carve out a solid niche for itself, and Sony may need to adjust. In shutting down its PS3 and Vita stores – a story originally broken by TheGamer – Sony is neglecting its history and harming its customers in exactly the opposite way Microsoft is celebrating the back catalogue. If MLB: The Show coming to Game Pass is the catalyst for a change in direction, it might be the best thing for PlayStation; otherwise, we might look back on it as the decisive moment when Xbox started to win this generation.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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