“Genesis does what Nintendon’t.”
This slogan was the battle cry of the Sega Genesis when it took on videogame giant Nintendo and began the console wars. With those battles came big selling points to convince people to buy them such as Sega’s blast processing or Nintendo’s Super FX Chip. While these were effective marketing tools, everyone knows at the end of the day the most important thing is the actual video games. Sega had Sonic. Nintendo had Mario. Sega’s version of Mortal Kombat had blood in it, while Nintendo’s needed a cheat code. These differences in console exclusivity was where some of the true battles of the console wars were won and it also set a precedent that video games followed for decades.
Consoles have almost always needed a character to be the face of it. Whether it was a mascot like Mario and Sonic, or a major game like Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation or Halo on the Xbox, these figures played a huge part in not just representing a console, but pushing gamers to one console or the other — or, for some, pushing them to owning them all. The latest Mario game is only going to be on a Nintendo console. The newest Halo was always on the Xbox.
For PlayStation, one of these was God of War. If someone was a huge fan of the God of War series and wanted to play it then they were always going to have to play it on the newest PlayStation. That was the way it worked, until now.
This console generation is no console war. With the Xbox embracing crossplay, Game Pass, and PC Gaming it has shown little interest in getting into a war with PlayStation over exclusives to sell their box. Almost all of their games are available on PC and they’re perfectly content with that. They even let characters they own, like Banjo and Kazooie, make an appearance in Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series. On the other side, we have PlayStation telling all of us that it still cares about exclusives, and to its credit, it tries to deliver great PlayStation-only experiences. Ratchet and Clank, Spider-Man, and The Last of Us remain PlayStation only experiences, but for how much longer?
On Wednesday, PlayStation announced plans to port God of War to the PC despite being developed by Sony itself in-house at its Santa Monica Studio. Not only that, but its baseball franchise MLB: The Show recently broke exclusivity and released on Xbox. This would be like if Nintendo ported Mario to the PC. That’s how out of the ordinary it is to see a company do this with a flagship title even as companies further break down the wall of exclusivity.
When Xbox started releasing games to the PC at the same as the Xbox it didn’t feel like something that was a negative. The majority of PC owners are Microsoft Windows users so these players are still staying within the ecosystem. They’re just using a different kind of box. However, by doing that Xbox has opened a pandora’s box that might be changing video games forever. With the power of Steam and the Epic Games Store on PC, we’re seeing more people opt to have a gaming PC. Instead of ignoring this potential player base, we’re watching more companies embrace them and that is only going to continue. At this point, if someone wants to play every kind of game available to them they can buy a gaming PC because chances are likely that eventually, most games will end up there. Get a PlayStation and gaming PC, and it’s almost a guarantee that someone can play any game imaginable.
PC gaming isn’t the endgame though. That’s still a large barrier to entry there with cost. What this is doing though is beginning a change that is likely necessary for video games to continue growing as a platform. The logical endpoint of all this is the end of console exclusivity. The technology of these boxes is being pushed to its maximum limit. The differences between an Xbox and a PlayStation are smaller than ever in terms of the technical side. This doesn’t mean that they’re the exact same, because they’re not, but the types of games that are being made for these consoles are similar in scope. Fans buy them because that is their console of choice more so than because of games or technology these days. The flagship title or mascot is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Most third-party developers do their best to not force themselves into one company because it limits purchase potential. We’re now starting to see titles developed internally at these console developers do something similar.
If we continue to go down this path then the future of video games may look even weirder as time goes on. The next The Legend of Zelda on an Xbox? Uncharted on the Switch? Gears of War on a PlayStation? It sounds absurd right now, but we can already play Halo and God of War on a PC. Sony released a game in 2020 that can be purchased on the Xbox. It’s already happening. We just have to wait and see how long it takes.