When listening to video game podcasts talking about the Xbox One X, they were generally disappointed because they didn’t see where the console fit in: there aren’t any games exclusive to the Xbox One X, and people who really want the best graphics will play games on PC, so who is going to buy it? And maybe they’re right from a business analysis point of view (but maybe not, I’m not at all convinced of the business acumen of the enthusiast press), but it felt weird to me to listen to that, because what those podcasters saw as problems felt to me like benefits.

Basically, what I want is to have a video game console family that takes its cue from the iPad / iPhone. So I don’t want big discontinuities: I want to be able to keep on playing my favorite games (or, for that matter, to be able to try older games for the first time) instead of, in the good case, having to rebuy games to play them and, in the bad case, not having access to certain games at all unless I plug in old hardware and hope that it still works. And I want to be able to do that without static hardware: if I’m replacing my hardware (which does wear out, after all!), I want to be able to get something with technology from the last year or two, instead of potentially being stuck with five-year-old chips. (Or, alternatively, having the choice to be able to buy two-year-old technology at a discount also sounds good; it’s not a choice that I personally normally make, but it makes sense in a lot of contexts.)

I could get that continuity with a PC, but that misses another aspect of the iPad / iPhone: I like being able to buy a game and have it just work, and to be confident that it’s not going to interfere with the running of the system as a whole or leave strange tendrils around if I uninsall it. And I also prefer the way consoles fit into my life: PCs feel much more isolating in that regard.


I’m not completely against discontinuities in console generations: if there’s a physical constraint that you want to change, then embracing that change is probably more likely to be successful than bolting it on. But there’s only one manufacturer who has the vision to (sometimes!) pull that off. So sure, Nintendo can keep on doing its own thing; but what I want out of Microsoft and Sony is incremental improvements based on PC hardware, based on the controller scheme that’s been working fine for the last two decades, and with an operating system that’s evolving to meet current needs for game distribution and online interaction. Or, in other words: more consoles like the Playstation Pro and the Xbox One S / X.

I am a little curious how this will play out from a business point of view, especially if Microsoft sticks with an incremental approach while Sony decides to jump to a Playstation 5 that doesn’t allow two-way compatibility across generations for most games. I’d like to hope that Microsoft will start quietly gaining ground from people who are buying a new console when a prior one breaks: they’ll spend more time having better options across multiple price/performance preferences.

Of course, what really matters to me is not having to rebuy a thousand bucks worth of Rocksmith songs and then having to level them up again…

Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.