Microsoft’s announcement that gamers will be able to play on their PS4s through the Xbox One’s pass through cable seems like a cunning marketing trick, but comes with a high risk of backfiring.
A seemingly radical announcement
If you’ve been reading the gaming papers recently, you’ll be aware that Microsoft big shot Albert Panello revealed to Gamespot that the Xbox One will support PlayStation 4 gameplay courtesy of an HDMI pass through port. Speaking about the functionality of the pass-through port, Panello said,
any application can be snapped to a game…this could be the live TV feed, so if you wanted to be playing Ryse and Killzone at the same time, you could snap that.
Yes, for seemingly the first time in history, we’re hearing a Microsoft representative encourage people to play PS4 games, through their very own console’s dashboard no less. Could it be that the sour relations between the two opposing powers (who aren’t really all that different from each other) have turned a corner? Is this the first baby step towards a cease-fire between the two gaming giants, paving the way for a future of cross-platform gaming?
Brave, or just foolish?
Don’t be silly now. Microsoft have so far been receiving a battering in the next-gen spin war against Sony, being forced to make U-turns on unpopular policies, and being exposed by developers as a less powerful console. It’s like the marketing brains at Microsoft have gone for a Death or Glory approach. It’s like the Charge of the Light Brigade, but we know that that historical moment was, when looking beyond the captivating surface of things, an extremely foolish and reckless act on the part of the generals. Is Microsoft’s move a case of history repeating itself?
Perhaps not. In allowing the PS4 to be accessible via a quick flick of the Xbox controller, Microsoft are symbolically reducing Sony’s console to a mere function of the Xbox One. The announcement is designed to trigger in young gamer’s heads the unrefined thought, ‘Hey, what can I do on my Xbox today? Watch TV, play on my Xbox, or play on my PS4 (through my Xbox).’ Microsoft’s announcement is a rare admittance on any console developer’s part that consumers may want to own more than one console, so they’ve moved the fight to the next frontier. Microsoft are effectively saying the Xbox One is such a powerful media centre, that it’ll even let you play your Playstation 4 through it. If it does that, then surely there’s nothing it can’t do?
Microsoft’s lost focus
Machiavellian though this trick may seem, the more skeptical gamer will see this as just another example that Microsoft have lost their focus on the real raison d’etre of the console. Ever since their announcement of the Xbox One, Microsoft’s marketing campaign has been pushing the console’s TV functionality, communicational abilities, and apps. While multifunctionality is seemingly integral to a modern entertainment device’s success, it also needs to stay true to its original purported purpose. For you, dear Microsoft, that should be to make your console an ultimate vehicle for playing original and spectacular video-games. Remember that.
In more carefree times, maybe Microsoft’s campaign would’ve impressed people, but it seems that in this time of consoles being crushed between the ever-increasing capabilities of PCs, and the pressure to accommodate the more casual gamer, the more hardcore among us need reassurance. Reassurance that our games will remain a games console, not a mere podium for other media like TV, social media and, well, other games consoles.