In the wake of Microsoft’s announcement at E3 this year, and their commitment to PC gaming, so that each upcoming game in their catalog will now be put on PC too, I have seen a lot of rhetoric about what Microsoft’s move, which essentially means that the Xbox platform shall have no more true exclusives going forward, means for the console. Is the market for those who are interested in Microsoft’s games, but absolutely opposed to PC gaming, big enough to keep Xbox a viable platform? Does a move to being a part of a larger ‘ecosystem’ really bode well for the future of Xbox?
A lot has been written about this, and there are enough compelling arguments on both sides that the discussion is fated to remain relevant for a good while now. However, that is not what I wanted to talk about today. Today, instead, I wanted to follow a different line of reasoning that I have seen since Microsoft’s E3- there seems to be, you see, a small, but outspoken, group of PC players who believe that Microsoft’s move to PC marks the end of dedicated console gaming as we know it, and that Sony would, as a result, do well to start putting their exclusives on PC as well.
The arguments I usually hear are simple- those who wish to purchase a console to play their games will continue to purchase a PS4 to play Bloodborne or Uncharted, while others, who would like the best possible experience for their games, will simply purchase them on PC. What would be the harm here? Sony would be opening up their games to a much wider install base, and therefore stand to gain a lot in terms of software sales.
"There seems to be a small, but outspoken, group of PC players who believe that Microsoft’s move to PC marks the end of dedicated console gaming as we know it, and that Sony would, as a result, do well to start putting their exclusives on PC as well."
This argument, however, is fallaciously simplistic, and does not account for one very simple thing- Sony have no reason to put their games on PC. Microsoft making a move to consolidate their PC and Xbox gaming efforts makes sense from their perspective. They have to sell not just Xbox, but more importantly, at least to the company’s long term plans and future, they need Windows 10 to take root. They need their UWP initiative to take off. They need the Windows Store to become popular. The success of all of these is tied, in some part, to PC gaming. By putting their own games on PC, Microsoft may even in the short term be damaging the prospects of Xbox a little bit (although it is unclear if they are- maybe there is a substantial market for people interested in Microsoft’s games, but not interested in PC gaming in any capacity), but they are entrenching their long term strategy, bolstering and reinforcing it.
On the other hand, Sony gain nothing from putting their games on PC- Windows is not their OS. They don’t have an OS. By putting games on PC, Sony lose out on hardware sales they gain from sales of PS4 as a result of their exclusives, they lose out revenue, thanks to having to share it with whatever storefront they put their games on, they lose out on their own network and services revenue, because PS+ is no longer a necessity to play their games (and trying to have a paid subscription for video games on PC doesn’t work, as Games for Windows Live demonstrated), and finally, by losing hardware sales, their third party licensing revenues are diminished too. It’s a lose-lose situation for them all around.
The counter argument: they can make their own storefront on PC, and not necessarily put their games on Steam or Windows Store. And sure, they can do that. That still doesn’t address all the other loss of revenue they suffer. Even if they manage to not have to split revenue with a storeholder by having their own store, they do lose out on hardware revenue, they do lose out on network and services revenue, and they do lose out on third party licensing revenues, as a result of lower PS4 sales. It is hard to believe that revenue from increased sales thanks to a PC install base would be enough to cover all three of those other losses, especially now that Sony sell their hardware at a hefty profit. And unlike Microsoft, Sony can’t even justify the loss of immediate revenue by pointing to intangibles such as a long term gain- unlike Microsoft, Sony don’t have anything to gain by having their games on PC.
"Sony gain nothing from putting their games, such as Bloodborne, on PC."
Another variant of this argument I often hear is that Sony should only put their games on PC after a few years- so, let Uncharted and Bloodborne be exclusive to PS4 for 3-4 years, and then put those games on PC after that. This line of thinking argues that these games will have already sold the bulk of consoles they are supposed to sell by this point- anyone interested in buying a PlayStation console to play these exclusives has done so 3-4 years down the line, and if they haven’t, then they are not likely to ever. So it is in Sony’s best interest to extract further revenue by putting those games on PC, and opening up a new line of revenue from them, long after the other lines of revenue mentioned above are exhausted.
This is a sounder argument than the previous one- but it is still fallacious. Simply because if one were to know that Sony’s games will be eventually coming to PC regardless, then there would be those people who would simply decide to wait it out a few years, and buy those games on PC, instead of buckling and buying a PS4 to play them. This would lead to the same problems as in the previous scenario- Sony lose out on revenue from hardware, licensing, and network and services.
And yes, there would be a substantial number of people who would opt to just wait. Unlike the bulk of console gaming, where sales and mindshare are ephemeral, PC gamers are content to wait for a game they want to play, rather than buying it right now, and playing it right now. Years of Steam sales, and late ports, serve as both evidence, and justification, for this- PC gamers won’t decide to spend an extra $400 to play Bloodborne now, when they can wait it out a few years, and just get it on PC, in a superior form (simply by virtue of the game being on PC) at that. And of course, all of this still sidesteps the central point: unlike Microsoft, Sony have nothing to gain by putting their games on PC. Unlike Microsoft, who would sacrifice some short term revenue for some long term gains, Sony would be gaining short term revenue, but sacrificing long term gains. Fewer and fewer people would be willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a new PlayStation if they knew that their favorite PlayStation exclusives were all going to end up coming to some other platform in a few years anyway. Sony would lose out on the integrity and halo of the PlayStation brand, and they would also end up with greatly diminished hardware and network related revenue in the process, especially since PlayStation is central to many non gaming related initiatives for Sony, such as TV, streaming, and network infrastructure.
"Fewer and fewer people would be willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a new PlayStation if they knew that their favorite PlayStation exclusives were all going to end up coming to some other platform in a few years anyway."
But wait, some smartass reading this person says, rushing to the comments section to type out a retort furiously. Sony already are putting games on PC! Both, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Helldivers were put by them on Steam! Take that! It’s very clear none of my counterarguments seem to apply after all!
To which I only ave to say, hypothetical reader: if you really, truly, believe that Helldivers or Rapture were selling any PlayStation consoles, or that they have the same standing as a high budget, 90+ Metascore retail exclusive from From or Naughty Dog, then, my friend, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you.
There is a possibility that, many years into the future, there is no place for dedicated console hardware, and that at that point, Sony are forced to adopt a hardware agnostic strategy for their gaming initiatives- but if and when that time comes, then this will be a viable argument to make. As it stands right now, consoles are selling, and no company is gaining more from console sales than Sony is. They would be foolish to rock the boat right now.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.