When Phil Spencer walked on stage today at the Windows 10 keynote, he had the face of a bomber pilot ready to drop some big ones, and there’s no denying it: he did.
Microsoft scored major points across the board with the announcement of the Xbox app for Windows 10, and in particular with its own version of Remote Play, allowing the streaming of games from Xbox One to every Windows 10 device.
Some may think that this is akin to what Sony is already doing on PS4, so it won’t be a major advantage, but that’s far from the truth: PS4 Remote Play works with the PS Vita, PlayStation TV and with Xperia smartphones, which aren’t exactly the most widespread devices in the world.
On the other hand, Xbox One’s streaming will work with every Windows 10 device. Considering the fact that every Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 user will get a free upgrade to the new OS, there’s the potential for compatibility with hundreds of millions of PCs and devices.
Hundreds. Of. Millions.
While the move was almost obvious in its predictability, it’s also a master stroke, that gives Microsoft a very solid competitive advantage in the console space.
Just imagine someone who wants to buy a console. He looks at PS4, and sees that he can stream to a PS Vita or to an Xperia smartphone. Does he have one of those? Not too likely. Then he looks at the Xbox One, and he notices that he can play those games across every PC he has at home, on his laptop, on his Surface, and on his Windows phone. Does he have at least one of those? Much more likely.
While this probably won’t be the only decisive factor in the purchase, it can definitely be a strongly influential point.
Now the ball is in Sony’s field, and its a heavy ball.
The Tokyo-based console manufacturer can obviously enable streaming on other devices almost at the snap of a finger. The tech is there, and the PS4 is fully enabled to stream to basically whatever Sony wants, because all it needs is a receiving app on the other side. The PS4 itself does all the recording, the encoding and the streaming.
The question is, will Sony actually react, or will they allow the rivals to grab a potentially very solid advantage with this?
Of course, widening the reach of Remote Play has its drawbacks. It eliminates one of the competitive advantages of the Vita, but Sony pretty much already thrown its portable console under the bus by enabling Remote Play on Xperia smart devices, and making it even better due to the ability to pair a DualShock 4 controller (the extended absence of which on the Vita is something I have no qualms in defining utterly asinine, pardon the French).
Considering that, Sony has basically nothing to lose, and it’s in its best interest to enable Remote Play on whatever device has enough juice to run a rather light receiving app (if it runs on the PS Vita, it run on basically everything, really). That doesn’t only include PC, but even Android, iOS and smart TVs.
Such a move wouldn’t really impair the Vita too much, at this stage, since it already isn’t the only device capable of using Remote Play, nor the best one, but will flip the tables back in Sony’s favor after Microsoft turned them around today.
Of course Microsoft then would have the ability to issue its own response, extending its own streaming feature further, beyond Windows, with the potential effect of letting us play both current generation console on basically everything equipped with a screen.
And honestly, who wouldn’t want that? As usual the effect of pitched competition would go to the advantage of the customer, with companies trying their hardest to offer the broadest service possible.
Of course, triggering that chain reaction requires turning two keys. Microsoft turned its key today.
We’ll have to wait and see if Sony will do the same with its own key, broadening the reach of Remote Play to other devices, instead of stubbornly keeping the rather obsolete PS Vita semi-exclusivity alive.
As usual, time will tell, but it’s hard to deny that we’re living a quite exciting period in which we’ll most likely be the winners, as Xbox and PlayStation slug away at each other on the console ring.