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Nintendo and Microsoft are making the right moves to cut into Sony's lead in video games

June 13, 2017 10:00 PM
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At E3, the annual video game trade show that's taking place in Los Angeles this week, the big three console makers — Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony — each touted their visions for the near-future of video games. After all three had wrapped up their press briefings, it was clear that while Sony may have a sales lead now with its PlayStation 4, its rivals are making smart moves that could help them cut into that lead.

Of course, the competition has a lot of ground to make up. Sony has sold more than 60 million PlayStation 4 consoles, which is more than double the number of Xbox One machines Microsoft has sold.

Sony has also left Nintendo in the dust. Though it's off to a good start, Nintendo's new Switch console has only been available for a few months, and its previous game machine, the Wii U, was a bust.

And Sony's also having a lot of success getting PlayStation 4 owners to buy other things. Nearly 30 million of them are paying for PlayStation Plus, Sony's online service.

Still, things can change quickly in the games business — something Microsoft and Nintendo are counting on.

The headline news at Microsoft's E3 event on Sunday was the unveiling of its powerful new console, the Xbox One X, which is aimed at Sony's high-end PlayStation 4 Pro.

But the company made another important announcement that was easy to overlook.

Microsoft company announced it's adding backwards compatibility with the original Xbox. Soon, you'll be able to play games designed for the first Xbox on the Xbox One.

It's admittedly a small addition to the Xbox One. Owners of the console could already play Xbox 360 games on the machine.

But the move is a big step toward allowing Xbox customers to build a library of games that don't disappear each time they buy a new console.

That's something smartphone owners and people who use services like Steam have come to expect. Their digital libraries generally exist in perpetuity and are typically available on all devices that run on the same platform, be it Apple's iOS, Android or Steam. But on gaming consoles, digital libraries are a relatively new concept, and Microsoft is leading the way.

"When we've dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much. That, and I was at a 'Gran Turismo' event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?"

But backwards compatibility isn't the only step Microsoft is taking to combat Sony. It has a bunch of new games coming — "Metro: Exodus" looks great! — and plenty of them are exclusive.

And then there's the Xbox One X, which will play games in ultra high-definition 4K.

The new box, which costs $500, won't replace the Xbox One. Instead, Microsoft will sell it — and the Xbox One S — alongside and as an upgraded model of the older console.

All three boxes will play Xbox One games. If you want to play games in HDR, you can get an S model. If you want games in HDR and 4K resolution, you can get an X model.

And going along with Microsoft's theme of allowing users to create a digital library they can take everywhere, you can also play Xbox games on your PC. Microsoft has made all its first-party Xbox games available on Windows 10.


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