The team-up announced last week between gaming’s eternal blood rivals, Microsoft and Sony, came as a surprise to many — including, apparently, Sony’s PlayStation team. Other industry whispers suggest that Nintendo might also be considering a team-up with Microsoft. And while it sounds like blasphemy, the three companies do know each other far better than they know any potential interlopers.
According to a report from Bloomberg, Sony did most of their negotiations with Microsoft without informing its internal PlayStation team about the development. When the news hit, the employees who worked on the PlayStation (and the upcoming PS5) were “caught off-guard,” and “[managers] had to calm workers and assure them that plans for the company’s next-generation console weren’t affected.” I would assume that means workers had the immediate suspicion most people had: would Xbox and PlayStation start crossing over?
The answer to that is almost certainly “no.” The console and the game streaming service are two different things, and Microsoft’s Azure being used to prop up PlayStation Now (the in-house streaming service) isn’t the same as making an Xbox game run on a PlayStation.
A new rumor from industry analyst Dave Gibson suggests Nintendo could also be turning to Microsoft for streaming solutions. Unlike Sony and Microsoft, which seek to put their own games on other consoles, Nintendo has reportedly been experimenting with ways to stream games to the Switch that its handheld otherwise wouldn’t be able to run. It’s done this in Japan with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Resident Evil 7. According to Kotaku, it partnered with a company called Ubitus Gamecloud to accomplish this, but if it’s looking to expand streaming games to Switch, it’s going to have to expand its partners to include a heavy hitter. And it’s already buddy-buddy with Microsoft after the introduction of Switch-Xbox crossplay — more so than Sony, anyway.
The trouble with going to the other major companies for cloud solutions — in this case, Amazon or Google — is that both are reportedly interested in developing their own game streaming solutions. We’ve already seen Stadia, and heard whispers about Amazon’s interest. Even making the assumption that these companies wouldn’t attach a string involving their own console-less streaming service (Stadia running on the PS5, possibly), at the very least, they’re more likely to want to put their resources into their own system first.
Assuming the rumor about Nintendo is true, it shows the rivalries of the console market aren’t profitable enough for the big three companies to keep them up in the face of new competition. “Stick to the devil you know” is probably the correct idiom here.