If I’ve heard any assumption once too often it’s that Microsoft are in the “best position” to move forward into the next generation of consoles. I can see where it comes from, Microsoft make a lot of money, especially when compared to the other major players in the gaming industry, but does that money always translate into better products? More importantly, for us gamers, does their misfortune in almost every market they’ve attempted to enter since the turn of the millennium mean their investors will be reluctant to take the necessary risks with the ‘720’ (or whatever) that it needs to compete with Sony and Nintendo?
There was a time when Microsoft used to dominate the tech industry; in fact, it was the wealthiest company in the world. But in the last decade they’ve sat in stagnation as Apple, Google and even Facebook whiz past in an innovative blur. When they have tried to compete in areas such as ebooks, music, search, social networking etc. they’ve fallen flat on their faces every time. One could even go as far as to say the only real success they’ve had is with the Xbox 360 and even then they have the least market share between the big three. Some would also argue that the Xbox 360 has had it easy too with a full year head start on the market and has prospered only due to Sony’s misfortunes and missteps; a circumstance which is unlikely to repeat itself.
Microsoft’s most recent foray into relatively new markets has resulted in yet another massive embarrassment for the company. Their Surface tablets have failed to garner the consumer response they were looking for and MS have slashed their sales forecast from 1 to 2 million down to 500 to 600k, this is also an echo of their sagging smartphone sales. To really put their position into perspective you need only look at Apples iPhone, which brings in more revenue than the entirety of Microsoft. Yes, you read that correctly, ONE product makes more money for Apple than EVERYTHING Microsoft does.
So the next time you think Microsoft’s money is a reason to expect the next generation Xbox to be head and shoulders above competitors as far as tech and support are concerned, think more like one of their investors. Ask if it’s worth a gamble that Sony will create the exact same circumstances that allowed the Xbox to get it's foot in the door in the first place and will the ever shrinking island of the PC market still be big enough to buffer their future stumbles.