New Battlelines, Old History
Recent days have seen rumors speeding around the internet surrounding a new Xbox console the Scarlett, and its apparent blockchain-based future. Traditional consoles have long been hallmarked as a dying breed and with it, the expectation the next generation of gaming consoles would represent a decisive shift away from the old ‘buy a game and insert disc’ formula.
While at time of writing the rumors are yet to be confirmed surrounding the Scarlett, beyond Microsoft’s specific blockchain plans for this particular console, the rumors alongside previous announcements illustrate the future of gaming is set to see a huge convergence with blockchain. By manufacturers who not only seek to harness emerging tech but gain a unique selling point too.
In generations prior, there were a range of avenues for one console to seek an advantage over another. From exclusive games to celebrity-sponsored games, to cheeky ads — and of course, the promise of better hardware and more power — there were many tools on offer for a console marketer seeking to build a unique brand identity.
Today, carving out an advantage is far more difficult. Especially among Playstation and Xbox. While Nintendo and PC also loom as competitors in this space, they are also ancillary due to their target market, or hardware specification. For Microsoft and Sony, the differences between the two platform can be very minor across many aspects.
The news of a potential blockchain-based Xbox follows on from Microsoft’s earlier movements in this space, announcing back in June they would partner with professional services firm Ernst & Young on a Digital Rights Management (DRM) platform.
Just as Microsoft has looked to a blockchain DRM solution for it Xbox, Sony has also been making waves in this space, with rumors surrounding its own plans for a blockchain-based DRM on a future PlayStation 5. As few gamers feel enthused about more DRM – given its history of breaking games and frustrating users en masse – the real competition for a blockchain-based advantage is yet to begin.
Hype and Substance
While news of more DRM may interest some tech heads, Sony and Microsoft know it’s ultimately with the launch of a dedicated blockchain console that heads will really be turned.
Beyond DRM, a console that offers cryptocurrency payment, streaming via blockchain, or even buying and selling games second hand via blockchain.
There’s also the blockchain boost reality to keep in mind. Many companies like Kodak have taken note of the Bitcoin fever seen last year and looked to position themselves as the future of the blockchain technology in their industry. Even if their ability to actually do so is far from certain.
While this is all well and good if these plans are borne out, there is also some opportunism here from companies that see in blockchain a way to generate a tremendous about of hype for their future – and a big stock price bump – even if they never ultimately deliver on the blockchain.
For now, Xbox is enjoying the suspense built by the rumors surrounding the Scarlet. Sony is getting a similar boost from its PlayStation 5 rumors. Both have been peppering their marketing with the blockchain buzzword for a while now. Gamers are ready for blockchain consoles, the release of the next generation of consoles will show whether Sony and Microsoft are too.