Sony and Microsoft have announced the inking of a strategic partnership between the two companies and implies they could work together on issues like hosting game services.
The two firms have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to:
explore joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure to support their respective game and content-streaming services. In addition, the two companies will explore the use of current Microsoft Azure datacenter-based solutions for Sony’s game and content-streaming services. By working together, the companies aim to deliver more enhanced entertainment experiences for their worldwide customers. These efforts will also include building better development platforms for the content creator community.
The document also makes reference to some collaborative efforts outside of the strict gaming sphere. For example, Microsoft and Sony are going to collaborate to deploy Microsoft’s AI expertise alongside Sony’s cutting-edge image sensors, and to use Microsoft’s advanced AI tools in Sony consumer products in as-yet-unknown ways. The two companies also pledged to work together on semiconductor research.
The Console Wars Aren’t Over
There’s no sign that Sony and Microsoft actually intend to stop competing with each other in the console markets, where the PS4 and Xbox One battle it out. Instead, this appears to be a move Sony is making to align itself with the company most likely to understand its own needs and requirements as it rolls out more game streaming services to more customers. Sony has PlayStation Now, while Microsoft has its Project xCloud, but both are devoted to bringing the same types of experiences to customers in the same geographic areas, with similar needs as far as latency and reliability.
Kenichiro Yoshida, President and CEO, Sony Corporation (left), and Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
There’s no chance that this effort represents some kind of new, unified console service — not with Sony neck-deep in PS5 development and Microsoft known to be working on its own Project Scarlett as well. But it is possible that we’ll see improved online gaming support and cross-play enabled more readily between Xbox Next and PS5. We already know that Sony’s refusal to enable cross-play has, in at least some cases, been nothing more than an effort to avoid sharing its ecosystem, according to the developers who wrote the games themselves. With hosting now handled at Microsoft, there’s no reasonable argument for why cross-play multiplayer shouldn’t be enabled on all Xbox Next and PS5 games.
As for whether this will have any other impact on long-term console development, that’s hard to say — but the idea of Microsoft and Sony working together on dedicated semiconductor, AI, and gaming research is an interesting one. We wouldn’t necessarily mind a future in which there was a degree of compatibility between certain peripherals — like, say, VR headsets — or support for a common class of devices between the two platforms (other than USB-supported peripherals). Teaming up together and taking advantage of economies of scale across the entire console market might allow for some interesting projects that wouldn’t be economical otherwise.