The gaming industry is teeming with excitement as it looks forward to the release of Microsoft’s next-gen console in 2020. The developers have promised that it will be four times more powerful than the current Xbox One X and it has pulled off a potential masterstroke by making Halo Infinite the launch title.
Sony is also gearing up to launch the PS5 and many expect that it will also hit shelves next year, although the team has not yet given an official release date. The next generation of the console wars promises to be another exhilarating ride, and the strong level of competition really benefits gamers.
Both firms will continue to drip feed details about the new consoles as the PR battle intensifies over the coming months. They will speak about the power each device offers, but will it be enough to challenge the gaming PC when it comes to the flourishing world of competitive gaming?
On The Outside
Esports is a multibillion-dollar sector that generates a great deal of hype and publicity around the world. Major companies like McDonald’s, Red Bull and MasterCard all sponsor the action and tournament organizers make a fortune from digital rights sales, sponsorships, tickets and merchandising,
Yet consoles are generally on the outside, looking in at this world that really represents the pinnacle of gaming. A few popular esports can be played on console, including FIFA and Call of Duty, but the vast majority of the games require a PC.
The popular MOBA titles like Dota 2 and League of Legends are PC games, while the first-person shooters like CS:GO require a mouse and a keyboard for the shooting mechanic. The PC is a lot more powerful than any console currently on the market, while controllers are no match for high-spec mice and keyboards, so consoles rarely get a look-in when it comes to this flourishing, lucrative world.
The Halo Effect
Halo has previously enjoyed success as an esport. The series boasts legions of diehard fans, and they were keen to watch the leading lights in action at a series of
big Halo 5: Guardians tournaments. However, the scene peaked with the $2.5 million Halo World Championship in 2016.
The following year, the World Championship prize money dropped to $1 million and the scene fizzled out. Halo Infinite could allow the Xbox to muscle its way back into the esports scene.
It will include split-screen and LAN play, and Microsoft has the opportunity to foster a strong competitive Halo Infinite scene. The new console, currently codenamed Project Scarlett, will surely sell millions of units in rapid fashion, and Halo Infinite is likely to be the game most people play first.
If Microsoft bankrolls a lucrative pro Halo scene, it could reap the benefits.
Epic Games pumped $100 million into prize money at Fortnite tournaments this year in order to see off competition from Apex Legends and PUBG. It was a pretty crude way of retaining a loyal customer base, but it has proved brutally effective.
Players that had been lured away rushed back to Fortnite in order to brush up on their skills, and more than 40 million of them entered qualifying heats for the Fortnite World Cup. A teenager from Pennsylvania won $3 million and hit headlines across the globe, inspiring many more to lock themselves away and train hard in an effort to follow in his footsteps.
It has helped Fortnite hold onto its crown in the battle royale genre, and it has actually proved to be an intriguing spectator sport, while Fortnite betting is even now a thing. As a first-person shooter, Halo should lend itself better to esports, and the Xbox could be the console of choice if Microsoft insists upon this at tournaments it organises.
Sony made an interesting move in partnering with Razer and Nacon a few years ago to create two licensed pro PS4 controllers: the Razer Raiju and the Nacon Revolution. Esports stars need more unique controllers than casual gamers in order to pull off the feats of individual brilliance required to thrive in this cutthroat world.
These pro controllers helped Sony close the gap on the mouse and keyboard, making the PS4 more viable to the world of esports. It has been most noticeable with Call of Duty.
The popular franchise has not quite hit the heights of CS:GO within the competitive gaming sphere, as it does not have as high a skill ceiling and a new title is released on a regular basis, but its esports scene is still popular. If Sony keeps teaming up with firms like Razer and Nacon to create customised controllers, it could enjoy far more success within esports once it launches a far more powerful next-gen console.
Picking Your Battles
Sony and Microsoft are not going to break the gaming PC’s dominance when it comes to MOBA titles. However, both the PS4 and Xbox One have enjoyed plenty of success with sports titles. If they work with EA Sports to help build up the FIFA esports scene, everyone could benefit.
The console is also well positioned to thrive within the fighting games genre. Nintendo has done well here with Smash, but Sony and Microsoft could also seize a share of this popular market.
Console games instantly lack credibility as esports titles right now, and it could be up to the console developers to spark a console esports revival. By funding tournaments, they could increase the scene’s popularity. By investing in intriguing new technology, they could make it more viable for pros.
The next-gen consoles will not be cheap, but they will be a lot cheaper than gaming PCs, and Sony and Microsoft should be keen to bolster their presence within esports. This sector is growing exponentially on an annual basis, and one day it is tipped to become more popular than traditional sports, so it would be naive to ignore it while it is still in its nascent stages.