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Opinion: Microsoft’s TV Features Are A Major Competitive Advantage

In about 12 months, the petty console war flames will be burnt down to embers. Both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 units will be in plentiful supply on the shelves. Sony and Microsoft will have strong game lineups, and our thoughts will turn to the holiday season once more.

It’s then that many staunch console warriors will finally admit to themselves that holiday bundles and exclusives are tempting enough. They’ll once again become multi-platform gamers, and then the real competition between Microsoft and Sony begins. 

How many times have you asked your friends which version of a multiplatform game they are getting? Exclusive content, early DLC, and pre-order bonuses are all designed to sway you to one platform or the other. Each piece of software sold represents a significant licensing fee for the platform holder. That’s why exclusivity (timed and otherwise) deals are made.

A new factor is going to enter the mix in a new way this generation: convenience. For those who still have cable (which Microsoft’s Albert Penello tells me is a significant portion of the Xbox user base), the television features of the Xbox One are absolutely worth using.

By running the cable box through the Xbox One’s HDMI passthrough, you can flip back and forth between television, games, and other apps with your voice. The switch only takes a second, and multiplayer matchmaking can take place in the background while you’re watching something else, like television or Netflix.

One of the reasons we talk about load times is because they serve as a deterrent. They elongate “time-to-game,” which is defined as the time elapsed between the decision to play and actually doing so. It’s one of the reasons why mobile games are so big. It takes mere seconds to start playing. We’re going to see that come to both next-generation consoles (Xbox One at launch and PlayStation 4 once suspend/resume is patched in). As of now, only the Xbox One will allow matchmaking to pop up on television, though.

I expect that a significant portion of multiplatform gamers are going to choose to play on Xbox One (when there is a choice) because of this factor, and it may have an indirect impact on those who don’t even use the TV features. Even those who have “cut the cord,” may be influenced because more of their friends factor “time-to-game” and multitasking into the decision process.

For those who use the Xbox television features, the Xbox One will always be on. Those individuals will be interacting with the console more than they do now, and it’s going to be increasingly difficult for competitors to pierce that shell.

Nothing is set in stone, and as the platforms and the features evolve (as I opined in a piece last week), everything could change. Having seen the Xbox One television features live and in-person, I see the power in that pass-through port. I suspect that when many skeptics try it themselves on November 22, they’ll feel the same way.

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