It was inevitable. While Sony and Microsoft are rightly positioned as arch-rivals, the truth is that both companies stand to benefit from a unified vision when it comes to the future of gaming. A “strategic partnership” announced by both companies today acknowledges that. Together they will collaborate on the development of cloud-based technologies to support their game and streaming services.
"Sony is a creative entertainment company with a solid foundation of technology. We collaborate closely with a multitude of content creators that capture the imagination of people around the world, and through our cutting-edge technology, we provide the tools to bring their dreams and vision to reality," Sony president and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said in a statement.
"For many years, Microsoft has been a key business partner for us, though of course the two companies have also been competing in some areas. I believe that our joint development of future cloud solutions will contribute greatly to the advancement of interactive content," continued Yoshida.
Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made the following statement: “Sony has always been a leader in both entertainment and technology, and the collaboration we announced today builds on this history of innovation. Our partnership brings the power of Azure and Azure AI to Sony to deliver new gaming and entertainment experiences for customers.”
For now, this partnership is simply a kind of research agreement, in which both companies will explore the potential use of Microsoft’s Azure datacenters to support Sony’s online services, and develop new hardware and AI technology. On the long-term horizon is the possibility of fusing Sony’s hardware – such as cutting-edge image sensors and semiconductors – with Azure AI and cloud technology.
What does this all mean then? Well no one can rightly say that consoles and other traditional platforms will be going away soon, but advances in streaming, AI, cloud technology are definitely a future that companies like Google and Microsoft have been planning for some time now. This partnership suggests a future where those advances can take the form of a common hardware and software language.
The announcement builds on previous moves by both console manufacturers. Xbox boss Phil Spencer has already been using the in-development Project xCloud streaming service to play Destiny 2 and Crackdown 3 while on the go. Sony on the other hand, has been adding streaming functionality into the PlayStation 4 letting users stream their PS4 screen to iOS devices.
This announcement simply cements both Microsoft and Sony’s commitment to streaming and suggests that both companies are taking Google’s new Stadia streaming platform very seriously.