In the future, all of the major platforms will be streaming games over an online service in one way or another. You can already see it starting to happen. Sony will be doing it with PlayStation Now, and soon Steam will have an on-demand game channel thanks to Valve's partnership with the once-thought-dead cloud gaming service OnLive. But with major gaming platforms like the PS4 and the PC planning to have a streaming service available in the near future, I have to wonder, "What about Microsoft?"
When PlayStation Now launches, Sony plans on having its PlayStation 3 (and eventually PS Vita) library available for subscribers to stream, and it's expressed a desire to bring the entire back-catalog for all PlayStation consoles to the service as well. It's a bold plan, and it's not entirely clear when Sony will be launching PlayStation Now, or how much it will cost us to use it. But when it comes to pass, Sony will have essentially cracked the backward-compatibility nut, allowing gamers to relive their fondest gaming memories at a moment's notice.
On the PC side of things, Steam already provides a beloved service to PC Gamers. Now, with Valve's partnership with OnLive, it looks like all of those games you have in your Steam library can be played on just about anything with a screen. So, now the draw to invest in building your Steam library gets even more enticing.
The appeal of on-demand game streaming goes without saying--play any game, any time, anywhere. And with Valve and Sony so whole-heartedly embracing this inevitable future, one has to wonder, where is Microsoft in all of this? As of now, Microsoft is set up to be outdone by not one, but two of its competing platforms in terms of game access. On PC you can play any game that is compatible with your operating system, giving you access to decades worth of games. And with OnLive, those games are available anywhere, at any time. Soon Sony will give players access to at least the PS3 generation, on top of the burgeoning PS4 games library and other assorted multimedia features.
The numbers put Microsoft in a severe disadvantage when it comes down to the games you can play. After all, this month's Titanfall, (probably) next year's Halo, and a few other exclusive games are the only real incentives to get the higher-priced console. But if the XBOne were to implement a similar PlayStation Now-style service and offered all of the exclusive games from the previous generations, the console war might become a bit more of a fair fight.
However, the easy way of leveling the playing field seems to be off the table. Sony and Valve have already swallowed up the existing cloud gaming services, so it looks like for Xbox One to stay competitive in the on-demand gaming streaming race, it's just going to have to build a platform for itself. That can't be cheap.