Forget the console wars. Now it’s all about trench software

February 22, 2024 | By Joshua Farrington

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Billions of people like to relax by playing a video game, whether they’re swiping at candy on a smartphone, entering an open world on a console or strapping on a headset to immerse themselves in a cutting-edge virtual reality experience. Behind the scenes, though, the gaming industry is anything but relaxed, with seismic shifts transforming how games are made, released and enjoyed.

Ever since the so-called “console wars” of the ‘90s when Sega battled Nintendo for real estate next to the VCR, gaming has often operated as a series of walled gardens, with each manufacturer boasting exclusive games as catnip to lure customers.

These days, those walls have increasingly started to tumble, with executives looking to maximize the value of their intellectual property, even if it that means fewer consoles sold.

Last week, Microsoft Gaming’s CEO Phil Spencer announced that four major Xbox-exclusive titles would soon be arriving on other platforms, a significant step away from its traditional approach of console exclusivity. Other major players like Sony have made similar indications, pointing to a future where the hardware matters less than the software and its potential audience.

With an explosion in recent years of streaming games and subscription services, there has been a concerted effort on the games themselves rather than the platforms. Microsoft’s $68 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard illustrates there’s fierce competition over who can make either the next big hit or the next release of an already-huge franchise.

And with Sony’s PlayStation 5 in the latter stages of its expected lifespan and Nintendo expected to announce the follow-up to its blockbuster Switch console in the coming months, it means even more disruption may be on the way. The hits are likely to keep on coming, but when it comes to the consoles giving us the next shiny penny, the competition may be coming to an end.

Too 'pool' for school

Gaming is evolving at a rapid pace, and some of our oldest pastimes aren’t exactly immune to giant changes, either. Take swimming, for example. While the basics of swimming haven’t changed since we first found ourselves in the water, new technology continues to transform the sport.

One of the biggest innovations in competitive swimming proved so advantageous to those able to embrace it, the sports’ governing body ultimately banned it. The LZR Pro swimsuit, created by Speedo, was used by top athletes at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and nearly all of the swimming world records shattered there were by athletes wearing that suit.

The suit, designed with help from NASA’s experts in the field of fluid dynamics and drag reduction, had ultrasonically sealed seams and stretched from neck to ankle. It was so revolutionary that Time Magazine named it one of the three best retail products of 2008, but it was then banned from official competitions, in part because some athletes were unable to attain them.

The London Free Press now reports that the new Speedo suits Fastskin LZR Pure Intent 2.0 and Fastskin LZR Pure Valour 2.0 have been approved for use by World Aquatics. The suits, which go from the shoulder to the knee for women and from the waist to the knee for men, were used in 75% of all records set in 2023.

Developed by Speedo’s Aqualab research and engineered with Lamoral Space Tech, these new suits employ a fusion of three textured fabric zones, bonded seams and compressive dual layers in specific locations.

As innovation continues to fuel the marriage between technology and athletics, the question remains: How much of it is fair? Whether it’s carbon fiber in sports equipment or sneaker tech for use in marathons, we may be seeing governing bodies weigh in more and more.    

Joshua Farrington, contributor