In what may be the most unexpected team-up since Archie met The Punisher, Sony and Microsoft have announced plans to form a "strategic partnership" through which they will collaborate on the development of cloud-based technology 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."
The partnership at this point is strictly a memorandum of understanding, which the companies said will enable them to explore the potential use of Microsoft's Azure datacenters to support Sony's online services, as well as joint development of new hardware and AI technology. More long-term, the announcement suggests a mix of Sony's hardware—"cutting-edge image sensors" and semiconductors—and Microsoft's Azure AI and cloud technology: "The parties will explore incorporation of Microsoft’s advanced AI platform and tools in Sony consumer products, to provide highly intuitive and user-friendly AI experiences."
"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," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said.
Game consoles typically fall outside our purview but the potential impact of this partnership on gaming as a whole, through advances in streaming, AI, cloud technology, and the promise of "better development platforms for the content creator community," is enormous. Predictions of the "final console generation" have been kicking around for years—Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said last year that he thinks the next console generation will likely be the last—but this may be the biggest step yet toward making that outcome a reality.