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Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo: A Case-Study of Structural Balance Theory Within the Gaming Industry

As with many of my peers whom are learning about network theory for the first time,  I have started to notice the vast variety of networks within my daily life. Whether it be deciding which course to devote more time studying for, or simply which exit to take when leaving a lecture hall, it will certainly be difficult to stop drawing parallels to networks after taking this course. As a casual gamer, I was especially fascinated with how network theory applied to the gaming industry. By analyzing the video game Fortnite through its platform cross-play feature, we can also begin to apply network theory to it.

Fortnite is just one of the many recent online video games which allows its entire gaming audience to play matches together, regardless of what platform they are playing on. In this case, this allows gamers from a variety of backgrounds play together, including on the Microsoft Xbox One, Sony Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, PCs, and mobile devices. In this way, we can create a network with edges connected different gaming companies and their platforms.

However, recent controversy over cross-play has arisen because Sony has blocked any cross-play between its Playstation 4 and the Xbox One and Switch; Sony dismissed backlash by pointing to itself as the market leader in the gaming industry, and saying that cross-play with its rivals would undermine that. In an even more bizarre turn of events, Microsoft and Nintendo (whom have traditionally been rivals in the gaming industry) retaliated by teaming up to promote cross-play between their gaming platforms through various advertisements and marketing campaigns.

Nevertheless, when this situation is viewed as a network, the behaviors of these companies can be rationalized. If we draw a triangle with Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, then the combination of Sony’s antagonistic behavior and rivalry between Microsoft and Nintendo creates an unbalanced network between the three companies with no positive edges. However, according to the Structural Balance Theory, we can predict that two of the nodes with a common enemy will form an alliance and balance this network. In this case, the theory was fulfilled when Microsoft and Nintendo formed a positive edge between each other to balance out the network.





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September 2018