Thursday, 8 August 2013

XBONE vs PS4, A Different Take

I've noticed something about the marketing strategies of the two different companies and felt it might be worth doing a post. Admittedly, I tried to cram this into a Facebook comment - and failed miserably. That's why it's going on a blog post.

"Boooo, Consoles Suck! Boooooo, Hissssssss..."


For clarification: I'll be buying both. I've preordered the XBOne (because it's released earlier, the only reason) and I'm hoping to see some Vita/PS4 bundles, otherwise I'll grab the PS4 on its own come February/March ish.

Let's cut through all the crap: the two consoles are more or less identical in hardware. In addition, because a good chunk of console games are cross-compatible - you're going to be playing a version of the game built for the lowest common denominator. Your PS4 graphics will look identical to the XBOne graphics because game developers aren't going to spend extra budget creating two graphically different versions of the same game. 

The only time you'll only see the increased performance is on exclusive titles - and then you'll have nothing to compare them to anyway!

My question then: How does a company separate itself from the competition, when both companies are giants with their own loyal fan base, both releasing similar hardware, both playing the exact same games?

I think Microsoft have done this with negative advertising. What's more, I think it's was 100% intentional, from the beginning.

I'm going to assume, for ease, that the respective fan base is split 50/50. It's probably not, but it helps for the post...

In the Beginning... 

Initially Microsoft's stance was Always On - a controversial topic that gathered much attention. It came with a nice set of benefits if you fell into a certain category of customer (no discs, games accessible from anywhere with internet, families with multiple consoles); but had a substantial setback if you fell into a different category of customer (no internet access). 

Add on to that, the Kinect is a requirement. Notice that the Kinect isn't "extra functionality that comes out of the box", the Kinect is you pay more, you have no choice. Next? You aren't able to trade games anymore through 3rd party stores. 

It really did feel like Microsoft were shafting budget gamers.

So it's a pretty damning tale for the XBone. Except - honestly don't think this mattered much to their core fans... the online gaming, 8 hours a night, voice comms, competitive, streaming guys. The guys who (generally) make or brake a product. 

Personally I had already preordred my XBOne. I suspect a lot of other people had, too. For all the internet uproar about these restrictions and so called 'features', I'd be shocked if the fan base went anywhere near 55/45 in Sony's favour.

Time for Sony...

Sony came into the press conference and absolutely owned it. They completely upstaged Microsoft on all counts. It was as if they took every single negative rumour about the XBone - and went "Ours doesn't do that!" You can trade our games. You don't have to be online. We don't bundle pointless additional hardware. We're £100 cheaper and it's easy for Indie developers!

There was mass excitement. The console war exploded in Sony's favour. The Internet united, slagging off Microsoft's substandard console, it would be a big flop, Sony would win this war of tech giants. (You know, for anyone who hadn't already preordered).

Except, hype fades - pretty quickly. Sony basked in the limelight of the media for about two weeks off the back of the conference. Then once everyone had wrote a blog and 12 Facebook updates about how shoddy Microsoft were - there was nothing more to say.

The problem here, is that Sony have laid all their cards on the table. It worked at the time - they owned the conference. But maybe they peaked too soon. Certainly there's nowhere for them to move now. The console won't get better before now & launch. How could it? It was a near perfect show.

What Happens Next...

By this point, people have more or less decided which console they're going to buy come Christmas. Kids have asked for both, parents have told them to pick one, etc. The hardcore fans have all preordered, they're no longer competing for their business. It's down to the Christmas Shoppers.

What's the current press saying about the console war? Nothing. The console war is old news.

But wait... Microsoft have just announced, you won't have to be Always Online. Holy shit! This is a big deal! Wasn't that like, the main problem with the XBOne? It even reached the news on TV! I think the reverse on this policy was on the news more than the actual conference itself (you know, the conference where Sony owned it?)

Clever. Then a month or so passes, Microsoft have decided they want to make it considerably easier for indie developers to use their system. Oh Wow! What a great idea. Can you see Sony jumping up and down in the background yelling "But they've always been able to do that on the PS!!!"? Nobody cares Sony, that's old news. The new news, is that Microsoft are becoming indie friendly!

Originally, 360 headsets weren't going to be compatible with the new XBOne console. Sorry guys, but new technology makes it difficult to keep backwards compatibility. (Sony's would, of course, work with the PS4! Nobody cares Sony). Then Microsoft said they've listened to customers - decided that headsets will be compatible, but you'd have to buy an adapter. Then another iteration as of today, Microsoft have decided to bundle a headset, with the console! How unique. Yet it's getting them in the news.

Most Recent...

Finally the most recent development in the console war, is the news that XBOne users won't be able to take advantage of the console's DVR or live streaming service, unless they are subscribed to the $60/yr Live Gold service. More uproar. So you've paid (a LOT) for a console, you have the physical hardware in front of you, you aren't allowed to use it.

Sony, perhaps miffed at their lack of media attention in the past few months, released a press statement confirming that the PS4's live streaming and DVR hardware would be indeed be usable by anyone, not just their PS+ subscribers. 

Unfortunately, nobody cares! We all know the PS4 is good. You aren't giving us anything extra to talk about, to bitch about to our friends, to blog and Facebook rant about. We'll spend the next few weeks ranting about Microsoft - and then once the dust has settled, and the media attention stops, I'm 90% certain Microsoft will decide (after listening to customer feedback!) to allow streaming and DVR usage without the Live subscription.

I think, that Microsoft have played this very, very well. As far as recent news is concerned, Microsoft is releasing a product where you get motion sensor bundled as an extra, headset bundle as extra, you don't have to be online to play the damn thing and the console is indie developer friendly. On the other hand, Sony are releasing their PS4.


  1. my trouble my "always on" was purely from the broadband consumer concern point of view, since i cant even guarantee my internet will work when I've finished this post and i can't really take my xbone to the local hotspot lol I'm actually a die hard console fan but due the the recent spate of horribly mediocre games i have in fact died hard and gone to PC, the turning point was a quest breaking glitch in skyrim that occurs on all 3 platforms, but can be fixed via console commands, it genuinely bothers me that i've given up on consoles now but they just have no incentive anymore :-(

    1. In theory, the added connectivity of consoles (always on or otherwise) - as well as the new trend to focus on persistent multiplayer worlds - should mean game breaking glitches all get patched up pretty quickly. In practice, I doubt it >.<