Console gaming used to be for the nerds (much love to my people) and the geeks. Fortunately for everyone, the gamer identity has become mainstream. Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Sony’s Playstation 3, and Nintendo’s Wii and Wii U have essentially brought gaming to the masses. Gaming is more popular on Facebook and other online platforms as well. Not to mention the fact that the average age of gamers according to Kotaku is anywhere between 30 and 37, depending on who you ask and how you define gamer.
So gamers aren’t little kids anymore. Sure, there are a lot of young gamers out there, but that’s beside the point. What’s important now is that the big gaming companies are entering the 8th generation of console gaming (Nintendo has a head start, but isn’t exactly doing spectacular with it). The biggest competitors are Sony and Microsoft.
Sony and Microsoft are now locked into a marketing and bragging battle about whether Microsoft’s Xbox One or Sony’s Playstation 4 console is the best for a consumer to buy. This is a battle over hundreds of millions of gamers’ dollars, and one in which mistakes can cost these companies quite a chunk of business.
Let’s get to the problems Microsoft has created for itself as it unleashed its marketing for Xbox One. The most serious ones are as follows:
- The console has to connect once every 24 hours to the internet or you cannot play any games.
- The Kinect sensor must be connected at all times.
- Lending or renting games and selling and trading in these games comes with annoying stipulations and is harder than ever.
Number One: Microsoft has implemented a form of DRM (Digital Rights Management) which many gamers and internet enthusiasts generally despise. The once-in-24-hours check-in required by the console to play the games a consumer has purchased has people angry. Microsoft is making a big mistake taking power out of the consumer’s hands and pushing a design that could inconvenience their customers.
Number Two: If the recent privacy and data snooping scandal involving the NSA is any indication, people are worried about their privacy. The new Kinect that Microsoft has packaged with the Xbox One has to be connected to play the system, but Microsoft didn’t do a very good job marketing this. Stephen Totilo on Kotaku writes, “The new Kinect can see in the dark, pick out human voices in a noisy living room and read your heart rate just by looking at your face… The thing has to be plugged in for the console to work, and is in some way already checking out what’s going on in the room it’s in.”
Consumers were confused after initial information about the device made it seem like the Xbox One and the Kinect had to be always-on and always-aware. That’s creepy. Microsoft had to come out and clarify that the system can in fact be turned off completely, but the Kinect still has to be plugged in for the system to work. For Microsoft’s sake one can only hope the rumor of an always-on and always-watching Kinect goes away sooner rather than later.
Number Three: Microsoft has really irked consumers with this one. Gamers have gotten used to buying and selling used games – it’s as simple as that. Now Microsoft has made it so that publishers decide whether games can be bought or sold. It also prevents anyone from trading or sharing games unless they’ve been friends with them for over 30 days on the Xbox Live network. Re-selling your games is also much harder than it used to be.
Gamers and Customers Feel Insulted
I’m a PC gamer myself, so I have no fan-boy interest in Sony or Microsoft. What I don’t like to see and what many other consumers don’t like, is to be treated a certain way by someone selling us something. The biggest problem with Microsoft’s marketing is that it has failed to convince customers the benefit from these policy changes. They also shocked gamers during the unveiling by focusing on TV and movies, not games. See this mocking summary/edit of the event here (prepare to laugh):
Forcing an internet check, locking people out of their games if it fails, preventing the easy sale, re-sale, and lending of games that customers believe they have a right to (they bought it, after all) has gamers shocked and angry. An IGN poll of 76,000 people found 75% were disappointed with the Xbox One reveal. Just take a look at some of these reactions culled from Reddit and the internet:
And another from Sony CEO Kaz Hirai:
Sony Keeps it Simple and Puts the Pressure on Microsoft
With all of these mistakes by Microsoft (intentional or not) Sony reps must be sitting in their offices with giant grins on their faces. At E3 recently, Sony fully unveiled the PS4 and all of its features.
Guess what? Sony’s PS4 has no used game restrictions, no restrictions on game-sharing, has a degree of backward compatibility, has generally better hardware, is $100 cheaper, is region-free, and will be able to play online or offline, without any form of DRM whatsoever. Gamers on forums all over the internet are talking about how all of these seemingly common sense offerings mean they will probably buy a PS4, not an Xbox One.
It looks like Sony has made a point to give their customers, the gamers, what they really want out of the next Playstation. Sony isn’t trying to push boundaries or change things that are familiar to gamers. Sony understands and knows its customers. They know the brand. They aren’t deviating from that with features that people don’t want or that they don’t need. It’s a smart move given the fact that gamers are generally more involved in online marketing and buzz than traditional consumers.
From this PS4 vs Xbox One battle going on over the last few days, Sony managed to make a piece of marketing gold. Everyone involved in advertising and marketing should see what I think is one of the cleverest, grin-inducing YouTube marketing videos I have ever seen. It features Sony’s CEO and some other guy. It’s perfect, to me, and shows that Sony isn’t afraid to hit Microsoft where it’s hurting since all of these blunders. Check it out:
One headline about the PS4 says: “PS4: No used game restrictions, no DRM, no internet connection requirements, Xbox One Dead on Arrival?” It might not be dead, but the marketing done by Microsoft hasn’t helped their cause. Business isn’t a friendly endeavor at all times. Sony is taking it to Microsoft in ways we haven’t seen in quite some time.
Oh and one more entertaining image encompassing the reaction among gamers to the PS4 vs Xbox One battle:
What do you think of Sony’s capitalizing on Microsoft’s blunders?