PlayStation 4 vs Xbox One – Who Holds The Key To Victory?
We stand at a crossroads in the history of console gaming. As Sony and Microsoft struggle for leverage at the dawn of a new generation of consoles, most of the media and fan focus is on what the Playstation 4 and Xbox One offer in the short term. I recently asked myself what I think is going to realistically be the biggest factor in determining the winner and loser of the next round of the console slug fest, not only initially, but 2 years, 3 years, or even 5 years down the road.
- Year 1: Leading up to, and just following the release of the PS4 and Xbox One, the consumer is going to be bombarded with specifications, bells and whistles, side by side comparisons, and smear campaigns. While all of these factors will be considered when deciding on which console to purchase, I think the biggest factor that will push the initial buyers, the hardest of the hardcore gamers, toward one system and away from the other will be which company wins the PR battle pertaining to used games. Consumers are very opposed to the notion that billion dollar companies may be trying to bleed them, to nickel and dime them for every penny they have. The very mention of limitations on used games has ignited a firestorm of hysteria within the gaming community. Both Sony and Microsoft know this. And so far, they’ve both done a good job bluffing and biding their time. Eventually, though, they’ll both have to lay their cards on the table. When they do, we’re going to find out who’s holding a full house, and who’s holding a pair of deuces. The winner of this corporate game of poker is going to rake in the lion’s share of the consumer chips at the outset.
- Year 2-3: What we learned during the current battle in the console war is that getting off to a good start can help bring security and a healthy market share. We also learned that getting off to a slow start doesn’t necessarily spell doom. After the initial push, I believe that winning the 2nd group of consumers, the hardcore yet pragmatic gamers, will be done through the offering of superior exclusive game content. Based on current generation game libraries, Sony seems to be in an advantageous position, with new installments of hits like Uncharted, God of War, Resistance, and Infamous likely to be right around the corner. Microsoft has to know that they’re a step behind in the exclusives category and can no longer rely on the current patchwork strategy of gaining rights to release DLC earlier than Sony. They’ll have to counter with more exclusive projects because, the reality is, when the bulk of gamers look to upgrade in 2-3 years, the comparison of game libraries will undoubtedly take center stage.
- Year 5: As I mentioned in the IGR round table discussion on the Xbox One reveal last week, what we’ve seen up to this point is only the tip of the iceberg as far as what these new consoles will be capable of when running at full potential. Just think of the current generation. Did anyone think that these consoles would eventually rival cable companies as far as available TV and movie programming are concerned? Did anyone think about the possibility of being able to ditch the controller and play games simply with voice and physical commands? 5 years from now, what are our gaming consoles going to be capable of that will make them a necessity in our living rooms? And which company is going to do a better job creating, embracing, and utilizing new technology? Consumers looking to buy a gaming console this long after release will likely be casual gamers and people looking for a multimedia tool. This group of consumers will be paying a lot more attention to which console offers not only the better gaming experience, but also which offers the better set of non gaming related benefits. Based on their initial reveals, it looks like Microsoft is placing more focus on ensuring their console’s longevity and appeal to the masses. That said, Sony made up a huge deficit over the last few years with the PS3, so questioning their approach when it comes to long term strategy may prove to be unwise.
With both Sony and Microsoft releasing new consoles with almost identical specs and prices at the same time, there will be more focus than ever on little things that one console can provide that the other cannot. Because of this, for the first time in console history, the battle for supremacy will be won and lost almost exclusively through PR and exclusive content agreements. As Sony and Microsoft fight it out for each different part of the market, the real winner is us. I, for one, am very excited to see what each company can offer me, not only right now, but in the next handful of years as these new consoles evolve and flourish.