Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

And They’re Off…

It’s hard for me to diagnose whether my general preference for the XBox One over PS4’s announcement is built upon fact, or upon the general idea that I am, apparently, a Microsoft fan boy.  Or more appropriately, a Sony hater.

In my household, my 360 sees usage nearly daily, although much of that is as a Netflix provider.  The PS3 is probably one of my most hated game-related purchases of all time, and if it weren’t for the fact that it also doubles as my Blu-Ray player, I’m not sure I would have turned it on in the last 6 months.  I don’t think I’ve ever turned it on without it having a compatibility update. The controllers seem to run out of battery life in 24 hours, even when they and the console are off.  The blu-ray player was constantly having compatibility problems.  For God’s sake, they pursued a proprietary remote control technology so that you would be forced to buy one of their shitty remotes instead of being able to use a universal remote.

And these guys are now the heroes of the consumer?  I roll to disbelieve.

To be honest, what I saw from Sony when they launched was just unbelievable arrogance, undoubtedly coupled by them being the winners of the previous console generation.  I didn’t think I was likely to see that kind of arrogance again, but I guess that was before Don Mattrick suggested that anyone who didn’t want to be connected 24/7 should just keep playing their 360 in a tone so serious that you can tell that they all sat around in a marketing meeting and agreed that was their talking point.

Microsoft, when Lewis Black tells you to go fuck yourself on the Daily Show, you need to seriously start worrying about how your message has gotten out of control.

How much does this matter?  Hard to say really.  For all the bluster, spin and jockeying from the last generation of the great console wars, the PS3 and 360 came within spitting distance of each other in terms of consoles sold (about 70-75M each).    The Wii (you know, that other console that would never sell because of the stupid name) ended up coming in at just about 100M.

But then that’s kind of an apples and oranges comparison.  The Wii differs from its competitors in that it was profitable right out of the box, compared to the other two which were both loss leaders. The other two, though, tend to sell a lot more per box.  Still, what is interesting now is a matter of Primacy.

I believe that eventually, most hardcore gamers will buy both systems.  Buying the Xbox One may happen a year after you pick up the PS4, but it will happen. Eventually, they will release a must-have exclusive title, and at the end of the day, these titles are what sell consoles.  The importance of Uncharted, Gears of War, Gran Turismo and Halo to the console wars can’t be understated.

But the real fighting, down in the trenches, is over the stuff that’s not exclusive.  When you buy a copy of Madden or Call of Duty, which console do you choose?  This is the trench warfare of the great console wars, and this is where Primacy comes in.  You’re more likely to choose the one you find most comfortable, the one that is always on and updated.  Sure, you may be swayed to choose one over exclusive content, but most of the time, the battle will come down to things like whether you care about your achievement score on one console or the other.

The effect of Primacy: Despite the fact that there are an equal number of consoles, the Call of Duty series sells better on the 360.  (Black Ops: 12M to 3.2M, Modern Warfare 2 7.5M to 4.8M ).  I think the former has to do with a Holiday bundle.  There’s a reason they do those.  Primacy.

Which means that, even though most gamers will end up buying both consoles, despite their bitching, the one they buy first will get a little internal momentum.  So for right now, advantage Sony.

1 Comment

  1. It’s surprising that Sony basically announced a beefed up PS3 with no new innovations. No mentions of the Eye or Move or anything else. I think Microsoft recognizes that the Wii did well because it was different, and they’re trying to also do something different, while still being a hardcore game console. I’m firmly in the “I’ll get both eventually” category, but I’m not sure if I’ll pick up either at launch. I still have my trusty PC.

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