Continuing on our four part article as we talk about how Xbox One went from public disaster to video gaming hero in a few short months. After covering the initial announcement in Part I: The One-Two Punch of Doom, we take a look at how the public opinion began to change. 

Part II – The Court of Public Opinion

If it’s fair to criticize Microsoft on their many missteps in the spring and summer of 2013, then it’s also fair to take a good, hard look at why Sony received a pass on many things during the lead up to launch. Yes, from a purely technical standpoint, the PlayStation 4 is the better box, but that’s not why they had such a clear advantage on launch day. Rather, the biggest reason Sony dominated early on was that they controlled the conversation from the very beginning, and their fan base ate it up. From there, Sony just had to sit back and watch social media do all of their work for them.

Sony was able to weave the narrative that they were the underdog whose only goal was to be about gamers. I can’t even put an estimate on the number of times I saw someone on Twitter say something to the effect of “PS4 is all about the gamer”. People ate it up and bought every word of it. A giant publicly traded corporation that had been in existence for 67 years was able to convince people they were the innocent start up that wanted to make something pure.

xbox one vs ps4

I’ll just come out and say it – anyone that truly believed that Sony only cared about the gamer and never even toyed with any (or most) of the policies that the Xbox One got pummeled over should contact me immediately because I have a map to the island where unicorns live to sell them. In fact, evidence points to them having the same DRM policy until seeing the backlash over the Xbox One reveal:

“ after the outrage and negative feedback from gamers regarding the Xbox One, Sony quietly reversed its policies, finally revealing at E3 that the PS4 will not feature used game DRM. This is according to none other than SCE Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida, who admitted the policy change in a recent interview.”
-ps4daily.com, 29 June 2013

The same story states that the PlayStation 4 was originally set to have a mandatory PS Eye inclusion and a $500 price point. This was also reversed after Sony learned of Microsoft’s plans for the Kinect. The reality is that there was no meeting where executives sat around a table and said “what can we make to show how much we love gamers?” Instead, the conversation most likely consisted of “hey, look at the negative response to what Microsoft is planning. How can we take advantage of this to grow market share?”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a publicly traded company answering to its shareholders before anyone else. That’s just the way business works. In fact, the pressure shareholders put on companies to drive more sales and profit often results in innovation and a greater level of interest in what the consumer actually wants. Sony combined smart business strategy and outstanding messaging to essentially motivate an army of fanboys to do all of their marketing for them.

A core element of Sony’s “all about the gamer” messaging was the idea of giving gamers choice. This was emphasized repeatedly in their 2013 E3 conference. Yet in July 2014 when Electronic Arts announced EA Access, Sony decided to not offer it on PlayStation 4. Their reasoning was that “it does not bring the kind of value PlayStation customers have come to expect”. Whether that’s true or not, shouldn’t that be left to the gamers as a, you know, choice? Surely the real reason couldn’t have been that EA Access was seen as a potential competitor to Sony’s PlayStation Now streaming service…could it? Given that PlayStation Now had a price structure that was criticized by many, how could a service that cost $30 a year not be a good value to someone that chooses to get it? Except they weren’t allowed to choose.

xbox one ea access reveal

While Sony essentially received a pass on all these things and more, Microsoft was still fighting to capture its messaging in the months leading up to launch. Despite their reversal on DRM and game sharing, they still largely focused on the box being an all-in-one entertainment machine in their marketing. Microsoft was still full steam ahead with Kinect, only strengthening the perception that PlayStation was about choice and Xbox wasn’t. The fact that there was no AAA must-have Kinect game only further pushed gamers to ask “why do I need this?”.

Microsoft was in desperate need of a clear message and vision. Instead of trying to appeal to everyone, they needed to get gamers back on their side. Repeated ads about NFL and Kinect functionality did nothing to accomplish this. Whether it’s fair or not, by launch Microsoft had lost a tremendous amount of credibility amongst hardcore gamers. Microsoft made the critical mistake of simply assuming gamers would come along for the ride, while Sony hammered home the message that their system was built specifically for gamers.

When the consoles launched, Sony held a decided advantage in sales. Although the Xbox One was outselling its predecessor by a healthy margin, the fact that it was losing to the PlayStation 4 gave the perception that it was a failure. At the time, reading social media would make one think they were the only person that bought an Xbox One. Microsoft was once again in damage control mode. In the months that came ahead, they would finally come to the realization that they needed to rebuild credibility with gamers before anything else, and their subsequent moves would work to change almost everything that detractors had said about the Xbox One from the beginning.

Coming Up – The State of Xbox One – Part III: Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man

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Barry Harden
Barry Harden
6 years ago

Didn’t expect anything different from a salty fanboy Tyler.

Very dangerous of you to make it sound like Shuhei Yoshida had the intention of introducing DRM. Context is at play here and whether one was thinking about DRM to actually consider introducing it are two VERY different things. The idiot Youtuber Techreveiwsusa made a claim Sony did an about face change right at the E3 conference was HUMILIATED by the whole gaming community when he took used information form an unverified source that proved to be erroneous.

As for EA access:

EA Access isn’t a good service. Here’s why Sony declined it.

Both Playstation and Xbox offers free games every month with their yearly PS+ and XBL services respectively. The problem here is that when you allow one publisher to offer their own digital games library subscription, other publishers will want to have their own subscription service. Can you imagine Activision “Access”, Capcom “Access”, Ubisoft “Access”, Rockstar “Access”, etc…??? Soon you’ll be paying over $300 yearly to all the subscription services on top of the PS+ and XBL memberships. Snowball effect. You get the picture.

Now what do you think will happen with the free games given away each month with PS+ and XBL?? They diminish with quality. The top rated and popular games won’t be part of the free games lineup as they will likely only appear if you join into a publisher’s subscription service. Pretty soon you will only get Indie games every month. Nothing from the large publishers will make it to the free monthly games with your PS+ or XBL membership. Except maybe for the titles that are terrible.

Sony had a forward vision approach and refusing EA Access was the step in the right direction to ensure gamers get the quality titles they want with their PS+ memberships.

Tyler
Tyler
Reply to  Barry Harden
6 years ago

Barry,

Thanks for reading.

I own both consoles and enjoy games on both. The only thing I’m a fan of is gaming in general. I personally don’t care and never have cared about whether my console of choice is in 1st, 2nd, 4th, or 10th in sales. Didn’t care when the 360 was dominating in 2007 and don’t care when the PS4 is dominating now. It doesn’t impact my enjoyment when playing a game even a little bit. I do not in any way need my purchases justified by sales numbers. Ultimately it comes down to preference – if you prefer the PS4, awesome. Enjoy it. I enjoy it too. However, most of my friends play on the Xbox family of consoles and I personally prefer the overall ecosystem there. I want them both to be wildly successful because that fosters competition and benefits all of us.

I completely see your side of it with EA Access. However, I guess I come from the point of view that I’m not entitled to free games just because I pay for Microsoft’s or Sony’s online service. That’s a great added bonus and I’m glad we have it. However, if a company like EA offers a $30 per year service to get early access, vault games, and discounts on digital purchases, I support at least being given the choice about whether I want it or not.

thismeinteil
thismeinteil
6 years ago

Leave it to an Xbox fan to revision history so MS wasn’t so bad and Sony was just as bad or worse. The fact is Sony was never planning online DRM or mandatory PS Camera inclusion. These were rumors Xbox fans started just to make themselves feel better about their situation. The truth is a Sony exec said shortly after the reveal that the PS4 would play games exactly like the PS3 does. And House stressed that they never changed their policies on DRM mid-2013.

And only a fanboy would think Sony was being childish that E3. They were doing anything any other company would do, point out the positives of their product over the competition. The fact that they chose to be humorous about it helped them win even more gamers over. Only Xbox fans were left with a sour taste.

Of course, delusions don’t matter, anymore. Only the facts remain. The PS4 had/has a better strategy, better product, better/bigger exclusive lineup, and better price (though the PS4 still outsells the XBO when it is more expensive) and are now reaping the rewards. The PS4 will sell 100M+, while the XBO will be lucky to hit 50M.

kevin
kevin
6 years ago

I enjoyed the article for the most part but it comes across extremely fanboyish when you bring up Sony as many times as you do and call ganers who were excited for ps4 famboys. Oh btw the revisionist history xbox fans have about how Sony would have had drm too if they didn’t see all the backlash is really disturbing considering Sony unveiled the ps4 months before the Xbox reveal but xbox fans make it out like Microsoft announced the x1 first and Sony just backtracked on plans after seeing the backlash which is the farthest thing from the truth and truly is fanboyish.

MIDI
MIDI
6 years ago

Very well written article that gets down to brass tacks and answers the question WHY? without all the fanboyism. One would think from the 2013 launch that the ps4 was the holy grail of gaming and the xbox one was a terrible choice for a gamer who games on console. And while there is a power difference that favors the ps4,the fact is SOME of the enormous sales lead of the ps4 over the xbox one are based on spite for microsoft, disillusionment and misinformation.

kevin
kevin
Reply to  MIDI
6 years ago

No really what it comes down to is the ps4 has always been a global brand compared to x1 which is really only successful in the us and UK not to mention the ps4 didn’t launch a year later and at almost double the price like the ps3 did last gen. I like both systems always have since the og Xbox but there’s no denying that ps systems have always been more popular

Tyler
Tyler
Reply to  kevin
6 years ago

Kevin,

Completely agree with you here. Sony is a global brand. I know I touch on this in either part 3 or 4. As far as being a fanboy goes, I own both systems and enjoy both for the most part. I spend the majority of my time on Xbox because I prefer the ecosystem – both the community and the fact that the majority of my friends play there. That said, I love many of Sony’s exclusive titles too. I just wish they’d actually get released.

MIDI
MIDI
Reply to  kevin
6 years ago

You do realize that at the end of last gen the xbox 360 and ps3 came out almost even. Right? Withe x360 leading all the way and the ps3 picking up and surpassing it towards the end of the cycle. This gen is not just about sales based on branding and popularity. It is more about misinformation, a $100 price difference, media bias and a poor introduction of the xbox one. When you look at sales it would appear that the ps4 is twice the machine the xbox one is, has twice the amount of good games and is twice as powerful. While that may appear to be true and is trumpeted loudly on the net, it is inaccurate…

kevin
kevin
Reply to  MIDI
6 years ago

You do realize the ps3 launched a year after the 360 and at almost twice the price right and like i said the 360 is really only a factor in the US and that’s fact. Also even with the ps3 launching a year after and at almost double the price it outsold the 360 every month worldwide and that shows like I said the global brand ps systems have and the appeal. I have both systems and like both of them for different reasons but the reality of it all is xbox will never be more popular or loved then a ps systems that’s just the truth.

MIDI
MIDI
Reply to  kevin
6 years ago

I think you should just do a check of xbox 360 sales worldwide. And your right about global branding and the playstation. But some of it is simple hate.

kevin
kevin
Reply to  MIDI
6 years ago

I understand what it sold worldwide and I don’t hate the Xbox if I did I wouldn’t own one but from the time the ps3 released it outsold the 360 worldwide and at a faster pace in comparison to when xbox did it and that’s fact

MIDI
MIDI
Reply to  kevin
6 years ago

I agree, however SOME of this worldwide choice of ps4 over xbox one is hate for the xbox one that started at launch