Why Sony and Microsoft's head to head may prove self-defeating
Wow, like buses you can wait for a considerable amount of time - seven years in the case of Sony - and all of a sudden two will arrive in tandem.
Sony's PS4 is going head to head with Microsoft's Xbox One
If you’re over 12 years old, you may be one of many people out there who has been waiting with baited breath for the arrival of PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One. Their arrivals are going to be filling up many fans’ time from now through to Christmas and new year. These are two huge brands killing Nintendo as the must have game platform.
Can these brands really attract a willing audience, especially with launches so close? And how do they benefit?
With brand loyalty at an all-time high, won’t those loyal to Sony or Microsoft continue to be loyal without the need for the media hype and PR frenzy, which for one will result in likely negative publicity and a potential drop in share price? Why wait seven years to go head to head with your biggest rival?
These brands invest so heavily in their equity. And in the case of gaming, they have on their hands a fickle audience where the right brand or platform is crucial for them to appeal to their peer groups. They’ve already transformed the functions of their consoles to do more than just provide an outlet for gaming.
With the console industry’s revenue falling, these brands have had to stretch their limbs to provide a kind of living room one-stop set-top box that offer all types of digital entertainment. These devices are now used to watch and control live television as well as streaming video from services such as Netflix and Hulu. No call for living on your sofa could be stronger than these incentives.
Launching deliberately so close together to create a battle may potentially be self-defeating and could have more far-reaching ramifications for the larger brand portfolio. After all, Sony, having just written down its profit forecast by 40 per cent, is taking a huge risk on one platform at the expense of the brand as a whole.
Social criticism is part of the nature of gaming, where violence, gender stereotyping, swearing and not forgetting the health inflicting aspects all have a cross to bear. Is it not time for these brands to consider the wider brand impact? Gaming is one of the most inventive, creative and technologically advanced industries within the developed world, and in the case of the UK, is a considerable contributor to the economy through forward thinking studios supplying Sony and Microsoft. Its social effect is vast and growing and once my generation fades into a distant memory, I imagine it will be hard to find anyone who doesn’t use a console to be socially active.
However, this all hinges on the brands’ survival and the luxury of choice Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony provide, which through self-imposed brand wars could disappear if the brand as whole dies. This could leave us with no choice but to head towards a future of dull conformists with only one platform to play on.
Dan Todaro is managing director of Gekko