Microsoft Corporation might just be trying to shut itself off from the world when it comes to the Xbox One VS PS4 battle, but the firm can’t escape contrasts made by people other than its managers. Microsoft’s propaganda season is upon us, and games sites are full of the specific kind of mistruth that’s difficult to pin down after six months.
We’ve been following the odd statements from the Xbox team in recent weeks, and they’re not letting up. As we head into the first true season in Microsoft’s first party Xbox One drive, now is the time to take a look at how the box is doing in order to compare it with itself, the only thing Xbox boss Phil Spencer thinks is correct, early next year.
It’s also a good time to reflect on the promises that Microsoft has made thus far, so that they can easily be checked on next year. Mr. Spencer says the Xbox One VS PS4 battle is over, and we are inclined to agree.
Keep in mind that Sony Corp (ADR) is guilty of the same sort of double speak. It’s the language used by someone who regards the listener as a consumer. For the time being, however, Microsoft, and Phil Spencer in particular, are both louder about it and better at it.
Selling the Xbox One VS PS4 myth
This one is easy. Phil Spencer says he doesn’t measure his success, or that of the Microsoft console, by the Xbox One VS PS4 sales numbers. In a recent interview he said “I honestly don’t goal the team on how many units Sony sells.”
He says that sales of the Xbox One VS PS4 don’t matter. What does matter is sales of this gen against the last one. When sales numbers are revealed, and in most interviews, he compares sales to those of the Xbox 360 rather than the PS4.
To be fair Mr. Spencer had the tact to stay true to that even in January when Xbox One VS PS4 sales shifted in his favor. In a Tweet after the reveal he said that the “most important thing is that Xbox fans are sticking with us.”
There’s good reason for that contrast. The PS4 is beating the Xbox One in every market, and it’s beating it roundly in most. Xbox One VS PS4 sales are close in the US and UK, but Mr. Spencer is still pretending not to fight a losing battle.
We’ll see what he says if he starts to win the console war in the US on a consistent basis.
It’s not Xbox One, it’s PC + Xbox One VS PS4
Phil Spencer, in a recent interview with Polygon, said that he doesn’t see the difference between Xbox One and PC all that much anymore. They’re both part of a gaming spectrum controlled by Satya Nadella and Bill Gates according to the manager, and in a few years gamers will put the two in the same box.
This isn’t true. It won’t be true until Microsoft gives up the Xbox One VS PS4 fight, or decides to put full Windows 10 on the Xbox. This is old ground, so we’re not going to go over it in full again. It seems a very odd line for Microsoft to take. From a logical point of view it simply doesn’t make sense. From a sales point of view it might work, and we’ll get to see the effect later on this year.
Counting Xbox One VS PS4 Exclusives
Mr. Spencer made one thing clear a couple of weeks ago. Market share has nothing to do with the price of third party exclusives. He then returned to the point and said that they sort of did, but not really, and Sony Corp (ADR) with its famous deep pockets was simply buying Call of Duty content.
He hasn’t been very clear on that point. He has been clear however, that despite the alleged buyout of so many third party exclusives by Sony, the Xbox team is not interested. They’ve taken a first party turn, and that’s what Mr. Spencer says is best for the gamers.
Mr. Spencer told Gamespot recently that “we’re making a conscious decision to focus on our first-party games. It doesn’t make it harder or easier, it’s just a decision.”
We can already see the contradiction in the Xbox One VS PS4 market he described. It will be interesting, however, to see if Microsoft has many first party games ready for next year.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is the exception that refuses to prove the rule. That game is a timed exclusive that will get about a year on Xbox One before it arrives on PS4. It’s set to be one of the major releases of the coming holiday season, though with a TAM of just 13M it would need the attach rate of Wii Sports in order to beat Call of Duty this time around.
It’s not about Microsoft
Though this piece, and much of our recent coverage, follows Microsoft, and Mr. Spencer in particular, this isn’t about Microsoft . All of the firms in the games industry, including Sony Corp (ADR) , engage in this kind of corporate communication with gamers.
It’s clear that Microsoft has gotten good at it under Phil Spencer. The firm is almost artful at saying what gamers want to hear. That is not the same as telling the truth. Each of the major threads of the Xbox One VS PS4 strategy, as outlined by Mr. Spencer already lack clarity and remain ambiguous.
Usually those communicating with those that consume products rely on ambiguity like that to help them out of situations later on. Kudo Tsunoda, who leads the Xbox dev teams, is good at this sort of thing, though he could stand to focus on saying anything at all.
In an interview with GamesIndustry he said “We’re doing things that can’t be done on any other console.” He added that “You should be able to play what you love, and play together, regardless of what device you’re playing on. It’s about connecting people.”
CrossPlay is the feature he was talking about. Apparently the PS4 is not able to manage a connection with a PC. Either that, or Mr. Tsunoda is using ambiguity to cover up a sales pitch.
As the next few months wear on, we’ll see just how closely Mr. Spencer has stuck to his line on how the Xbox One VS PS4 battle will work from here on out.
We’ll be able to see whether he made a genuine change, or relied on the ambiguity of earlier comments to fall back on strong statements about the PC, about exclusives, and about his sales targets.