PS4, Sony’s perfect plan

All the data from November, and especially NPD sales figures, confirm the extraordinary dynamic of the PS4. 2,1 million systems had been sold as for December 1st. This is the most massive launch in gaming history, and still it includes only 2 of the 3 major gaming markets. Of course, with 2 million systems sold until December 8, XboxOne is not far behind and we have to go into details to ascertain which is really in the lead.

First, PS4 sold more than XboxOne in November in the US, despite an unfavorable Black Friday and the popularity of the Xbox brand at home. Another crucial point is that PS4 is sold out EVERYWHERE. Amazon has no PS4 to sell before january, scalpers are making fortunes. In Europe right now, you have more chances to spot the Monster of the Loch Ness than a PS4. On the contrary, numerous testimonies show that XboxOne is in stock here and there in the US, and there are a small stock in the electronics shop near my working place. In also interesting to see the sales ratio of the launch titles : every single one sells more on PS4, including American sports games, and shooters (CoD Ghosts and BF4) despite ad campaigns done in association with Microsoft. In Europe, the gap is enormous, XboxOne dived 75% on second week, while PS4 sells more constantly since everyone landing on a shelf is taken at once. In Spain, PS4 sells thrice as fast as XboxOne. In Britain, land of the X360, the PS4 launch was far larger than for XboxOne. In Germany the week XboxOne released, the best-selling next-gen games were FIFA14 and Assassin’s Creed 4 on… PS4! Germans preferred staring at the PS4 box during one week rather than playing the games on XboxOne! (continued laughter) No need to elaborate on WiiU : with only 220K units sold in November in the US, it goes straight into retirement. It is rather funny that Sony sells that many PS4 with barely any TV ads (al least here in France) while Microsoft and Nintendo are flooding the channels with commercial, and yet not competing in stores. But you may know all that already. The big question is : why?

Didn’t XboxOne have the best line-up? Wasn’t Mario 3D World the “higest rated next-gen games”, as those pathetic fools like to proclaim? Wasn’t 3DS supposed to steal the spotlight with all its hits? First, consumers are not stupid enough to make their choice just he launch line-up. No, no one buys a 300, 400 or 500€ system just to play for the holidays. Gamers think in temporality : they examine the past, the present and the future before deciding.

Present, first. That is of course the launch line-up, where Sony loses, but not only. There is technology : PS4 is seen as more advanced because entirely dedicated to gaming. WiiU is out of the race, because you don’t sell current tech at for the price of the next. It’s also price, or more exactly quality/price ratio : gamers see far more value in PS4 than in WiiU. In communication, Sony has taken a clear advantage by refusing to compromise with casual gaming or general entertainment, when Nintendo keeps trying to appeal to moms and Microsoft killed it with their “TV, TV, TV!”. Sony (sincerely or not) has supported second hand games from the very beginning when Microsoft had vowed to destroy it. Indies are constantly put on the stage. In short, everything Sony has said was sweet to the early-adopters’ ear.

Future now. What will I play in 6 months, 1 year, 2 years? WiiU vanishes again, for third parties left for good and the line-up being scarce. Half a dozen of games will be no match against Destiny, DriveClub, The Witcher 3, The Order 1886, Titanfall, Star Wars Battlefront, Infamous Second Son, Quantum Break, Elder Scrolls Online, FFXV, Mirror’s Edge 2, Mass Effect 4, Kingdom Hearts 3, The Division, Thief, Metal Gear Solid 5 to mention a few. Between XboxOne and PS4, the battle is tight. Infamous, DriveClub, FFXIV, The Order, Deep Down and a distant Uncharted will face Titanfall, Quantum Break, Project Spark, Halo 5 et Sunset Overdrive.

Churchill used to say “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see”. That’s what the gamer will do, and this is the most important element. Who got the best exclusives? Who got the most? Where did I find the best experience? Nintendo is out once more : Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect, Battlefield, Uncharted, Naruto, Assassin’s Creed, Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Forza, Gears of War, Crysis, Remember Me, Metal Gear Solid, Halo, Skyrim, Tekken, Bioshock, Dead Space, Call of Duty, all those were on the on the other side. Mario and Zelda can’t do everything. Beyond that, Sony has several aces up its sleeve. Japanese games in general, because many small IPs that have a high degree of loyalty have deep roots in the Playstation ecosystem. You find Tales of, Atelier, Hyperdimension Neptune, Drakengard, Yakuza, Valkyria Chronicles, Persona, Disgea or more recent IPs like The Witch and The Hundred Knights, Toki Towa. That represents a limited number of fans, but it has some importance in terms of brand image. Similarly, there are what I call “image games” : Tearaway, Pupetter, Rain, The Unfinished Swann, Journey, Beyond among others. Those are not, I think, intended to sell any good (they don’t, actually), but are made to improve the brand image of the manufacturer. Because even if the player hasn’t purchased those games, he at least will have heard about it. He will then associate the positive feelings those games infer (risk-taking, originality, poetry, art…) with Sony’s brand image and it will help when will come the time to choose the new console. And there’s the behavior of the others : Nintendo and Microsoft have been pilfering the licenses of others to prevail, and by doing that they deceived the gamers. Microsoft has lied about Star Ocean 4, they lied about Tales of Vesperia. Nintendo lied about Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge, they lied about Rayman Legends. Gamers remember that, why should they trust them again? No wonder Microsoft hesitates before launching XboxOne in Japan : the Japanese are outraged and ready to make them pay. Meanwhile, no PS3 exclusive has been temporary, never.

Sony took a hit with the PS3. They learned the hard way that you don’t win a generation just because you won the previous one. They worked tirelessly to make improvements in every department in order to prepare the future. They refined their strategy when their competitors were re-using old fashioned methods. Next-gen, which is now current-gen, isn’t over. It might have not even begun yet, but Sony has placed its pawns to put the others in check in every corner.

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