A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots

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PostA crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Sarge » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:03 pm

It wouldn't be accurate to say that the sky is falling for Microsoft's one and only gaming console, the 360, but it may be time to look at what the company is doing right... and where it's going wrong. The Sony PlayStation 3 is beginning to chip away at the 360's lead in both software and hardware sales in the US, and that system only seems to be picking up steam. In contrast, the 360 doesn't seem to have much real momentum these days.

While it's hard to find ways for Microsoft to get its mojo back, we can easily identify a few problem areas that are becoming clear as the 360 ages. These are the weaknesses in Microsoft's strategy that have to be addressed before the system can hope to get its groove back. Let's take a look.

You have to find your voice

When the PS3 launched, the 360 was the system with more, better games, and the better online strategy. Microsoft also did a wonderful job in poaching some of gaming's largest franchises. Microsoft even brought this up at its press conference at E3: We have Grand Theft Auto, Devil May Cry, and now Final Fantasy! Look at how we've caught up to Sony!

The problem is, these games are still on the PlayStation 3, and Microsoft isn't offering much in the way of improvements to these titles. In fact, given that Microsoft bet on the wrong optical format, we don't know how many discs Final Fantasy XIII will take up when the title arrives on the 360. What else does Microsoft have in the way of exclusives? Halo is a system-seller, sure, but Metal Gear Solid IV is still a PS3 exclusive. Microsoft has many solid racing franchises, but nothing like the power that Gran Turismo brings to the system.

Xbox Live is a great service, but it's not clear that all of its features are needed. While the hardcore complain about Nintendo's friend codes, most mainstream gamers are more than willing to put up with them. And Microsoft's competitors aren't standing still; Home could be the silver bullet that finally gives Sony the edge in online play. The PS3 has one of the most anticipated casual games ever with LittleBigPlanet, and the branding of Sackboy is already amazingly strong.

Add idiosyncratic games, such as Flower, that are coming to the PS3 and Nintendo's absolute dominance of the casual market, and you have a gaming world where cherry-picking old franchises is no longer enough. Gears of War 2 looks great, but Resistance 2 and Killzone 2 look just as good in terms of scale, graphics, and online play.

Microsoft needs to step up efforts to keep its brand strong. The new Viva Pinata game looks good, but that was a game that didn't set the world on fire with its first iteration. Lips looks okay, but with Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour coming up, a voice-only game might not find a home in the collection of most gamers.

Microsoft has spent so much time trying to match Sony's past glory in terms of game selection that it finds itself somewhat at a loss now that Sony has managed to keep some games as exclusives, at the same time it's developing all news ones. The new firmware update that will refresh the UI of the 360 looks strong, but the press gave it a scarily icy reception at E3; the full-scale plagiarism of the concept and design of the Nintendo Mii had many onlookers audibly laughing. It was not a comfortable moment.

Will Halo be enough in the future? With Bungie now independent, that's a very large, very open question. It's time for Microsoft to find its own voice and give itself a unique feel in the market. Its old tricks and the "first to launch" advantage isn't enough anymore.

Find a home in the world

We tend to focus on US sales, because we live in the US. But gaming is an international business, and Microsoft has seen almost all of its success in the US. Both Nintendo and Sony do very good business in Japan and Europe, while Microsoft has always struggled in those markets. Heck, in Japan, the big story is the sales of Sony's PSP.

Microsoft depends on US sales, and while the system sees spikes in other territories when there is a launch of specific, big-name titles, it tends to flounder otherwise. It's hard to think of a way for Microsoft to make in-roads in Japan, but Europe has to be seen as a major battleground. Both Nintendo and Sony have multiple systems that are doing bang-up business across the globe. Microsoft has one system that does well in one market. It might be too late for Microsoft to grab a piece of the portable business, and the Zune is hardly an opportunity in that area, so Redmond is left with one option: the 360 simply has to step it up outside of the US.

Take the PS3's advantages seriously

Whether or not Microsoft has fixed its Red Ring of Death problem, the fact remains that most gamers think the hardware is untrustworthy. You hear about it in the forums, in the game stores, from even casual gamers... everyone either has had systems go bad or they know someone who has. The PlayStation, on the other hand, is damn near rock-solid. Microsoft has to start getting the word out that it has fixed the reliability problems; pretending like this issue never happened is not the solution.

Microsoft also has to pay attention to the hard drive of the PS3. The drives are large, getting larger with the standard systems, and anyone can swap out their drive for a roomier one. Heck, Sony suggests it and gets the word out about DIY tutorials on the upgrade. Microsoft, on the other hand, is sticking with expensive, proprietary drives. It's a situation made more frustrating by the fact that, without large, standard drives, Microsoft can't begin to match Sony's efforts at releasing full games through its online portal.

There is also the fact that Sony's online offerings are free. Yes, Xbox Live is better. But how much better? There are large numbers of gamers out there who simply will not pay money for online play and are more than happy with Sony's offerings. So what if you can't send a voice message across games? Sony's newly-launched in-game XMB adds a ton of functionality, and the Trophies it brings seem to be gaining popularity; I know many people personally who are revisiting old games to tackle the new challenges. Frank and I argued about making Xbox Live free, but it may not matter; the more powerful Sony gets with the PS3, the less Microsoft can count on Live as a profit base.

There is also the fact that Sony has the Blu-ray drive, provides strong multimedia functions on its system in general, and its video rentals and sales work seamlessly with your PSP if you want to take your content on the road. The PSP-PS3 connection gives you so much cool functionality that it makes consumers want to own both for a great media experience. Microsoft has no competition for that at the moment.

We're not offering solutions, just problems

How should Microsoft fix these issues? That's a huge question, and it can be argued for days. Whatever your preferred answer, these problems are real, getting worse, and starting to show up in the sales numbers. Microsoft doesn't have the wiggle-room it did in the market even a year ago, and it's past time to step up to the competition.

Does the company have a viable plan to do that? We'll see as we move into the holiday season. What's clear is that the competition is now much stronger across the board, and that's a good thing for gamers.


clicky

Last edited by Sarge on Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Mr Thropwimp
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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Mr Thropwimp » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:11 pm

I read that earlier this morning, but Ars Technica isn't the most reliable site for games journalism, and that is just as poorly written and explained as most of their offerings.

You can basically stop reading after this:
Halo is a system-seller, sure, but Metal Gear Solid IV is still a PS3 exclusive.

I can't make any sense of that. Halo could sell more consoles around the world than any other game has done before, but MGS 4 is a PS3 exclusive, so strawberry float that!

Microsoft has many solid racing franchises, but nothing like the power that Gran Turismo brings to the system.

"I prefer Gran Turismo so I'll bring subjectivity to what is supposed to be a report, not an opinion piece, because Forza and PGR don't matter if they're not as good."

'Tis a load of rubbish.

Last edited by Mr Thropwimp on Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Judoscar » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:11 pm

I think the biggest advantage (by far) that Sony has is the blu-ray.

I bought mine for blu-ray, and will be keeping it for blu-ray.

The RRoD was and is the biggest strawberry float up made since Sega's woeful mid 90's debacle. I doubt MS will go the way of Sega, but there is no way that the 360 will be the anything but the number 3 console this gen (in sales), even if it is home to the best range of games.

I like my 360, but if I had to have only one large console under my HDTV, it would be a PS3.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Something Fishy » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:11 pm

It seems to say nothing of the quality gmes MS does have coming or of price strategies (they have yet to do so and have never needed to do what they did with Xbox).

It doesn't read as a very objective article to be honest.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by samoza » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:12 pm

Many valid points TBH.

The PS3 was always likely to start building momentum and appeal to the casual market who are looking for better graphics. I think that the 360 maybe at its peak as it has sold to the hardcore.

For me this is no bad thing. The 360 has loads of great games that appeal to me and hopefully the PS3 will do too in the future. The 360 is far more successful than the original XBOX was so momentum can carry onto a 720 in the future.

Personally I plan to enjoy many hours of PS3 and 360 gaming in the next couple of years.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Something Fishy » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:13 pm

Judoscar wrote:I think the biggest advantage (by far) that Sony has is the blu-ray.

I bought mine for blu-ray, and will be keeping it for blu-ray.

The RRoD was and is the biggest strawberry float up made since Sega's woeful mid 90's debacle. I doubt MS will go the way of Sega, but there is no way that the 360 will be the anything but the number 3 console this gen (in sales), even if it is home to the best range of games.

I like my 360, but if I had to have only one large console under my HDTV, it would be a PS3.


Even with that it'll have a greatly improved market share. Makes you wonder what they'd have done without it cause youare right it is a strawberry float up.

There is only one loser in terms of market share this gen.

Agree with you there Sam.

Last edited by Something Fishy on Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Hero of Canton » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:14 pm

Home could be the silver bullet that finally gives Sony the edge in online play. The PS3 has one of the most anticipated casual games ever with LittleBigPlanet


Yeah. I'm not sure anyone should be taking this remotely seriously.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Mr Thropwimp » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:14 pm

something fishy wrote:It seems to say nothing of the quality gmes MS does have coming or of price strategies (they have yet to do so and have never needed to do what they did with Xbox).

It doesn't read as a very objective article to be honest.


It also doesn't take into account the fact that the 360's been around a good 12 months longer. Sales are always going to start to fall over time, so it's going to happen more or less about the time the PS3 peaks. And then it'll be about the games that sell, not the consoles.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by kazanova_Frankenstein » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:15 pm

I own both of these consoles, but having read that article, im still uncertain of how the PS3 is better than a 360 in any respect (BR storage not withstanding). Lives online integration is still miles ahead as far as i can see, and it has a similar number of AAA exclusives to the PS3.

That article to me feels like someone is trying to convince themselves of what is being said. Have i missed something big that has happened in the PS3 market?

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Hexx » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:15 pm

What an awful "article"

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by samoza » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:16 pm

Hero of Canton wrote:
Home could be the silver bullet that finally gives Sony the edge in online play. The PS3 has one of the most anticipated casual games ever with LittleBigPlanet


Yeah. I'm not sure anyone should be taking this remotely seriously.



I am not convinced that LBP will have a huge appeal outside the hardcore. The fact that game journalists are so excited by it suggests that perhaps it is skewed too much towards us and not the mass market.

Casual gamers will get the PS3 for things liek Gran Turismo and MGS4. Franchises they know.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Codename 47 » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:21 pm

Well the 360's nearly 3 years old so there's bound to be a slow down. Very few consoles will be able to keep the momentum going after being on sale for 3 years. The sheer quality of games on the 360 for me, still outclasses those on any other console. Credit to MGS4 for being a huge boost in sales but if it MGS 4's recent release, i doubt we'd be seeing these PS3 ready to crush 360 stories.

What do you think Microsoft should do next to get sales back on track in America?(and Europe) Software wise i expect Gears of War 2 to sell more than MGS 4, but do you think it'll be able to have the same impact on hardware sale sales? Could it be a case of those who want Gears 2 will have got the 1st and already have a 360?

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Rik » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:26 pm

The Sony PlayStation 3 is beginning to chip away at the 360's lead in both software and hardware sales in the US, and that system only seems to be picking up steam. In contrast, the 360 doesn't seem to have much real momentum these days.



Picking up steam in the way sales were down 150,000 last month :? It has made a tiny dent in the 360 lead with MGS4 its biggest exclusive title and the bump is over in both the US and Japan where amazingly 360 sales more than doubled PS3 last week.

we don't know how many discs Final Fantasy XIII will take up when the title arrives on the 360


We do know you'll be able to install the game on your HDD though on the 360 optionally, how are the installs going to work on PS3? As with MGS4 changing a DVD is quicker than the multiple installs that PS3 is forced to make negating any optical disc storage advantage.

Halo is a system-seller, sure, but Metal Gear Solid IV is still a PS3 exclusive


I would check the sales figures for Halo 3 v MGS4 before making this point :lol:

Home could be the silver bullet that finally gives Sony the edge in online play.


Could be if it ever happens, seems to be taking a while though.

The new firmware update that will refresh the UI of the 360 looks strong, but the press gave it a scarily icy reception at E3; the full-scale plagiarism of the concept and design of the Nintendo Mii had many onlookers audibly laughing. It was not a comfortable moment.


I don't think the audience it is aimed at will give a toss and they wont even have heard of E3.

Microsoft also has to pay attention to the hard drive of the PS3. The drives are large, getting larger with the standard systems


Funny I thought the 120gb offered with the Elite was the largest offered as standard and correct me if I'm wrong but my launch PS3 had a 60gb drive and my last one had a 40gb, they actually got smaller. Has he noticed the 360 comes with a 60gb drive now?

the Trophies it brings seem to be gaining popularity;


How many games support these as of now? Pointless and half baked.

There is also the fact that Sony has the Blu-ray drive, provides strong multimedia functions on its system in general, and its video rentals and sales work seamlessly with your PSP if you want to take your content on the road. The PSP-PS3 connection gives you so much cool functionality that it makes consumers want to own both for a great media experience. Microsoft has no competition for that at the moment


Which a miniscule amount of people use, I have both and I don't bother.

Terrible article, since when did journos stop doing research.

360 has it's problems but if you take market share from last gen and the fact the only console sold at a loss now is the PS3 I would say Sony still have more.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Judoscar » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:26 pm

Codename 47 wrote:Well the 360's nearly 3 years old so there's bound to be a slow down.


But if you look at the true console winners over the years, that is not the case (NES, SNES, PSX, PS2). Those consoles continued to thrive into their 3rd, 4th and even 5th year.

The consoles that slowed down in 3rd year onwards were the consoles which did not "win" their generations.

MS need to turn it around. Personally I think a slimmer, quieter, more casual friendly consoles is the way forward (i'd buy that), but I doubt whether that is in their plans. They seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place with the hardcore pleasing/casual winning stance.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Rik » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:30 pm

Personally I think a slimmer, quieter, more casual friendly consoles is the way forward (i'd buy that), but I doubt whether that is in their plans


I don't see how you can say that when the Valhalla motherboard has been trailed so far in advance, a new 360 lite will launch by the end of 2009, no doubt at all.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Judoscar » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:35 pm

Rik wrote:
Personally I think a slimmer, quieter, more casual friendly consoles is the way forward (i'd buy that), but I doubt whether that is in their plans


I don't see how you can say that when the Valhalla motherboard has been trailed so far in advance, a new 360 lite will launch by the end of 2009, no doubt at all.


I mean for this Xmas. By late 2009, they will be too far in Sony's wake (let alone Nintendo). Looking at current strategy they wil probably make it "lite" by lack of HDD or some such idiocy.

360 is such a wasted opportunity. It could have been so much more, and dominated. As it is, it will be looked back on as a (much loved) also-ran.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by satriales » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:39 pm

I agree with the bit about Microsoft's 1st party lacking compared to Sony and Nintendo. They had a year head start so lots of their early exclusives were games that would have been multiplatform had the PS3 been around. Now many of the sequels to those games are being released on both the 360 and the PS3. So the 360 is getting fewer and fewer exclusives while the PS3 is getting plenty of new ones as Sony has much larger 1st party studios.

Also, right from the start I didn't approve of the decision to not include a HDD as standard, it was the best thing about the original Xbox. I think MS should offer a HDD enclosure that fits on the top of the 360 like the normal HDD but lets you install an off the shelf HDD. It's another big advantage that Sony have and the need for more storage is only going to increase over the next few years.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Rik » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:46 pm

I mean for this Xmas. By late 2009, they will be too far in Sony's wake (let alone Nintendo). Looking at current strategy they wil probably make it "lite" by lack of HDD or some such idiocy.


You should check the sales figures before you talk about being in Sonys wake, they are millions behind still. With another 360 price cut looming in the US I would say that 360 will outsell PS3 in the US this calendar year again. They will make it "lite" by using the smaller Valhalla motherboard which will need less cooling on top, they need to throw in wireless when they do this and maybe intergrate the powerbrick.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by Judoscar » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:51 pm

Rik wrote:They will make it "lite" by using the smaller Valhalla motherboard which will need less cooling on top, they need to throw in wireless when they do this and maybe intergrate the powerbrick.


IF they do that then .... yup, that could give them a massive boost in sales. But I still reckon too little to late.

I know the sales figures.

360 has been outsold everywhere in the world apart from USA this last year. In the USA, Sony have a 300,000 lead for 2008 according to NPD. So actually, the 360 has been outsold everywhere on the planet for 2008.

Momentum is what I think the "article" was pointing to. Something the 360 is severely lacking.

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PostRe: A crumbling tower: Sony lays siege to the 360's weak spots
by $ilva $hadow » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:52 pm

The only fair point there I'd say is about charging for Xbox Live. It's a huge profit pool for Microsoft from such a small amount of people, however they're locking more people out from online than they are serving. No matter how much I'm offered, I simply will not pay for subscriptions, I hate them. I hate paying for online games, I hate paying for access to Xbox Live Gold and I stopped after two subscriptions. I couldn't justify it since I wasn't playing online religiously. For online play on COD4, I use the PS3. There's people out there, a lot of them that simply won't pay. That is the biggest thing they need to solve. Gaming is bringing people closer to together since we pay a subscription for internet anyway, the PS3 offers it for free and I get my mates online sometimes to play with me. With the 360 I'm now locked out however even when I had XBL Gold....my mates simply wouldn't pay either.


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