Is Sony PlayStation Experiencing An Identity Crisis?!
"I knew who I was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then." - Alice in Wonderland
Super Nintendo vs Sega Genesis. Dreamcast vs PlayStation. PlayStation vs Xbox. No matter what team you're on, at the end of the day we're all gamers and the console war has been going on since the inception of multi-platform consumer gaming. Tough words were thrown around in the 90s from all sides trying to make their presence known in the pantheon of console gaming. Sega does what Nintendon't. Crash Bandicoot calling out the "mustache-man, plumber boy!" at Nintendo headquarters. Gamers are no strangers to cringe-worthy marketing ploys to foster competition between consoles. It was the IPs, however, that was the big draw of each console. The flagship characters like Mario, Sonic, and Crash Bandicoot drew gamers into each camp amidst a slew of other offerings and games exclusive to each console. Most companies have retained the rights to these exclusive and beloved characters throughout the years even expanding their library of offerings. So, what happened to Sony?
The Console Wars
For those too young to remember, Sony once prided itself on its library of games offered only on the PlayStation. The mentality was that Nintendo was for kids while PlayStation was geared toward teens and young adult gamers. With a huge lineup of exclusive titles, including poster child IPs like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and Tomb Raider, PlayStation was more than a one-hit-wonder. Unlike Sega, they had more to fall back on than just Sonic. While Nintendo continued to grow the Mario franchise, Sony decided to branch out and tackle different segments of the player base. PlayStation was sitting pretty in their path to providing a more mature experience to gamers while Nintendo was perfectly content with taking a more family-friendly approach, occasionally dipping their toes into more Mature-rated games.
Xbox Has Entered The Chat
Enter Microsoft. Xbox completely shook up the gaming space and added a third player to the mix. Sega tried for years with the console after console to continue the success they experienced with the Genesis, but it never amounted to much. Xbox lacked console exclusives, except for this one character, Halo-guy, or something. A blatant rip-off of Doom, obviously. Something that would never amount to much…or at least Sony thought. The success of Halo prompted gamers to switch their loyalty from PlayStation to Xbox. Many gamers bought the Xbox just for Halo but were pleasantly surprised when big titles like Grand Theft Auto made the jump from PlayStation to Xbox. PlayStation was now at war with Xbox, forgetting about Nintendo altogether.
Sega does what Nintendon't
Over the years, each console has had its time to shine. Nintendo 64 revolutionized gaming for a generation used to 2-D, flat, pixelated side-scrollers. PlayStation revolutionized controller design and adapted disc-based games seamlessly. Xbox revolutionized the first-person shooter and online matchmaking capabilities. Some people think Xbox 360 won the console war against PlayStation 3. PlayStation 4 clearly outsold the Xbox One. What about the current generation? Who's expected to win? Is Nintendo even in competition with these two titans of the gaming industry or are they playing their own game in the corner alone? According to the numbers, Sony is still outperforming Microsoft when it comes to console sales. So, why is Sony so concerned with Microsoft acquiring Activision Blizzard?
Microsoft's approach to gaming over the last couple of years has been centered around the acquisition of different game studios including Bethesda Game Studios, Mojang Studios, and id Software. The Bethesda acquisition was a surprise, but the Activision announcement was an absolute stunner. Sony has been anything but quiet during this announcement; they’ve aired their grievances every step of the way in the most hypocritical way.
"By giving Microsoft control of Activision games like Call of Duty, this deal would have major negative implications for gamers and the future of the gaming industry. We want to guarantee PlayStation gamers continue to have the highest quality gaming experience, and we appreciate the CMA’s focus on protecting gamers." - Sony issued statement
In 2015, Sony used their E3 press conference to announce an exclusive DLC deal with Activision wherein Call of Duty and Destiny DLC would arrive first on PlayStation 4, making Xbox users wait a month or longer to receive these updates. The big pull was the DLC exclusivity with Call of Duty where maps, weapons, and game modes would get the first arrival on PlayStation. With over $10 billion generated for publisher Activision for Call of Duty alone, it's no wonder Sony is currently worried about the exclusivity of this merger.
By The Numbers
Despite the vast catalog of Activision IPs, Sony only ever really mentions Call of Duty. Never mind the fact that Spyro and Crash Bandicoot fall under the Activision banner. Not to mention the huge library of Blizzard games that also garner millions of players and revenue each year. Sony only really cares about Call of Duty. In 2014, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare sold 11.4 million units in the first month at retail with 4.01M going to PS4 players and only 2.6M to Xbox One owners. I'm sure that number has only grown since then. It's clear that Call of Duty is a huge revenue generator for Sony and they don't want to lose out on that, but I wouldn't be worried.
Microsoft is not likely to make Call of Duty exclusive to the console. With all of the above mentioned, it wouldn't make much business sense.
"It makes zero business sense for Microsoft to remove Call of Duty from PlayStation given its market leading console position." - Microsoft response regarding Call of Duty
Microsoft knows that Call of Duty has a bigger presence on PlayStation and they've known for years. It's why Microsoft didn't fight to keep COD eSports exclusive to Xbox. It's why they didn't bother countering an offer to the exclusive DLC deal with Activision. Sony is so concerned with this deal that they're missing the obvious play right in front of them… the one thing they can't match… Xbox Game Pass. A better play would be for Microsoft to include Call of Duty releases on day one on Game Pass increasing the value for players in the Xbox ecosystem.
With Sony's recent underwhelming State of Play overshadowed by Nintendo Direct, one has to question whether or not Sony is shifting its competitive mentality back to Nintendo. Sony's approach to game announcements showcasing unfinished games years before their release is a stark contrast to Nintendo's approach of releasing games shortly after they are announced. With a huge showcase of Eastern-inspired games and Microsoft's increase in popularity in the Japanese market, Sony seems to be going through some sort of identity crisis regarding which direction it should go. Nintendo has maintained a steady flow of revenue for the Switch in what is probably their most successful console ever or will be. Xbox has found its footing in its subscription program and studio acquisitions with which, Sony cannot compete.