Sony are using a winning Xbox marketing strategy when Microsoft need it most.
Call of Duty WWII. Star Wars Battlefront 2. Far Cry 5. Read Dead Redemption 2. Destiny 2. FIFA 18. What do all these games have in common? Well, Firstly, they’re all highly anticipated AAA games and will likely top the sales charts when they hit the market. Secondly, they’re all household names. They’re the games that almost every gamer know about regardless of their age, gender or location in the world. Lastly, they’re all being marketed in conjunction with Sony and the PlayStation brand.
This means that whenever you see a trailer for these games, you’ll be greeted by the blue background and the phrase “This… is for the players”. It means that the TV adverts will come with the PlayStation logo. It means that, as part of these Marketing deals, some of these games will come with exclusive or timed exclusive content. It also means that PlayStation are ensuring that the PS4 and PS4 Pro are the consoles first associated with the biggest games to release in the next 12 months.
What does that mean for you? Well, if you’re here read this, on a website that writes about games, you’re probably informed enough about gaming to know that it doesn’t effect you very much at all. You know the platforms that these games will be available on and a few trailers with the PlayStation branding on them won’t change which version you buy. But you’re not the aim of these marketing deals…
Outside of the gaming communities online, outside of the core gaming audience, there are 10’s of millions of gamers that have a PS4 or Xbox One but don’t keep up to date with all the gaming news. There are 10’s of millions more people out there that are on the cusp of buying a new console and are looking for the right excuse. They don’t talk about games on reddit, NeoGaf or N4G. They’re the gamers that buy a handful of games a year and are satisfied with that. These are the gamers that first discover a game when they see it during the half-term adverts of the Champions League final. They’re the gamers that first see game play at a friends house. They are the silent majority and Sony knows this. These marketing deals are aimed at these people – to associate their console with with the biggest games on the horizon – raising the profile of both products.
This used to be something that Microsoft excelled at. During the reign of the Xbox 360, the American giant had marketing deals with all of the big players – Their 5 year relationship with Activision and Call of Duty being the most important and one that undoubtedly influenced the console choice of millions of gamers. Even last year, Microsoft were teaming up with EA for Battlefield 1, Square Enix for Final Fantasy XV and Ubisoft for The Division.
But in 2017, Microsoft seem to have abandoned this strategy. The only announced game that is partnering with Xbox for marketing is Warner Brothers’ War of Mordor and while that’s still likely to be a big draw, it’s not going to compete with the likes of Call of Duty WWII or Red Dead Redemption 2.
Maybe Microsoft are focusing their efforts on marketing their first-party productions or maybe the American console manufacturer is finding it difficult to strike deals with publishers given the gulf in install bases between the 2 consoles – Only Microsoft will know this – but this strategy might hurt them in the long term. With the launch of Project Scorpio looming on the horizon, Microsoft should be partnering with as many third parties as possible to scream to the world that their new console really is the best place to play the biggest upcoming games. Instead, Sony are pulling the rug from underneath them and are dominating them at their own game.