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Why is PlayStation Dominating the Next-Gen Console War?

Liz Finnegan | 26 Aug 2015 15:00
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Nintendo once reigned supreme in the land of video games, then Sega entered the market with their Genesis. A brutal, political battle broke out, and a console war was born. Sega shot first, with a bold television ad proclaiming "Genesis does what Nintendon't." Nintendo responded by snagging Street Fighter II as a console exclusive, after which Sega gave players the bloody version of Mortal Kombat. The companies took shot after shot at one another in an environment so heavy with competition that only the consumers benefited - and we weren't complaining.

PS4 is outselling Xbox 2:1, with the trend predicted to last through 2018.

Console wars themselves have become much more gentlemanly in recent years, with industry juggernauts Microsoft and Sony exchanging compliments in lieu of snubs. Although Sony's PlayStation 4 console is outselling Microsoft's Xbox One nearly 2-1, with the trend predicted to last through 2018, Xbox boss Phil Spencer still puts on his PR face and says nothing but complimentary words about both the PS4 and the company that made it. The lack of a brutal slap fight has left the fans to figure out what the issues and differences are, and how Sony managed to take such an extreme lead over Microsoft.

The PS4 offers more space after factoring in operating systems, with 407GB of free storage to the Xbox One's 362GB. The PS4 also has hardware more powerful than the Xbox One, and Sony focused the system's software and interface on games while Microsoft was focusing the Xbox One on voice-controlled entertainment, TV and movies, with the option of also playing games. The PS4 was the more affordable option, with the Xbox One's price hiked due to an initially mandatory peripheral, the second generation Kinect.

(What can Microsoft do to compete again? We've got five suggestions for them.)

The PlayStation 4's success is about more than hard drives and space, and is arguably about more than the PlayStation 4 itself. Gamers simply saw Sony as a company that was much more in touch with their target audience than the competition. Microsoft committed a series of blunders during pre-release discussions of the Xbox One that ultimately alienated potential customers while also driving away existing ones.

To get an idea of the current war, let's start at the beginning.

Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time, Sony was the redheaded stepchild of the console market. In 1988, Sony formed a partnership with Nintendo in order to create a CD ROM add-on for the the SNES, which would allow the system to use both cartridges and discs. In 1991 at the Consumer Electronics Show, several Sony executives revealed Play Station, the first ever console hybrid. The following day, in one of the most spectacular snubs in video game history, Nintendo announced it was breaking its deal with Sony, instead forging a partnership with Sony's competitor, Phillips.

The Nintendo-Phillips partnership was a commercial failure as Sony continued work on their own console, eventually launching PlayStation in 1994. When it was finally released, the PlayStation had capabilities that were miles ahead of the competition, directly competing with Nintendo's N64 console. Sony was a top competitor in the market for years, revolutionizing CD gaming. In 2001, however, Microsoft entered the war with its own console, the Xbox, effectively marking the beginning of the brutal console war we see today. The PlayStation 2, which directly competed with the original Xbox, not only won the first round - it became the best selling console of all time with over 150 million units sold worldwide.

Xbox 360 became famous for the wrong reason.

A short four years later, the Xbox 360 released in November 2005, more than a year before Sony released the PlayStation 3. In round two, the new Xbox 360 managed to align its worldwide sales with that of the PlayStation 3. Despite catching up sales-wise with its competitor, Xbox 360 became famous for the wrong reason - the red ring of death, the notorious 3-light kill indicator for the system that plagued the majority of the consoles shipped. There was no question of if you would be affected, but rather when you would be affected. Microsoft spent over $1 billion fixing the issue, but by that time the issues were so widespread that the potential for lingering trust issues on the part of consumers was too high. Many felt that the rush to put a new console out before Sony contributed to the hardware demons possessing the system.

Microsoft was not ready to give up. With the pressure high, the company took more time than before on their third console, which ended up being named Xbox One. This console has also struggled, with the Xbox One far behind the more popular PlayStation 4. The truth is that the discrepancy in sales is not a much a testament to specs, or even what Sony has done right, but what Microsoft has done wrong.

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