For better or for worse, I have been working in retail for the last seven years. The last six have been with a mainstream video game retailer which many of you probably shop at on a regular basis. Being in this industry has given me a unique perspective. I go online and read all about the interviews, watch the trailers, and see the big wigs talk about their systems and games. It’s all well and good, but working in the retail sphere affords me a glimpse of the other side, to see what the average consumer thinks about all of these fancy trailers and expensive marketing.
One thing that should be said going into this is that I see a lot of different types of people. Mom’s grandma’s, older people looking to jump in, and of course, the hardcore gamers like myself. Everyone’s got their own opinion and some don’t know anything at all and simply come looking for answers. Putting it all on paper is no easy task, but I have spent some time (about an hour) in meditation, on a far off island in the sky (my shower), and I believe I am ready to bring you the collective unconscious (conscious) thoughts of the average consumer. Let’s start with the underdog.
Xbox One: Seeking Redemption, one Backstep at a time
When the new consoles were coming out, rumors were flying like an angry swarm of antagonized bees, and people who came in were catching whiffs of this foul honey. I remember before either console was even confirmed, there were talks of a digital only system, and one that wouldn’t play used games. The new Xbox and the new PlayStation both had these rumors attached to them, but the fact of the matter was that no one knew anything. When people asked me, I told them not to worry, that nothing was set in stone.
And then Microsoft came along with their big news. Originally, the Xbox One had a wealth of restrictions and requirements. Now, one thing to consider is that these speed bumps were in place to ultimately provide a seamless, cloud based experience on the new console. They had good intentions, but most people do when they create something and as we all know, it doesn’t always work out that way. They wanted you to be online once per day or the system wouldn’t work, they wouldn’t let you buy used games. In fact, you couldn’t even loan the games to your friends. Well, you could, but it was complicated, unlike Sony’s hilarious tutorial video on how to “Lend Games to your friends” . You take all that and add in the fact that your Kinect was required to be plugged in and on at all times, and you have a recipe to piss off the entire world’s middle class and especially those who have paranoid government tendencies.
In short, it wasn’t the greatest idea. Again, they had good intentions, but this kind of stuff just wasn’t practical for the average consumer who may not have constant internet, or who may like to sit around in their underwear. Seriously, I had people making jokes like that left and right. Most people that came in though were angry with these restrictions. A lot of my customers enjoy buying pre-owned games at a discounted price and the concept of having to spend sixty dollars, every time, wasn’t too appealing. Many people also cried foul at the constant use of Kinect, afraid that their Xbox would be spying on them. This wasn’t the entire public opinion though, I still had people come in and reserve an Xbox One without a single shred of trepidation. My first reserve customer was overjoyed at the new features. He argued that the Xbox One was taking bold steps and trying something new while the PlayStation 4 was simply playing it safe.
Me personally, I thought the Xbox was playing with fire and the PlayStation 4 was merely harnessing it, but I’m not one to argue with my customers. Once the Xbox One retracted on the restrictions and offered the ability to actually unplug the Kinect (Common sense +1), people became somewhat less angry. Even so, Microsoft made a large wound in the minds of the consumer, and it is a scar that is still healing. Some people aren’t even aware that these policies have been lifted. I still have customers claiming that the Xbox One isn’t going to play their used games. A troubling assumption to make, but Microsoft’s actions speak far louder than their words ever could.
Then comes the price. Xbox One is approximately a hundred dollars more than the PlayStation 4. This of course is a result of the included Kinect, and Microsoft's reasoning for this has to do with their desire to incorporate Kinect into every game on the Xbox One, something you can’t do if everyone doesn’t own a Kinect. It makes sense, but a hundred dollars is a big difference for most consumers. Again, I see plenty of people who are massive Xbox fans let their loyalty drive them to pre-order without hesitation, which is to be expected. For these fans, Microsoft can do no wrong and loyalty like that, in any form, is hard to come by so I tend to let them have what they want without trying to sway their mind.
PlayStation 4: The people’s Console
Sony took the top honors at this year’s E3. Microsoft was already feeling the heat from their policy announcement and the fact that none of it was addressed in their press conference was an even bigger folly on their part. Sony saw a chink in Microsoft’s armor and took the opportunity to lay into them. The CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, Jack Tretton, took the stage and laid into Microsoft by announcing that the PlayStation 4 would support used games, allow friends to lend their games, trade them, whatever they desired. In his words, “Once you buy the disc, you own the game.”
Furthermore, Tretton went on to say that the PlayStation 4 did not have to be connected to the internet at all times, and that the new PlayStation Eye camera was not required. This was met with a standing ovation from the crowd. As Tretton went on to show off the games, the amazing titles on show only served to further rub salt into Microsoft’s wound. It was a massacre and the following day at work brought nothing but excited customers ready to jump ship and join Sony’s side.
A perfect example, a co-worker and good friend of mine, prior to the Sony E3 conference, was the biggest Xbox fan I knew. I swear, you could cut him and he would bleed a vibrant shade of neon green. After Sony’s conference, a saddened but hopeful version of him showed up to work and pre-ordered a PlayStation 4. It was a moment of victory for Sony and one of many. Upon reaching our initial allocation of PlayStation 4 orders, the numbers spoke volumes. PlayStation 4 was outselling Xbox One by a large margin. Eight PS4’s for every Xbox One pre-ordered to be exact.
Customers who came into the store reflected this same mindset. Most people I talked to were either hardcore Sony fans who simply said “I knew it” or they were Xbox 360 owners who had decided to jump ship. Even now, after Microsoft backed off of their policies, I still talk to far more PlayStation 4 fans than I do Xbox ones. Many people cite Sony’s willingness to listen to consumer demand and not try to drastically change the formula. We live in a world where gradual change is key. To suddenly flip everything onto its head is to upset the balance of our fragile routines. One day the world will be ready for a digital, always online system, but today is not that day. Sony knew that, and they listened to the people and crafted a system that is a hundred dollars less than the Xbox One, and a system that remains steadfast in the policies and practices that consumers approve of and continue to seek in their new consoles.
A Final Note: The thoughts of the Uninitiated
What you’ve seen and heard encompasses the mind of the gamer, either hardcore or casual. But what about those who don’t typically play games but have now decided to jump on the bandwagon? The people who are seeking a new form of entertainment, or the single guys who are just bored and what a new game system? What do these people think of the new Consoles. Their opinion matters the most, for they are the neutral parties whose decisions will sway the coming console war to one side or the other. Some will just go play Mario on the Wii U, but most of them will decide on the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One.
These people, when they come in will ask me what they should get. They will place the decision in my hands. I start by informing them that I am a PlayStation 4 fan, and that I love everything they do. I don’t follow them blindly mind you, but I do find much if not all that I seek in their systems as a gamer. What I tell them is this; if they are seeking a single box that brings them games, cable TV, Skype, sports, and many other forms of entertainment, then the Xbox One should be considered. I tell them it costs a hundred dollars more, because it includes the Kinect. I tell them it has a more broad focus and therefore the games are not the mainstay of the system. It seeks to encompass the living room in a sense and it seeks to provide more online and multiplayer focused experiences. To me, this is not what I want as a gamer.
The PlayStation 4, I tell them, is a gaming focused machine with an incredible amount of power and versatility. It still provides features like Netflix, Facebook, Skype, and even streaming shows, movies and music downloads. It does all these things like the Xbox One, but the difference is that Sony’s focus is on the games. I tell them that Sony brings the most intense, exciting, and powerful experiences in all of gaming. PlayStation exclusive titles never fail to deliver a gaming experience that lasts a lifetime. I tell them that if they want a system that goes above and beyond to provide them with games and entertainment that is focused, cutting edge, and overwhelming in its power, then the PlayStation 4 is the system to get.
In the end, the choice is theirs, and I respect their right to make that decision. I personally, as I have always said, will support and love the products that PlayStation releases because in my opinion they are the greatest games on the planet. What I have learned is that some people cannot be swayed, but all of them will remember the sins of the corporate empire. To scorn the consumer is to bring about an eternal grudge that does not fade with time.
Sony has played all their cards right while Microsoft forgot to shuffle the deck, but in the end it is the mind of the consumer that is the ultimate prize. Right now, things are looking good for PlayStation 4 as most people have seen Sony as a trustworthy and understanding corporation that takes into account the desires of the consumer and the right price point to make it attainable for as many gamers as possible. Time will tell though, it always does.
Do any of you work in the industry? What are your friends and family saying about the new consoles? Tell us in the comments!
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert Date: 10/15/2013