Microsoft and Xbox Series X/S Are Winning The Battle For Player’s Eyes And Minds Over PlayStation
The marketing campaigns for Xbox Series X and PS5 are radically different, and it feels like one side is winning the battle for attention.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a PlayStation fan. As a kid, I spent way, way too many hours playing Kingdom Hearts, Ace Combat and… more Kingdom Hearts on my PS2. Then the Xbox 360 came out, all my friends had one, and I made the inevitable jump over. But I switched sides again like many others did when the PS4 released and grew an amazing library of exclusive titles. The library of games exclusive to the PlayStation resonates with me much more than Halo or Gears of War ever really did. I’m not what you’d call a brand loyalist or PlayStation fanboy, but I am planning on getting a PS5 this coming November.
But Sony isn’t making its upcoming console any more attractive, for some reason. From the get-go, Microsoft has been the conductor of the hype-train for next-gen consoles. That’s just an ugly way to say that Microsoft has been controlling the conversation, making it about the Xbox Series X/S and how the PS5 will compare to it, not the other way around.
On the other side of the aisle is Sony, which arguably found the most success during this past console generation. The PS4 has millions of units sold over the Xbox One, its exclusive titles are some of the best of this generation, in most metrics, the PS4 simply comes out on top. With the PS5 coming out within a month, you’d figure that Sony would do everything it can to keep its console in that number one spot. But it hasn’t, and the reason why eludes me.
There is a staggering marketing difference between two of gaming’s biggest players right now. One is going full steam ahead, shouting the name of its video game box from the rooftops, while the other meekly scribbles the name of its upcoming product in the back of a textbook for nobody to see or notice.
In all honesty, the Xbox brand is just doing what it’s always done: placing Phil Spencer in front of crowds of gamers and letting him be the best hype man and salesperson he can be, and damn if he doesn’t do it well. Even as someone that’s not planning on getting a Series X/S, from the first time we heard that Project Scarlett was the Xbox Series X, it was hard to not be impressed with the machine. Simply put, the Xbox team has some great marketing, and they put it to full use.
Now on Sony’s side…well, imagine the sound of crickets. The console doesn’t have a face attached to it; there’s no one selling it. It looks more like Sony is expecting the popularity of the PS4 plus the scant lineup of PS5 games to actually sell consoles. But that doesn’t replace a marketing campaign; it doesn’t replace the need that consumers have to actually see your product in action.
To really understand the difference between these two marketing campaigns, I feel like we have to go back all the way to December 2019. At this point, any word of next-gen consoles was simple speculation. During The Game Awards, Microsoft simply decided to pull the trigger and properly premiered the Xbox Series X on December 12, 2019, without a release date or price. Although it wasn’t just a simple reveal, Microsoft made a whole show out of it. The world premiere video for the Xbox Series X was highly produced, designed to give viewers that feeling of wonder, that they were looking at something incredible. Even if you had no interest in the console, you had to watch.
Now, let’s flip over to Sony’s hardware reveal trailer for the PS5, which debuted this past June. It’s a different kind of reveal – not as grandiose as it focuses inwards. There’s no narrator, talking about dreams or what’s possible: just some strange physics renderings. Millions of black and blue balls, all coming together to form the PS5. While the video doesn’t literally say anything about the console in the same way the Xbox Series X’s reveal did, it tried to visually impart this air of advancement and excitement. Overall, it was more subdued than the Series X’s reveal, and this set the tone for the marketing strategies of both these companies moving forward.
For the most part, Sony has continued to lag behind Microsoft in nearly every part of marketing its next product. We have known more about the Xbox Series X/S at any given moment than we knew about the PS5, and that has only hurt the latter’s chances of selling more units.
That brings us to today, a month out from the release of the PS5 and a little less than a month away from the release of the Xbox Series X/S. In usual fashion, the Xbox Twitter account put out this video.
Dream with us.
Dream of blazing fast speeds.
Dream of more vibrant gaming worlds.
Dream of high visual fidelity and higher frame rates. #PowerYourDreams with the Xbox Series X: https://t.co/hSdfoAz643 pic.twitter.com/ee0cjqKjkQ
— Xbox (@Xbox) October 9, 2020
Meanwhile, here’s the GIF that the PlayStation account put out. That’s right, just a GIF.
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) October 12, 2020
Looking at these two side by side is the perfect demonstration of how completely opposite the two largest ongoing gaming marketing campaigns are. On one side you have a company actively trying to promote its upcoming product, while the other is like me promoting my Twitch stream that gets about five viewers – there’s not a whole lot of effort.
But there’s something that I just have to note, and this could be of no consequence or it could be a clear indicator that I’m completely wrong and Sony’s approach is marketing genius, and that’s the engagement on both of these posts. Not only have twice as many people liked PlayStation’s post, but more people are talking about it. It’s entirely possible that Sony’s slow-burn approach to marketing the PS5 is paying off big time, but outside of this one instance of social media victory, I just don’t see it.
Before next-gen console sales even begin, it feels like Microsoft has won. No, this isn’t some console war rhetoric; I mean strictly business-wise, pure sales. This generation Sony won by dominating the market, but it seems like it thinks the same will magically happen in the next generation of consoles because of prestige. And while that may work for Nintendo (come on, some of us will buy anything with the Nintendo logo on it), I certainly don’t think it will work for Sony.
We’ll really know what console took the proper approach to marketing next year when release and holiday sales are all accounted for and we can see which side is in the lead. Until then, all I can say is that I along with so, so many other people, want Sony to stop being cheeky and playing coy with what to expect from the PS5. Ok, yeah, you decided to reveal the PS5’s startup sound with the Burger King; admittedly really funny, but you can’t play marketing catch up like this. A quick partnership with a fast-food chain to reveal a sound bite doesn’t equate to putting the product in the hands of media that can then inform people. And I’m saying this fully knowing that we at DualShockers likely won’t get one before launch, and I’m fine with that! I’m not speaking as media at this point, but as a consumer that was and somehow–against all odds–still is excited about the PS5.