Microsoft vs. Sony: Vying to Overtake Nintendo

Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have come out of their corners swinging to take ownership of the next-generation console title. Each company focuses on their strengths, whether it’s Nintendo Wii’s ease of play, Microsoft Xbox 360’s connected network, or Sony PlayStation 3’s Blu-ray player. When looking across all countries and varying time periods, each has posted small victories that they hope are signs of eventual supremacy.

Nintendo, with more than 10 million units sold in 2008, is arguably in the industry’s top spot. With Microsoft and Sony playing from behind, their strategies and tactics this year should be of interest to marketers.

Microsoft and Sony kicked off the year with some good old-fashioned name calling. Kaz Hirai, Sony Computer Entertainment president, said the Xbox 360 “lacks longevity,” implying the PS3 is the turtle and the Xbox 360 is the hare in this race. Not to be outdone, Aaron Greenberg, director of product development for Microsoft’s Xbox division, pointed to Sony as being “complacent” and “out of touch” with consumers by focusing on hardware specs.

While the war of words implies there will only be one winner, many upcoming changes and product offerings intended to help win the console race will allow marketers to excel through innovative video game programs.

Price Cuts

Many blogs have reported the rumor that Sony will cut the price of the 80GB PlayStation 3 by $100 in April, bringing it down to $300, which is considered the magic price point for large electronic purchases. The price cut makes sense with Sony releasing many highly anticipated titles such as “Killzone 2,” “God of War 3,” and “Uncharted 2” this year.

The rumors also speculate that Microsoft, in response, would cut the cost of the Xbox 360 Pro model by $50 to bring it to $250. Obviously, lower prices increase the likelihood of consumers picking up the consoles in these stressful economic times.

As these units are increasingly used as content boxes in addition to gaming, consumers will look to advertisers to underwrite the cost of valuable content. Marketers should look to appropriate content that can be linked to a branded message.

Sony Home

The highly anticipated service from Sony has gotten off to a rocky start due to delays and missing functionality. However, recent announcements point to the potential that Sony will be able to offer on the PlayStation 3.

Earlier this month, Red Bull launched the “Red Bull Air Race” zone, which features plane races. The space is intended to be a break in the typical Home activities available with other functionality coming in the next few months.

Also coming this spring, EA Sports will release a complex dedicated to fans of EA Sports titles. Gamers will be able to play multiplayer games, view upcoming trailers, and interact with other EA Sports fans.

The new support for Sony Home hints at the potential opportunities that advertisers will be able to leverage.

Xbox Live Branded Destinations

Microsoft’s new Xbox Live environment offers advertisers the opportunity to sponsor branded content destinations. With more than 17 million Live users, Microsoft is able to deliver an attractive audience of consumers who continue to spend a growing number of hours on their service.

For example, Sprite leveraged the branded destination to highlight its NBA Slam Dunk competition sponsorship. The hub, which includes themes, gamer pics, videos, dunk participant bios, and incremental competition details, was created as an extension of its online efforts. No doubt many brands will follow the lead of Sprite in leveraging Xbox Live to distribute branded content.

As these and other features announced later in the year expand, marketers should look to leverage the gaming industry to reach consumers. As the gaming heavyweights duel for the top spot, the innovation used to delight consumers will present new opportunities for all brands.

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