Former EA CEO John Riccitiello believes that the PS4 is beating Xbox One in sales because of a simple reason: Sony had a much better strategy.
While speaking at the GamesBeat Summit this week, Riccitiello said that Microsoft's missteps were "depressing."
“In the battle of big ideas … there was a clash of ideas that really separated Sony and Microsoft. They actually had very similar architecture that they were trying to bring to the table. But Microsoft focused … a lot on entertainment beyond gaming. Microsoft was trying to [compete against] Apple. They didn’t feel gaming was big enough to justify the pent-up desire … to have the recognition they wanted as an innovator.”
While Microsoft was trying to hype their Xbox One as an all-in-one entertainment system, Riccitiello said, Sony put their energy into wooing gamers.
"Sony just said, ‘We’ve made the best fucking game system we could’ … partly because they didn’t have the resources to do more about it. Microsoft was focused on the shot after the one they needed to make, putting the 7-ball in the corner pocket, but they missed the first shot and didn’t get another shot after it. Sony focused on the shot they needed to make, which was win the hearts and minds of the gamer."
"The broader scope of entertainment might be a bigger idea, but not with an unfocused execution. A tight execution on the 50 million people that matter, which are the people currently lapping up consoles … Sony fucking nailed it, and they deserve the victory.”
Riccitiello is simplying things a bit. He didn't mention the initial always-on restriction of the Xbox One and used games fees. Those policies and the backlash against them overshadowed all other discussions about the Xbox One in the months after its reveal. By simply not having these same restrictions for the PS4, Sony had a big headstart in the PR battle. The initial $500 price tag of the Xbox One - a hundred bucks more expensive than the PS4 - didn't help, either.
Still, I think Riccitiello's take is an interesting one. It underscores the importance of how Microsoft and Sony presented their new consoles. The Xbox One and PS4 have more similarities than differences. Sony could have just as easily introduced the PS4 as a general entertainment device rather than a gaming console. Like the Xbox One, the PS4 has apps for TV, movies and music. Sony is using the PS4 as a platform for original TV programming as Microsoft is with the Xbox One.
However, Sony decided to talk about games first. They realized that the sort of person willing to buy a console in its first year is doing so because they're serious about gaming, not television. I do wonder how the past 18 months would've gone if Microsoft had done the same. The Xbox One still had other stumbling blocks like the price tag and restrictive DRM policies but they might have won over a few more million gamers if, from the start, Microsoft was speaking directly to them.