The Console War that’s far more Polite but no less Fierce

July 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

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For whatever reason, the console warfare between Sony and Microsoft seems to have cooled off of late. There was a time around the launch of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 when the internet was filled with vitriolic bile from fans of both consoles, with both sides arguing for the superiority of their own console and the flaws of its nearest competitor. We had to endure pages of arguments on internet message boards, patronising Youtube videos and even executives who couldn’t hide their distaste for the competition.

Nowadays the immature smack-talk feels like it’s fallen out of fashion. Initially I thought it might just be the sites I’m spending my time on nowadays, but Keith Stuart at the Guardian has noticed a similar trend. He notes that upon the North American launch of the Playstation 4, the official Xbox twitter account sent out a message of congratulations, which was later responded to amicably by Shuhei Yoshida of Sony Worldwide Studios. Far from welcoming this age of civility however, Stuart laments the loss of the “conflict and chaos” of yesteryear and the “great art” that emerges from it, and I couldn’t disagree more.

Let me clear, I’m not saying that competition is a bad thing. In almost every market, the existence of at least two competitors is a good thing for consumers. It gives them choice, the ability to enjoy a type of product without directly supporting a certain company, and most importantly it ensures that a company has to work hard to retain its audience. The stronger the competition, the harder it has to work, and the products get better as a result.

However, there is a fine line between healthy competition and immature pissing contests, and the difference is one of respect for your opponent and arrogance. Back in the heyday of Sony’s arrogance around the launch of the PS3 it was clear that they could not have taken the threat of the Xbox 360 less seriously. From defending the absurdly high launch price of their console by telling consumers to work more hours to afford it, to dismissing rumble as an outdated feature it was clear that Sony thought its sales lead over the Xbox was inevitable.

The result was catastrophic for Sony, and their console lagged behind the Xbox for years before they got their act together. They recognised the online aspect of their console was lacking and they worked hard to rectify it, they invested heavily in new games, and most importantly of all, they chased after features that the Xbox had and the PS3 lacked.

Respect has an important role to play in this sort of healthy competition. If you don’t respect your opponent and they choose to invest heavily in smaller downloadable games you might be tempted to dismiss this idea as ridiculous and unworthy of your attention. After all, you’d be stupid to imitate an idiot right? The alternative is to take every decision they make seriously, since if a worthy opponent were to do something then there’s obviously something to it. There’s often a great benefit to be had by admitting that you’re not the smartest person in the room.

When you’re willing to talk smack about the competition without acknowledging their successes you start to underestimate them, and its at this point that your product starts to suffer. It might seem odd to an outsider to see what appears to be a “love story” blossoming between Sony and Microsoft, but the truth is that this is little more than good sportsmanship between two nemeses, and the results can only be beneficial for the market at large.

This month Jon graduated from university and finally has time to write about games again. Whether he does or not will depend a great deal upon him overcoming his own laziness. 

The jury is, in other words, out. 

 

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