PlayStation 5 v/s Xbox Series X/S - Gaming Marketing Strategies
April 14th, 2021
By: Priyal Maheshwari
Last year we saw two giants releasing their new generation consoles, Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X/S. However, as 2020 presented many challenges, traditional methods of marketing such as billboards, TV advertisements were not available to the respective marketing teams. Therefore, both companies had to come up with fresh marketing strategies that predominantly involved the Internet.
As a result, platforms such as Twitch and YouTube, where gamers streamed their live gaming, suddenly became very popular and attractive to marketers. The number of Twitch streamers was 9.9M this January, in contrast to 3.9M from last year. Similarly, the viewership also soared during COVID averaging 2.1 million viewers who spent more than one trillion minutes watching streams. NYU Stern Prof. Joost van Dreunen, who teaches Business of Video Games, commented, “These [streamers] have been in the industry for a while, the swift change was happening before COVID. COVID just boosted the process of these streamers as a means of reaching a wider range of audience.” Other than having massive followings, the streamers were also an escape from the pandemic for many of us. Moreover, streamers are the most organic way to get feedback from the audience whilst promoting the product. Prof. van Dreunen provided more insight on the topic, claiming “They [consumers] want to see the product is worth their time and money and streamers are doing just that.”
Sony paired with multiple streamers to build hype around their gaming console, especially with their new Spider-Man game featuring the first black Spider-Man, Miles Morales. And they were successful as they sold approximately 4.5 million units by the end of 2020, whereas, Microsoft sold only 2.9 million units. Microsoft, on the other hand, had a different approach. According to them, neither Sony nor Nintendo is their major competitor, but rather Google and Amazon due to their approach towards cloud gaming. Cloud gaming basically refers to gaming-on-demand services that stream the game directly into the user's device via the cloud. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X offers cloud gaming service hoping to get ahead of its competitors i.e. Amazon Luna and Google Stadia. However, cloud gaming has not gained enough consumer attention, even during COVID. As Prof. van Dreunen noted, “Cloud gaming, just like any big technological innovation, is ahead of its time. Gamers still want to use consoles, however, the demand for cloud gaming is slowly increasing.” Microsoft thus based its Xbox success on how playing games would change in the future. Currently, PS5 is the more successful console because it created the right hype on social media as well as revealed just enough to keep their consumers talking.
Fun Fact: Xbox has never outsold a PlayStation console. (Source: Analysts say Xbox Series X and PS5 sales speed basically the same as Xbox One and PS4)
Moreover, Sony’s pricing strategy was spot-on, as they kept it a mystery till the very end. As the economy was still recovering, Sony waited and analyzed the market before launching its price of $500 and the digital console $400 whereas Microsoft's price leaked to be at $299. Although Xbox should have won the price battle, they did not manage to outsell PlayStation.
Overall, Sony managed to convince consumers that their PS5 is a superior console. As Prof. van Dreunen mentioned, “Sony’s message was consistent and clear — their console is for hardcore gamers and they have the best content.” On top of that, Sony had both a traditional console and a digital console, which helped them cater to a wider audience. Which one do you prefer - PS5 or Xbox Series X? Tell me in the comments!!
Priyal Maheshwari is Marketing Society’s 2020-2021 Co-Director of Content. She is a sophomore at NYU Stern, concentrating in Marketing and Computing and Data Science with a minor in Astronomy. She is running One More Book - MktSoc’s Book Reviews, check it out here!