MEC Global Solutions' social strategy director Maria Dsouza explores Sony and Microsoft's use of social media in the run-up to launch
For months now gaming fans around the globe have been waiting with baited breath for the arrival of Playstation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One, and with both consoles launched at the end of last month in the UK (November 22nd and 29th respectively) the battle for sales is firmly upon us. Not only did the two rivals release their latest hi-tech consoles a week apart, they also did so in the run up to Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping events of the year.
The PS4 has been comfortably outselling the Xbox One, clearing more than 250,000 units within the first 48 hours of the launch, beating the Xbox One’s sales of 150,000 consoles in the same period. This begs the question: why was there such a large gap in the number of sales?
Social media has played a pivotal role in the launch and release of both consoles, and the #teamsony versus #teammicrosoft battle started all the way back in the early months of 2013. Since Sony’s announcement in February 2013 about the new console release, there have been over half a million mentions on social media channels from fans, gaming blogs and industry experts speculating which console will deliver a superior gaming experience and make the best addition to their living rooms.
Microsoft, on the other hand, announced the launch of Xbox One in May, and has since generated just under 400,000 mentions on social media.
Social reaction to launch advertisement
On 15th October Sony released a new advertisement, ‘Perfect Day’ to promote the Playstation 4, along with hashtags such as #greatnessawaits and #4theplayers to promote positive conversations and build excitement towards the release. The campaign tugged on the heartstrings of Sony’s core gamer audience, stimulating the sensations and emotions many experience when playing their favourite game.
Responses to the advert across social channels were broadly positive, with one gamer tweeting: “I don’t normally like ads, but the Perfect Day one by @playstation is one I will watch all the way through. Also Great Awaits.”
The campaign targeted its core gamer audience with its proposition of rich, high quality graphics and deeply immersive experiences.
Just over a week later Microsoft released its Xbox One ‘Invitation’ advertisement and although core fans still expressed intent to purchase off the back of it, it did not create as much of an impact as Sony’s ‘Perfect Day’ spot. The campaign was aimed at a slightly older audience, and it included celebrities and an invitation to participate in some of the most popular games (including FIFA, which is being given away free with every console).
Sony’s advertisement generated over twice the number of mentions on its day of release compared to Microsoft’s advert on its release date, with more gamers expressing an interest in purchasing the PS4 console, compared to Xbox One.
Similarly, on the day of launch of the PS4 in the US the console generated 635,815 social mentions and 318,786 in the UK and the rest of the world, while the Xbox One generated just 312,133 social mentions on the day of its international launch.
Gamers tend to appreciate a level of cheesiness on social media, and online fans responded well to Sony and Microsoft's virtual high five.
Power of social media
Beyond the initial dash for purchases, we may begin to see some sluggish sales as more and more fans that have purchased the consoles post details about major technical glitches across social media channels. ‘The Blue Line of Death’ or ‘The Blue Pulse of Pain’ is an error within approximately 0.4% of Playstation 4 consoles (20,000 consoles).
Fans who have been complaining about this error have said that the indicator comes on when the machine is switched on, but nothing happens past this point, and it refuses to power on. The error is named after ‘The Red Ring of Death’ experienced by gamers during the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005.
Microsoft’s Xbox One wasn’t far behind with the technical errors, but social media comments suggest fans had been expecting these errors following from previous game console launches. On social media gamers have put it down to faulty, cheap or rushed production to meet demands. Xbox One fans claim that the machine takes a while to load, and requires a patch almost as soon as the machine starts.
This was brought to light by a US customer who received his console three days prior to launch due to an accidental shipment sent out by Target. On November 9th @moonlightswami tweeted that the Xbox One took seventeen seconds to boot up before requiring a 500MB day-one patch.
This single tweet led to a barrage of negative comments from fans on YouTube and Twitter. Following this development punters who had been speculating about which console would win the #teamsony versus #teammicrosoft battle, started to show a preference towards the PS4.
Listening to social media
To their credit, both Sony and Microsoft have listened and responded to fans via social media throughout the launch and release. For example, when fans queued outside the stores for the launch, some for more than 24 hours, both brands quickly picked up on their tweets and sent out pizzas and drinks to all those waiting in the cold. Not only that, but the brands also congratulated one another on their successful launches via Twitter. This is the kind of cheesiness that gamers tend to appreciate on social media, and online fans responded well to the virtual high five.
Sony hit the right note with its launch advertisement and release, and this is reflected in the volume and sentiment of social media mentions. The brand has recognised the importance of keeping core gamers engaged online while at the same time setting itself up with a more mainstream audience for the long term. Conversely, Microsoft launched its Xbox One console with an ‘all round entertainment’ experience in mind and a broader target audience of casual gamers and families. The brand has been too forward-thinking in its approach, attempting to bring in a mainstream audience too early.
While Microsoft’s strategy to position itself as a gaming and entertainment console may pay off in the long run, right now all social mentions and hype continue to point towards the PS4. #teamsony have officially won the battle.