My brand is better than your brand

EA boss John Riccitiello has always been an outspoken chap with his views covering all manner of video game subjects. Today is the turn of the HD console war with Riccitiello claiming the PlayStation brand is still vastly superior to the Xbox. Them fighting words right?! Well, no. Despite Microsoft leaping head first into this generation of consoles and producing a system that has somewhat stolen the thunder from Sony, in terms of brand awareness and popularity outside of the US, PlayStation wins. Sony has managed to keep a healthy flow of brand loyalty from players upgrading from their PS2s. And the iconography that goes with PlayStation, namely its controller’s face buttons, goes beyond the gaming public.

Speaking with Industry Gamers, Riccitiello was asked whether Microsoft has blown its impressive lead or has Sony just been too strong. His response was: “I don’t think it’s either of those things. Honestly, I think that Microsoft has done great work the last couple of years, and they’ve made a lot of smart moves: hitting pricing when they needed to, the right combination of hitting price points and disk drive sizes that allow them to hit price points that matter, and they’ve done a great job with Xbox Live. At the same time, the Xbox brand, the Microsoft brand, doesn’t carry anywhere near as much sway as the Sony and PlayStation brand do outside the United States, and so I think the reality is the international marketplace is just so important and it’s a natural advantage that no matter how good Microsoft is at growing their business, Sony has an almost-impossible-to-supersede head start.” He adds that Sony’s marketing message has greatly improved – not a hard task after the terrible ‘this is living’ campaign – and that Home is helping their online presence though Xbox Live still beats them on features and support.

Quick to not burn any bridges with Microsoft who have still sold more consoles worldwide than Sony, Riccitiello said he wasn’t taking sides and that both have done “a pretty good job,” adding: “The big disadvantage Sony carries is they have an expensive platform because of Blu-ray, so they have a harder time hitting price points. Microsoft has taken advantage of that and their online service, which really is the gold standard. Sony has [leveraged] their limited amount of unique content really well. They’ve done a nice job promoting the Blu-ray, their advertising and marketing campaigns have been stronger, and they’ve done a nice job of supporting some EA content to their own advantage.”

Out of the two, especially this year in terms of XBLA titles, I prefer the Xbox 360 and all that comes with the name but can’t argue with the strength of the PS brand. However I do think that that brand has taken a few knocks over the years allowing MS to close the gap. Most cross-platform games still use the Xbox 360 as their lead SKU meaning ports to the PS3 don’t often make full use of the hardware resulting in a weaker performance. On top of that, Sony seem reluctant to secure exclusive downloadable content so gamers can arguably get a fuller experience quicker on the Xbox 360. And while Microsoft has fought with the RROD persona, the PS3 has been nicknamed the PlayStation Update due to the constant patches and bizarre process of downloading content then waiting to have it installed. Without chickening out and taking the diplomatic route, I own consoles to play games and everything else is secondary to that. As long as those games are of a quality and deliver an experience worthy of my money, I couldn’t care less which system I play it on.

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