For the entire length of this current console generation, Sony’s PlayStation 4 has had a significant lead over its competitor, Microsoft’s Xbox One. Though the Xbox One has (arguably) a stronger line-up of exclusive games, it hasn’t been able to match the sales numbers of the PlayStation 4; having almost an 11 million console gap between the two systems. This gap, which can be considered a chasm at this point, is something that Xbox Chief Phil Spencer acknowledges is one that Microsoft may never close.
During a panel at the 2015 GeekWire Summit, Spencer was asked whether or not Microsoft could beat Sony this generation. He answered with: “You know, I don’t know. You know, the length of the generation… They [Sony] have a huge lead and they have a good product. I love the content, the games line-up that we have.”
Spencer also said that Microsoft “fundamentally lost” the trust of its most loyal customers with the launch of the Xbox One. “Whether it’s always-on, used games, whatever the feature was, we lost the trust in them that they were at the center of our decision-making process,” said Spencer. “Were we building a product for us, or were we building a product for the gamers? And as soon as that question came into people’s minds and they looked at anything, whether it was the power of our box, our launch line-up, microtransactions, any of the features that you talked about, what you find is very quickly you lose the benefit of the doubt. You lose your customer’s assumption that the reason you’re building your product is to delight them and not just build a better and more maybe manipulative product.
“And that really set with me going through the launch and just watching the reaction, as you said, of the most loyal fans, people that had Xbox tattooed on their arm. And them coming to us almost in tears because they felt like the direction we were going with the product didn’t include them. Have we recovered? I feel really good about the position and the product and the brand right now, but I was at the Gamestop Manager’s Meeting about three weeks ago and I’m sitting with 5,000 Gamestop managers in Las Vegas and they’d come up and they still have customers that walk in the store that think that the Xbox One won’t play used games. Just to be clear, Xbox One has always played used games from day one. But that perception that gets set early on, because consumers have five seconds to internalise your brand and your message and then they move on. They’re not going to spend time to read what we say afterwards. ‘Oh Xbox One, that’s that thing. If I want it I’ll go buy it and if I don’t I won’t.’ Regaining that trust and the mindshare with the customer, the gamer, is incredibly difficult.”
As it stands now, Spencer wants his team to focus on gaining as many customers as they can, and not so much with beating Sony.
This is the sort of thing you wouldn’t expect the head of a video game company to say, but we all have to appreciate how honest Phil Spencer was. He knows that it will be near impossible to ever beat Sony, so there’s no real point in making boastful claims of ever gaining dominance over them.
Make sure to watch the entire video since it is a very fascinating and revealing interview.