Competitors Microsoft and Sony are actively searching for new ways to appeal to more consumers, though each is employing vastly different methods to do so. Last week, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) discussed its plan to focus more on mobile gaming, while Sony (NASDAQ: SNE) toyed with the idea of launching an early access program for new games.
On June 10, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sent an e-mail to Microsoft employees, detailing his plans for the Xbox brand. Nadella, who was appointed CEO earlier this year, plans to shift Microsoft's focus into the mobile realm.
“The day I took on my new role I said that our industry does not respect tradition – it only respects innovation. I also said that in order to accelerate our innovation, we must rediscover our soul – our unique core. We must all understand and embrace what only Microsoft can contribute to the world and how we can once again change the world. I consider the job before us to be bolder and more ambitious than anything we have ever done,” Nadella said.
“The single biggest digital life category, measured in both time and money spent, in a mobile-first world is gaming,” the CEO continued in the letter. He added that the Redmond, Washington-based multimedia brand was fortunate to own the Xbox franchise, and that the organization “will continue to vigorously innovate and delight gamers with Xbox.”
Xbox is one of the most-revered consumer brands, with a growing online community and service, and a raving fan base. We also benefit from many technologies flowing from our gaming efforts into our productivity efforts – core graphics and NUI in Windows, speech recognition in Skype, camera technology in Kinect for Windows, Azure cloud enhancements for GPU simulation and many more. Bottom line, we will continue to innovate and grow our fan base with Xbox while also creating additive business value for Microsoft.
"While today many people define mobile by devices, Microsoft defines it by experiences. We're really in the infant stages of the mobile-first world. In the next few years we will see many more new categories evolve and experiences emerge that span a variety of devices of all screen sizes. Microsoft will be on the forefront of this innovation with a particular focus on dual users and their needs across work and life," Nadella said.
Meanwhile, Sony is considering an early access program for its PlayStation 4, similar to Steam’s early access program, where developers grant players access to unfinished games to help work out any early in-game problems. Currently, one of the most popular Steam early access titles is zombie survival horror “DayZ,” which launched last year as an unfinished product. Its developer, Bohemia Interactive, was straightforward with fans about the title’s progress and made no effort to hide its flaws. Currently, “DayZ” has sold more than 2 million copies – even though it’s still technically an unfinished game.
“We still at some point ensure that we’re being mindful of the consumer. We don’t want somebody to stumble across that title and expect a full product, and have a negative experience,” Vice President of Developer and Publisher Relations at PlayStation Adam Boyes told Gamasutra last week.
Boyes added that Sony didn’t have a timeframe for launching its early access program.
“Honestly, we're working through that right now. We're figuring out what's ok. We obviously have our tech requirement checklist that people have to adhere to,” he said.
“So we're internally discussing, what does that list look like this? What are the caveats? Stuff like this. So it's still a project that a lot of minds are considering. No details yet, but it's something on the top of my mind every day.”
Boyes seemed optimistic that many PlayStation fans would be happy to back games that weren’t finished.
“That’s the thing — we live in a different world. There are different types of people. There people who always back games, enjoy Kickstarters, try things that they know aren’t finished but are willing to help make better.”
The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 both launched last November, but Sony’s device remains in the lead, with more than 9 million units sold. Both Microsoft’s and Sony’s initiatives will probably increase revenue, although Microsoft’s decision to focus on mobile gaming is an interesting move. Will it work? Only time will tell.