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Here we are, day two of my taking a look at the Big Three console manufacturers, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. Yesterday, I looked at why Nintendo had more personality compared to Microsoft and Sony. Today, I'm going to tackle the only American company, Microsoft.
I think that compared to its Japanese counterparts, Microsoft is better at putting out a strategy that best serves itself, and(sometimes) its consumers. While I'm not a huge fan of Microsoft, I'm just putting this forth as what I really think they do well. As with Nintendo, I will look first at why Microsoft trumps the other two in business strategy, and than why this is good and bad.
Why Microsoft Wins Business
Even though it has been a polarizing implementation by Microsoft, with many gamers refusing to pay a dime for playing online, one cannot deny how successful the service has been. Unfortunately, I did a quick Google search, and couldn't find any recent information about how many people are subscribed. However, I think I can surmise that there are about 40-50 million currently, and about half of that number pay for Gold service(Microsoft said half in 2010, so it's most likely more now).
The Appeal to Non-Gamers
While this is something that should arguably be applied to Nintendo, it fits more with a business strategy when coupled with Xbox Live. Lots of people also use Live for things like Netflix and other services. It's becoming even more of an entertainment system than video games, which makes it more open to others.
This is one of the issues that goes more also into the negative side of their focus; Microsoft's XBLA has been somewhat of a conflict for indies. While mainly developers have exclusively released games for XBLA, there have also been gripes with the program. The main one is that the company(to my knowledge, based off what I have read before from some developers like Phil Fish) charges indie developers heavily for putting out patches to their games. Regardless of the outcomes of this(again, I will discuss the negative aspect of this practice below), this strategy just ends up with more cash in Microsoft's pocket.
Microsoft has arguably only really focused on two extremes for their 7th generation console; Kinect titles, and more mature titles like Gears of War, Halo, and Alan Wake. They don't really branch out as much as Sony and Nintendo do, which is due to them being around the least amount of time, and thus having less exclusives. However, their two extremes has been somewhat of a positive for them, as they really only have to cater to two crowds; the people who care about Kinect titles, and everyone else(haha). While there are unique games on XBLA, one cannot argue the fact that Microsoft has a heavy focus on these two extremes, while Nintendo and Sony both have had focus on multiple, different genres. This means they can focus on more sure-fire genres that they know their fan base caters towards, while Nintendo and Sony are more concerned with satisfying multiple crowds of consumers.
Why is this an Advantage for Microsoft?
The Obvious Answer
It's the purpose of a company to make a profit based on a product or service...by having the best practice to suit itself, Microsoft has secured itself as above Nintendo and Sony in profits(as of late-the unfortunately slow Wii U sales and Sony's stock going down point toward Microsoft doing better than the other two).
But Why is this Also Bad?
Going back to indie developers, one of the main negative aspects of Microsoft's practices is their handling of patches with indie developers. Phil Fish's game Fez, which was exclusively put out XBLA, experienced a bug that corrupted some people's save files. The bug would've been able to be patched, but according to Fish, the patch would've heavily cost him, and so he couldn't put it out, not having the finances able to support his game. This practice by Microsoft, of heavily charging for patches, is a slap in the face for indie developers, and also hurts fans who couldn't finish the game. You can read about the Fez debacle here.
They Become Less Likable
Although it is the goal of a company to pull in a steady profit, it's important for that company to keep delivering quality experience, and to keep on good terms with their consumers. So when things like the Fez incident happen, and Microsoft acts in a favor that benefits them but no one else, it just ends up hurting them in the long run.
So yes, that's what I think is strong about Microsoft; out of the Big Three, they act in the best way to maximize profits, even if I don't completely agree with how they operate their business. Tomorrow, I'll tackle Sony. See you all then.