Microsoft resembles a certain other green giant right now: you wouldn’t like it when it’s angry. While the Xbox One has been doing reasonably well over the past year, it’s been outpaced heavily by the PlayStation 4 around the globe – and that’s put the American company on the back foot. It’s not immensely surprising to see Sony on top in nations such as Germany and Spain, as the platform holder has always been popular in continental Europe, but the firm has also been battering its Redmond-based rival in the USA and UK, scoring nine consecutive NPD victories in a row.
It was always going to be difficult for the Japanese giant to continue that success through November – after all, its competitor appears to have positioned all of its heavy hitters into that one month. However, it now not only has to contend with co-marketing partnerships for Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and a little game called Halo: Master Chief Collection – but it will also have to bat aside yet another price drop, which will see the Xbox One “temporarily” reduced to $349.99 in the United States until 3rd January. There’ll be a few soggy brows around SCEA today.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this move is that it includes bundles, too: you’ll be able to get the console alongside two Assassin’s Creed titles for the abovementioned sum, for example, while the limited edition Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare unit will sell for a much more attractive $449.99. Even more incredible is that this doesn’t factor in potential Black Friday promotions, which could, in theory, see the system drop to $299.99 or lower – an amazing turnaround considering that the console launched at $499.99 less than a year ago.
In many ways, Sony should feel satisfied that its strategy has strong-armed Microsoft into this position in the first place – but it also puts the manufacturer in a precarious position. The firm has just enjoyed one of the strongest September sales periods of all time in the USA, and consequentially, its momentum is good moving into the holidays – but it can’t afford to give its competitor an inch if it wants to maintain its lead, certainly in North America. However, with the Japanese giant’s numbers not in need of an artificial injection, what should it do?
It’s clear that the Xbox maker has been counting down to Christmas in order to hit its competitor with every piece of ammunition in its arsenal. Phil Spencer, in fact, hinted as much in an interview with Game Informer magazine. “They beat us in June. They beat us in May,” he said of the console climate at the time. “I think that the whole month of June is about one week in November. They're winning, and they'll do their PR around it, and that makes sense. The battle is really September, October, November, and December.”
With the Xbox One getting tidily beaten in September – and October likely to go to Sony, too – it would seem that the battle for the Xbox chief and his team very much rests on November and December now. Sony, on the other hand, tends to take a wider view, which can even be evidenced in its software lineup. Indeed, the company may not have the strongest roster of holiday exclusives this year, but it will pick up any slack in February with the release of both Bloodborne and The Order: 1886.
But can it afford to roll over for a couple of months – especially given that they’re the most important of the year? There are already plenty of armchair analysts declaring that Sony doesn’t have the funds to counter this last-minute measure from Microsoft, but we don’t necessarily agree with that line of thought. The firm’s bank balance isn’t particularly healthy, but the manufacturer has said on several occasions that it designed its next-gen device around prompt price cuts, and while it hasn’t had to lean on them yet, we know that the console isn’t losing money like the PlayStation 3.
The question, then, is not necessarily whether it can react – but whether it thinks that it needs to. Regardless of the price of competing consoles, it’s highly unlikely that the PS4 will suddenly stop selling this Christmas, so the Japanese giant should expect a stellar holiday irrespective of this aggressive move. However, up until this point, it’s enjoyed much of its success from being both the cheapest box on the market, but also the ideal upgrade path for existing Xbox 360 and PS3 owners. This move could stunt its momentum a little in that regard.
Given that it's also the holiday, it won’t have time to take stock of the situation before making a response, so it’ll need to decide what it’s going to do about this fairly fast. As such, if we were in charge of the company, we’d react with some kind of promotion of our own. Given the success of the PS4, a price drop doesn’t seem to make the most sense – but the platform holder could certainly pack its bog-standard hardware option with added value. Why not, for example, throw in downloadable copies of Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, and Resogun as standard?
It’s an interesting dilemma, because in the span of ten million units, the Japanese giant has gone from having the cheapest next-gen console on the market to the most expensive. It’s been very much facing this issue in the UK for several months, though, and its response has been to allow retailers to keep price matching the Xbox One – without ever really announcing it’s doing so. As a result, you can now get a PS4 for around £299.99 if you shop around, which is a good £50 or so cheaper than it’s supposed to sell for in these parts.
The market is different overseas, though, so it’ll be very interesting to see what Sony does about this. Of course, while the two electronics giants duke it out, there’s only ever going to be one winner in this war: the consumer. Indeed, it looks like you’ll be able to pick up a new console for an absolute song this Christmas. Who could possibly complain about that?
What do you think that Sony should do to counter this aggressive measure from Microsoft? Given its success, should it stick with its current price point – or should it match the Redmond-based firm, and not give it an inch? Plot out your sales strategy in the comments section below.
Do you think Sony should respond with a PS4 price drop of its own? (91 votes)
Yes, it needs to if it wants to stay in front
Hmm, I don’t really care
No, the system’s selling very well as it is
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