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Opinion GameIndustry Biz - Sony's PS5 marketing strategy does away with convention

CyberPanda

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Sony's PS5 marketing strategy does away with convention | Opinion

E3 absenteeism is just the latest example of a company paying little heed to conventional wisdom, but will that help or hurt it?

In the games industry, when something works, you do it again and again until it stops working. And sometimes you keep doing it even then.

With more than 100 million PS4s sold and a commanding lead over the Xbox One from start to finish this generation, it's fair to say that Sony's marketing plan for the system's launch worked, which is part of what makes Sony's announcement this week that it would be skipping E3 2020so shocking.

While not entirely unprecedented -- Sony did skip E3 last year as well, after all -- this still represents a massive departure from what worked for the company heading into its last console launch, when the PS4 debuted directly opposite the Xbox One and soundly trounced the competition.

In fact, E3 2013 was perhaps Sony's single most impactful moment in the lead-up to the PlayStation 4 launch. The week before E3, Microsoft confirmed that Xbox One would require an online connection and give publishers the option to disallow second-hand sales of retail games by tying the disc to the first Xbox One that plays it, a massive anti-consumer shift away from the status quo. When Microsoft's press briefing came and went without that elephant being forcibly ejected from the room, Sony took advantage during its own press briefing the next day.


The announcement that the PS4 would have no restrictions on used games drew one of the biggest ovations of the conference. After all, there had been weeks of speculation that both the PS4 and Xbox One would institute new systems to profit off of second-hand game sales after Microsoft talked vaguely about online requirements at the Xbox One reveal. Players' concerns only grew as Microsoft dragged its heels to clarify its position and Sony stayed tight-lipped on the matter entirely, so what would have been non-news if revealed just a few months earlier -- that the PS4 would work exactly the same as every other major console in the industry's history -- was instead an E3 revelation, a haymaker to the competition delivered when the entire gaming world was watching.

As for the moment in Sony's E3 conference that might have drawn larger cheers, that would have been the reveal that the PS4 would retail for $399, $100 less than Microsoft's announced price point for the Xbox One.

These weren't the only reasons for negative perceptions around the Xbox One or positive perceptions around the PS4, but Sony's E3 2013 helped cement those perceptions and spread them throughout the consumer base. It put immediate and immense pressure on the competition to change course. Microsoft would abandon its Xbox One restrictions just a week after E3, deciding that a humiliating about-face was preferable to being the only console on the market with such policies in place.

Obviously, Sony returning to E3 wouldn't necessarily secure a replay of the last generation's events. For one thing, it doesn't appear Microsoft is going to be as cooperative about shooting itself in the foot this time around. And it's still possible that Sony could make a stir during E3 week with an EA Play-like event, something set in LA during the same time but not technically part of the big show. But it didn't do that last year, and if it follows suit this year, skipping E3 and letting Microsoft claim the spotlight for the week would be a bold and unconventional decision. It's also not the only decision Sony has made that deviates from what worked so well for it heading into the PS4 generation.

For example, the PS4 had a nine-month marketing build, which Sony kicked off with a February 20 briefing for press and investors in New York City.

This time around, Sony talked publicly about its next-gen console a year and a half in advance of launch, and not in a flashy media briefing but in an exclusive feature in Wired. In that feature, lead system architect Mark Cerny talked about some key features: a solid-state drive to cut down load times, 8K resolution support, and backward compatibility. Last October -- about a year ahead of launch -- Sony announced a holiday 2020 release window and again turned to Wired to reveal a few more features, like the new haptic feedback technology in the controller.

"It seems that whenever a platform-holder enjoys a banner generation, it starts to get a little unpredictably ambitious, often to its own detriment"
Instead of attending E3, Sony has said it will participate in "hundreds of consumer events across the globe" this year. That might sound like a lot, but between the various event sponsorships and promotional activities of every regional arm of the PlayStation business, I'm not convinced that indicates any substantial difference from its usual activities.

It's difficult to speculate too confidently on what Sony's game is here. To this point, many of its unorthodox promotional moves of late would fit into a general category of cost cutting you might expect to see from a less successful outfit. There was its absence from E3 last year and this year, the demise of the year-ending North American PlayStation Experience eventthat ran for most of this generation, the PS5 reveal coming through a website interview rather than a splashy media event. Sony may believe the PlayStation brand is so big it doesn't need to throw heaps of money at such endeavors -- it may even be right in that belief -- but this is not the expected behavior.

Although perhaps it should be. It seems that whenever a platform-holder enjoys a banner generation, it starts to get a little unpredictably ambitious, often to its own detriment. Microsoft's Xbox One debacle came on the heels of a resoundingly successful Xbox 360 generation. The damp squib that was the Wii U followed up Nintendo's mainstream phenomenon Wii. And of course, the last time Sony behaved this far outside of the norm was the last time it was coming off an industry-dominating success.

The end of the PlayStation 2 generation was the last time Sony was talking openly about the capabilities of its new system a year ahead of launch and drawing all kinds of raised eyebrows for it. Back then, the company was promising 25.6 teraflops of processing power and games that could run at 120 frames per second, saying a $599 price was "probably too cheap," and suggesting the "ideal" was to have consumers wanting to work more hours so they could afford it. Granted, those memorable moments all came courtesy of Ken Kutaragi, but even Kaz Hirai was out there talking about how being first to market wasn't a big dealeven as the Xbox 360 was carving up Sony's market share during its year-long head-start on the generation.

To be clear, I don't expect the PS5 launch to be anything close to the debacle of the PS3 debut, where Sony slashed the Japanese price of the system by 20% before it even launched. There's plenty of time left before the PS5 launch, loads of details still unknown, and vitally, an entire lineup of games that need to be shown. And there's some evidence that what little the company has already done is working (5 million Instagram likes for a logo that was about as surprising as the PlayStation 5's name?!?), so who am I to criticize it?

That said, Sony's marketing decisions over the past couple years haven't always made the most sense. And with each step the company takes away from the conventional wisdom for launching a new console, I come back to last year's DICE Summit keynote address, where now-former Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios chairman Shawn Layden talked about how the company's triumph in the PS2 era led directly to the "stark moment of hubris" that was the PS3 launch.

Perhaps I should be cheering an industry leader for throwing the conventional wisdom out the window. After all, this industry has a long tradition of great successes that came from doing just that. But this industry has a tradition just as long of industry leaders falling from lofty heights because they thought the conventional wisdom no longer applied to them.

 

Slings and Arrows

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Tl'dr: Sony Doomed? Arrogant Sony back?

I think they should have waiting until mid-late February before speculating on the marketing. Sony have plenty of time to drop an event in February and get the nitty-gritty out of the way.

Sony are launching some major releases this year so talking about PS5 too early would be a detriment to possibility of attracting some double-dippers.

Microsoft need to talk often, they need as much good will going in to the next generation as possible.
 

Hobbygaming

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I think Sony should've had a showing this E3 but with that said, as long as they have their own E3-like conference then I'm fine :)
 
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Hobbygaming

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I can't wait for this PS5 reveal to feel that next generation hype all over

Some things I look forward to next gen
Fighting Thor in GoW
Fighting Venom in Spider-man 2
Fighting the metal devil in Horizon 2
Flying mounts in Horizon 2 (fingers crossed)
 

Sign

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E3 was useful when companies needed to act collectively to draw the attention of a somewhat disinterested and apathetic media. Nowadays a company can throw on a twitch stream and have it rack in hundreds of thousands of views, put on every video site, twitter, facebook, etc. And, All of this for less hassle and annoyance.
 

Investor9872

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If it's true, and that the current E3 costs somewhere around $50 - $60 million for a publisher's stage, then can you blame Sony for not wanting to participate there anymore? That $60 million can go towards the purchase of a first-rate studio, which can cost as much as $350 million.
 

Hobbygaming

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Tl'dr: Sony Doomed? Arrogant Sony back?

I think they should have waiting until mid-late February before speculating on the marketing. Sony have plenty of time to drop an event in February and get the nitty-gritty out of the way.

Sony are launching some major releases this year so talking about PS5 too early would be a detriment to possibility of attracting some double-dippers.

Microsoft need to talk often, they need as much good will going in to the next generation as possible.
Imagine all of the momentum Sony will have when TLOU Part II drops

I wonder if we'll get a Ghost of Tsushima release date trailer right before E3 😏 like they did with Death Stranding
 

DeepEnigma

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Gameindustry.biz and Forbes Contributors fight over which can have the best fluff and doom depending on brand, I noticed. Been this way for quite a while now.

Articles straight made for n4g. Throw in Gaming(clickbait)bolt and we have a trifecta of gaming reality show drama.
 
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Gavon West

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Yeah. Thinking Sony is full of shit. Maybe live attendance of E3 may be lacking attendees, but online viewiership is still in the tens of millions for E3. They're trying to distance themselves from Microsoft and control their message. They don't wanna show that Ps5 next to the Series X, Xcloud, GP when it comes to next gen.
 

Fbh

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All this speculation before the consoles are even truly revealed feels pointless to me. And mostly reeks of salty journos because E3 used to be their special event where they could feel important.

Yeah. Thinking Sony is full of shit. Maybe live attendance of E3 may be lacking attendees, but online viewiership is still in the tens of millions for E3. They're trying to distance themselves from Microsoft and control their message. They don't wanna show that Ps5 next to the Series X, Xcloud, GP when it comes to next gen.

The vast majority of people don't tune in "because E3", they tune in because "Ms, Sony, Nintendo, Ubisoft, etc".
A big Sony event about the Ps5 will get a ton of veiws regardless of if it takes place during the second week of June or at some other date.


I still think it sucks though as having this one week with all the conferences was fun and I would always look forward to it. I just think the way things are now E3 needs MS, Sony and Nintendo more than Ms, Sony and Nintendo need E3
 
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Drewpee

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My comment was deleted for saying that Sony might be thinking that Sony's PS5 is going to be lacking when compared to the Series X. It certainly wasn't meant to troll anyone, I literally think that is the reason they are using this type of PR strategy.

Look at my previous posts and come back and see if I am trolling. Maybe I didn't explain my thought process well enough but it certainly was not meant to be trolling. Sorry if anyone took it that way.
 

redfirm

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its simple, they are the market leader, they dictate the rules. if you are in a leadership position, the worst thing you can do is follow or allow yourself to be seen as on the same stage as the products that are competing with you. this is the reason why samsung and apple both hold their own events, even thought the world mobile congress exists.
 
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Clear

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Its just Sony doing the smart thing and controlling the message.

The plain truth is that this is also a very big year for PS4. TLOU2 is as big a title as they could possibly release, and then there's FF7 remake. Third-party it may be but they have a year-long exclusivity deal. Then there's Ghost Of Tsushima, and Dreams, and Nioh2, and thats all on top of a bunch of huge multi-platform releases that they stand to do exceedingly well from due to their 100m+ install base.

Its an embarrassment of riches that shits all over Xbox's output, basically for any year in memory.

Unsurprisingly Sony want to reap the benefits of that, and part of it is not playing along with MS's game in terms of marketing. Why distract the audience from what's imminent, with what's coming at the earliest 11 months hence?

Once that's mostly out of the way, they can then start to shift focus onto PS5. By which point MS will in all probability have set out their stall for their next-gen offering giving Sony a firm target to counter-market against.

They are simply doing the smart thing under the circumstances.
 
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Aion002

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SP - BR


They should just wait.... I know the clicks.... but eh....
 

DunDunDunpachi

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Interesting article. It's hard to say if Sony will be successful because the strategy is unusual. I suppose if these "hundreds of consumer events" end up being an even better way to show off the system compared to a trade show, who is to say that's a bad idea? On the other hand, if it falls on its face, then I guess Sony miscalculated.

I don't understand the emotional accusations attached to it. "Arrogant Sony"? Eh, they're refusing to pander to the media cabal special little trade show? Heavens! That sounds like what Nintendo and Rockstar and numerous other devs have done for years. Sony is just the next one to do it, big whoop. I think their pretentious final E3 "experience" where they spent the show playing live performances was stupid and it didn't help deflect the accusation that they're being arrogant.

Out of hand, I don't want to snub the idea, either. Maybe Sony can pull it off. I expect the total number of impressions and the total hours of footage leading up to the PS5 launch will be higher if they go the route of "hundreds of consumer events" compared to a big trade show. Is that an implausible suggestion? If it's plausible, then I can see where this may pay off for them, or at least provide us with a lot of first-hand impressions and footage. Isn't that what gamers tend to demand anyway?
 

ethomaz

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My comment was deleted for saying that Sony might be thinking that Sony's PS5 is going to be lacking when compared to the Series X. It certainly wasn't meant to troll anyone, I literally think that is the reason they are using this type of PR strategy.

Look at my previous posts and come back and see if I am trolling. Maybe I didn't explain my thought process well enough but it certainly was not meant to be trolling. Sorry if anyone took it that way.
Did you really send the comment after wrote it? I never read any case of modes removing comments here.
You can be permabanned but the comment continue there :D
 
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Vawn

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But PS4 reveal was not at E3.

So they are doing the same?

Said that I believe not have an E3 show is a big mistake.

The reveal wasn't at E3, but the death blow to Xbox was landed at E3.

But, saying that I DON'T think not bribg at E3 is a mistake. E3 live shows just don't make sense in this social media heavy world. There are much better ways to reveal your hardware and software now.
 

MoreJRPG

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This doesn't hurt their current base. It hurts those on the fence about buying a console next-gen and the next generation who have yet to own one. When they see trending videos on Xbox's channel on Youtube of the newest titles, it'll pull some of that audience.
 
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FranXico

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Gameindustry.biz and Forbes Contributors fight over which can have the best fluff and doom depending on brand, I noticed. Been this way for quite a while now.

Articles straight made for n4g. Throw in Gaming(clickbait)bolt and we have a trifecta of gaming reality show drama.
I love how the writer lovingly goes into detail about the many blunders Sony did 15 years or so ago, but skips over what made the Xbox One a PR disaster for Microsoft 6 years ago. Very professional and unbiased.
 
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GHG

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The reveal wasn't at E3, but the death blow to Xbox was landed at E3.

But, saying that I DON'T think not bribg at E3 is a mistake. E3 live shows just don't make sense in this social media heavy world. There are much better ways to reveal your hardware and software now.

The death blow was during E3 but they didn't actually use E3 to deliver it, it was via their official YouTube channel:

 

Aidah

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We don't even know what their marketing strategy is, we just know they won't be at E3, and even that might be in a technical sense.
 
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Humdinger

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Obviously, Sony returning to E3 wouldn't necessarily secure a replay of the last generation's events. For one thing, it doesn't appear Microsoft is going to be as cooperative about shooting itself in the foot this time around.

Hah. Damn it MS, why aren't you cooperating.
 

Gavon West

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Its just Sony doing the smart thing and controlling the message.

The plain truth is that this is also a very big year for PS4. TLOU2 is as big a title as they could possibly release, and then there's FF7 remake. Third-party it may be but they have a year-long exclusivity deal. Then there's Ghost Of Tsushima, and Dreams, and Nioh2, and thats all on top of a bunch of huge multi-platform releases that they stand to do exceedingly well from due to their 100m+ install base.

Its an embarrassment of riches that shits all over Xbox's output, basically for any year in memory.

Unsurprisingly Sony want to reap the benefits of that, and part of it is not playing along with MS's game in terms of marketing. Why distract the audience from what's imminent, with what's coming at the earliest 11 months hence?

Once that's mostly out of the way, they can then start to shift focus onto PS5. By which point MS will in all probability have set out their stall for their next-gen offering giving Sony a firm target to counter-market against.

They are simply doing the smart thing under the circumstances.

Gimme a fucking break! Lol

Sony is bouncing back because they're up against next gen in light of a very prepared Xbox division. Last E3 they backed out because they blew their load and had nothing to show.

TLoU2 is a big title. Noted. But Sony wouldnt look as strong up against Microsoft with a weaker next gen console. This would actually make two consoles in a row. And you add to the fact that Microsoft has once again beat them for the power crown (at the beginning of a new generation no less...) makes the message very clear: MICROSOFT ARE BETTER AT CREATING HARDWARE DESPITE SONY'S BEST EFFORTS. Be it 9tf or 10tf - Sony for sure wont have power to tout about.

That's why loosing the power crown at the beginning of a generation is a big blow, and one Sony fanboys are trying to sweep under the rug., and one Sony isnt wanting a spotlight on. Its disappointing - despite them trying to save face. We already got a taste of not only the Series X hardware but, what its capable of with Hellblade II. The whole gaming community felt that one two punch! And that was just the beginning, E3 will show Halo Infinite (probably in real time), Forza 8, The Initiative's new game, Playgrounds new game and a few others with that 12tf glow coming later this year. This includes new Ip's. Not to mention Gamepass and what new hotness gets released there and the addition of a very competent Xcloud rolling out across the globe. That's a lot of heat there, bruv!

Sony's trying to control when and where they release their next gen info to keep from looking weak in the face of a competitor in whom they had rule over this entire generation. It wont be that simple nor that easy this time. Them backing out of E3 is trying to keep the momentum they've built up over the current gen. They could realistically loose that -- especially at the start of a new generation. The Scoreboard is wiped clean. It's anyone's game again.
 

Drewpee

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Did you really send the comment after wrote it? I never read any case of modes removing comments here.
You can be permabanned but the comment continue there :D

It was deleted with a message attached that said "dial it back on the blatant trolling derail."
 
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Gimme a fucking break! Lol

Sony is bouncing back because they're up against next gen in light of a very prepared Xbox division. Last E3 they backed out because they blew their load and had nothing to show.

TLoU2 is a big title. Noted. But Sony wouldnt look as strong up against Microsoft with a weaker next gen console. This would actually make two consoles in a row. And you add to the fact that Microsoft has once again beat them for the power crown (at the beginning of a new generation no less...) makes the message very clear: MICROSOFT ARE BETTER AT CREATING HARDWARE DESPITE SONY'S BEST EFFORTS. Be it 9tf or 10tf - Sony for sure wont have power to tout about.

That's why loosing the power crown at the beginning of a generation is a big blow, and one Sony fanboys are trying to sweep under the rug., and one Sony isnt wanting a spotlight on. Its disappointing - despite them trying to save face. We already got a taste of not only the Series X hardware but, what its capable of with Hellblade II. The whole gaming community felt that one two punch! And that was just the beginning, E3 will show Halo Infinite (probably in real time), Forza 8, The Initiative's new game, Playgrounds new game and a few others with that 12tf glow coming later this year. This includes new Ip's. Not to mention Gamepass and what new hotness gets released there and the addition of a very competent Xcloud rolling out across the globe. That's a lot of heat there, bruv!

Sony's trying to control when and where they release their next gen info to keep from looking weak in the face of a competitor in whom they had rule over this entire generation. It wont be that simple nor that easy this time. Them backing out of E3 is trying to keep the momentum they've built up over the current gen. They could realistically loose that -- especially at the start of a new generation. The Scoreboard is wiped clean. It's anyone's game again.

 

Hobbygaming

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Yeah. Thinking Sony is full of shit. Maybe live attendance of E3 may be lacking attendees, but online viewiership is still in the tens of millions for E3. They're trying to distance themselves from Microsoft and control their message. They don't wanna show that Ps5 next to the Series X, Xcloud, GP when it comes to next gen.
I think if Sony took the stage and showed 1st party PS5 titles at E3 vs MS they would still have the best showing
 

Gavon West

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I think if Sony took the stage and showed 1st party PS5 titles at E3 vs MS they would still have the best showing
With an already under powered next gen console?? Lol. Not likely... And definitely not with Halo Infinite, Forza 8, new Fable and Initiative's new game being shown on Series X. No way broski.
 
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Gavon West

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Naughty Dog, Insomniac Games, Sucker Punch, Sony Santa Monica, Bend, GG

These studios produce some of the best visuals in the industry
Agreed! They just arent the only one's though. XGS has a host of extremely talented developers as well. Now they all have virtually unlimited resources, time and finances. Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch, Santa Monica and Rockstar devs also went over to the Initiatve and Playground Games. Next gen wil be very interesting.
 
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demigod

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With an already under powered next gen console?? Lol. Not likely... And definitely not with Halo Infinite, Forza 8, new Fable and Initiative's new game being shown on Series X. No way broski.

Didn't you say you don't crap in Sony threads? Also those games you listed aren't next gen, sorry bud.
 
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Hobbygaming

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Agreed! They just arent the only one's though. XGS has a host of extremely talented developers as well. Now they all have virtually unlimited resources, time and finances. Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch, Santa Monica and Rockstar devs also went over to the Initiatve and Playground Games. Next gen wil be very interesting.
Mike Ybarra said nothing has changed at MS as far as how Xbox is ran so we'll see but if they do crank out some more AAA then that's great
 
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thelastword

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The death blow was during E3 but they didn't actually use E3 to deliver it, it was via their official YouTube channel:

You know how long I thought of doing a "Exclusives at launch video" to replace this 2013 one...…..Listen up…."Exclusives at launch, only on PS5" and the ding "PlayStation".....TM2020
 
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Gavon West

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Mike Ybarra said nothing has changed at MS as far as how Xbox is ran so we'll see but if they do crank out some more AAA then that's great
Clearly things are being ran differently. Xbox has more good will with gamers now than they ever have. That goes for their stable of developers too. We know AAA games are coming already. And then some...
 
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Hobbygaming

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Clearly things are being ran differently. Xbox has more good will with gamers now than they ever have. That goes for their stable of developers too. We know AAA games are coming already. And then some...
Idk. Mike Ybarra also said he hopes Xbox focuses on AAA instead of AA games and this was a man that worked there a few months ago. So I guess we'll see lol
 

octiny

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Also those games you listed aren't next gen, sorry bud.

So I guess the question is, what if those "not next-gen" games end up looking better than anything Sony offers at launch.....

That would be pretty embarrassing, you know, not being next-gen & all :messenger_smirking:

Food for thought
 

Vawn

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Clearly things are being ran differently. Xbox has more good will with gamers now than they ever have. That goes for their stable of developers too. We know AAA games are coming already. And then some...

You think? How many quality AAA games have they put out over the last 7-10 years? I feel confidence in Xbox is at an all time low.

At the start of this generation, sure they were doing stupid stuff, but most of us believed they'd eventually have games and that's all that really matters.
 

Ar¢tos

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My comment was deleted for saying that Sony might be thinking that Sony's PS5 is going to be lacking when compared to the Series X. It certainly wasn't meant to troll anyone, I literally think that is the reason they are using this type of PR strategy.

Look at my previous posts and come back and see if I am trolling. Maybe I didn't explain my thought process well enough but it certainly was not meant to be trolling. Sorry if anyone took it that way.
?!?
"Let's make our own conference away from E3 so we get everybody's undivided attention and whatever we say doesn't get diluted in the sea of E3 announcements. This way nobody will notice that our specs are inferior to the Xbox SeX".
I don't think that will work...