What Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo don't get

Don Reisinger thinks Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo don't get each other. Is it true?

Each other.

Too simple? After seeing yesterday's NPD numbers and hearing about them from all the companies, each has their own spin on what went down last month. Nintendo (rightfully so) chose to gloat about how well the Wii is selling. According to NPD, the Wii outsold the 360, PS3, PS2, and PSP during April. Even better for the company, it held the number two spot in hardware sales with its DS platform.

On the other hand, Microsoft chose to discuss how well its platform has done so far and explained to me that its 10.1 million units sold mark is a major milestone for the company because the first console in each generation to hit 10 million units sold in the US has won the console war. When asked if it should be worried about Nintendo, Microsoft said it doesn't see Nintendo as a competitor. When asked if it should be worried about Sony, the representative said it's not worried at all and the company believes it's in the best possible position right now.

Finally, we move to Sony. The company was barely beaten in hardware sales by Microsoft -- a mere 900 unit margin separated the two companies -- and it did relatively well in software sales. That said, it only captured 35 percent of GTA IV sales, which the company attributes to a smaller installed base. Of course, a more logical notion suggests the robust online component included in the Xbox 360 version was the main reason. Regardless, it contends that it's coming on strong and can win the console war.

And as I examined what each company had to say about the numbers, it became quite obvious that not one understands the other.

The Nintendo mistake

Nintendo has no idea what Sony and Microsoft are all about. If it did, wouldn't the company realize that what it's lacking (even though it's still the leader by a long shot) is strong third-party support? Time and again, Nintendo will say that the Wii is about innovation and it's a different style of gameplay, but at its very core, isn't it still a gaming platform that should have a wider array of games available for it?

To me, the Wii is a gaming platform on par with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, regardless of the fact that almost no one from Microsoft, Sony or even Nintendo, wants to admit that. Aside from that, Nintendo really doesn't understand that although it's performing extremely well now, it may not happen forever. As the number of first-party titles start to dwindle and third-party support continues to erode as fewer games sell well on the hardware, what will Nintendo do? Sony and Microsoft understand that. Nintendo chooses to ignore it.

The Microsoft mistake

Much like Sony, Microsoft is quick to downplay the significance of the Wii. The company doesn't see Nintendo as a valid competitor to its platform and feels that the Wii is providing an entirely different experience to an entirely different set of customers. And while some of its studies may prove that point, hardcore gamers still find reason to own a Wii and there's no debating the fact that it sold almost 7 times better than the Xbox 360 in April alone.

Microsoft is also strangely not worried about Sony's recent surge in the gaming environment. According to the company, its jump can be written off and should not be viewed as an important development. Of course, what it fails to realize is that although Sony may just be "catching up" to the pack, it's still hanging in there quite well and is in a much better position than it was last year. Sony's hardware revenue is up 19.4 percent year-over-year and its total software revenue is up 68.6 percent. Maybe it's just me, but I think I would be a little concerned if I was looking down the barrel of those statistics.

The Sony mistake

Sony is certainly not innocent in its utter lack of understanding. Sony also believes that Nintendo isn't a worthy competitor and believes that it's performing so well because it caters to a different group of people. While true to some extent, I still don't understand how a company that's being pelted in the sales figures can honestly say that the Wii isn't a major concern. Suffice it to say that if the Wii weren't around, many of those who own one would have either opted out of the video game business altogether or purchased on of the other consoles. And if you're competing for many of the same customers, doesn't that automatically mean that the other company is a competitor? It certainly does in my book.

Sony has shown time and again that it doesn't really worry too much about its online component and keeps coming back to its contention that the Xbox 360 is winning because it had a head start. But why can't Sony wake up and realize that it's losing right now because it lost its focus for too long and allowed Microsoft to capitalize? Why hasn't it realized that the online component of the Xbox 360 is easily its most valuable asset and tried to compete with it more directly? Simply put, I just don't think Sony has truly woken up and realized the full scope of where it is right now. Microsoft is leading in two major areas -- online and third-party developer relations -- and there's no indication that anything will be changing anytime soon.

Sadly, it's as if none of the big three in the video game industry really understand each other. And while I know all too well that many of their comments are the result of PR speak, there's always some truth in what's made public. And as each company tries to stay true to its own belief of what's really going on in the industry, one truth remains: not one of these companies have the answers and they really don't know each other too well.

Let's hope that changes.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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