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Opinion Business Platform Post-Sony's PS Conference, Does Microsoft Lack An IP/Char With Enough Mass-Market/Mainstream Appeal?

Does Microsoft need to focus more on big-brand character-driven content (single-player or not)?

  • Yes

    Votes: 152 42.3%
  • No

    Votes: 121 33.7%
  • Unsure

    Votes: 21 5.8%
  • Doesn't Really Matter

    Votes: 65 18.1%

  • Total voters
    359
  • Poll closed .
Aug 28, 2019
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MAJOR NOTE: Just gonna remind again this has NOTHING TO DO WITH SOFTWARE QUALITY!!! Anyone who tries twisting it into that is just flat out wrong. If they mention poorly-rated games like Bleeding Edge, just point them to Order 1886 or The Tomorrow Children for Sony equivalents. BOTH companies have plenty of highly-rated 1P games over their respective histories so please, this has NOTHING to do with game scores or ratings!!!

So Sony just had their much-anticipated PS event on Thursday and, some opinions aside, it's been generally very well-received. It was short yet sweet, featured a lot of content, and closed out with a steady stream of impressive first-party content. However, what was most interesting to me what the type of content they closed the event out with, combined with the brand power of that content, and the frankly insane amount of online engagement metrics and mindshare discussion said content has had even outside of gaming-orientated spaces, and that's made me realize something quite potent in Sony's strategy, and something I feel Microsoft needs to address.


Simply put, Sony are being very strategic in building off 1P momentum with characters and IP that have decades-long histories and rapports with legions of fans around the world, are in very good reputable standing, with proven software development entities behind them and benefiting in most cases from trans-media (as in, multi-media) presence that's helped some of those transcend "mere" gaming spaces. If you want a clear example of this look no further than SpiderMan. Arguably THE most popular fictional character in the entire world, regardless of medium, and Sony just so happens to have exclusive access to the best games featuring that character and their universe, made by a studio now synonymous with many as the premier developer of superhero games, Insomniac. And those games, just happen to only be available on their PlayStation platforms, at a time where SpiderMan is also enjoying arguably the most success in terms of superhero films post-Endgame. Simply put, that power combination of IP, character, legacy, nostalgia and quality is very much real and a rare mixture you only see once every so often in the industry.


Nearly 8 million views in only two days. These are Hollywood blockbuster levels of viewer engagement and mindshare impact, no matter how you frame it.


Ragnarok not doing too bad either with 4.5 million views in a couple of days.

Indeed, the only other video game property I can think of that comes close to the cultural mindshare power of SpiderMan is Mario himself, but we're still talking a pretty sizable gap in those terms (maybe not so much in terms of game sales, but that is not the only factor when I discuss cultural mindshare power). And this is where I bring Xbox into the picture. I'll be frank: this has NOTHING to do with terms of absolute quality. There are plenty of high-quality, high-scoring Xbox/Microsoft 1P games, especially of recent with releases like FS 2020, Psychonauts 2 and the soon-to-be Forza Horizon 5. However, let's not beat around the bush: Sony has just as many of such games and some of them, such as the aforementioned SpiderMan or God of War, have vastly more cultural mindshare/brand power than anything Microsoft does, and that's something Microsoft needs to address.


As you can see, Forza Horizon 5 is one of the few MS games with a similar level of cultural mindshare impact, tho I'm not sure how many of the 7.5 million views were within two days' time. As a racing game, it still has the stigma of "just a racing game" to many gamers despite being arguably the best out there.

Before people bring up "But Minecraft!" or "But Sea of Thieves!", let me frame this by responding that the former, by and large, is neither seen by the majority as an "Xbox" or Microsoft branded property, nor are games like Minecraft genuinely shaping the larger meta of gaming discussion within the community or among the larger mainstream audiences. As for Sea of Thieves, well it is definitely a fine quality title these days and very popular on Steam, but it's not within the sphere of a Minecraft, and you'll never see a game like it really shaping meta industry discussion or competing for cultural mindshare with a Mario, God of War, or SpiderMan. Let's just be realistic on that and, again, it's nothing to do inherently with measurable quality in any of what is being discussed here.

So why is it a problem longer term for Microsoft if they persist in lacking such characters or IP that are strongly associated with the Xbox brand? Well, simple: we can see a direct correlation in how Sony having characters and brands like SpiderMan, God of War, Uncharted, TLOU etc. benefits to growth and persistent presence of the PlayStation brand globally. They are even now seemingly building their own gaming equivalent of the MCU film universe, which could be a perfect timing if in case the actual superhero film bubble starts to shrink, but tastes for high-quality superhero content stays or even grows. All of this not only benefits Sony obviously, but also their third-party partners, because a persistently healthy and highly-sized PlayStation brand means a large and health platform ecosystem for third-parties to thrive in, whether that means game sales, DLC/MTX sales or even subscription content models.


Many would argue that Microsoft's most popular character is Master Chief, with the Halo brand being synonymous with Xbox. This is likely true, but it's also true that Master Chief has lost a good deal of his brand power over the years thanks to scattershot quality in multiple post-Bungie Halo releases handled by 343i. This has diminished the brand's selling power as well as cultural mindshare footprint, in the face of competitors not just from Sony, but also Nintendo (the games don't need to be FPS to be competitive in this context), Activision, EA etc. And long-term, THAT MATTERS, because it contributes to acting as a limiting factor for Xbox brand growth REGARDLESS if it's console sales, or services like GamePass which are still largely being fueled by the Xbox fanbase.

And now that leads us to the big question: what can Microsoft do to address this shortcoming? Well, as textbook or a meme this may sound as a response, ultimately it is true: while games like Flight Sim and Forza are arguably among the best of their kind, the reason they do not sway the larger meta and mindshare is because they ultimately feature...inanimate objects. Inanimate objects that lack any type of human element to them, either in terms of being actual, clearly unique/distinct character designs (with stories/worlds to go along with them), or human-like anthropomorphic/cyborg/robot-style characters where the same holds true. One of the biggest reasons Master Chief is Microsoft's most recognizable character brand is because he has a human-like presence, and was established with a strong sci-fi universe and great stories. Unfortunately, that has been compromised thanks to 343i, and the fact his helmet provides very little to no chances of the player to emotively connect with the character through their eyes and facial expressions, is a massive limiting factor.






What Microsoft needs ARE more games with distinctively unique, timeless character designs and either powerful story narratives, lore-dense worlds (in both written/oral myth and visual design) or (preferably) both, that can allow players to personally connect and relate with the avatars they control on a human-like level. Even better if they can pull in doing this with a character that already has some type of established legacy and rapport with audiences at large transcending gaming exclusively, similar to what Sony and Insomniac have pulled off with SpiderMan (this is NOT me advocating for Microsoft to acquire a developer/publisher like WB Games, btw, or even saying they need to license rights to a comic book character to do this. However, those are options available to them if they feel they are worth doing).

Because it's not JUST about the hardware or JUST about the services, or even JUST about the quality of the content, all three of which we can say Microsoft have either generally excelled in or have begun to show serious improvements in over the past few years. Ultimately, those things won't do much if that content doesn't have powerful enough brand power, or lacks characters, worlds and/or stories that can emotionally resonate with players through conveying strong human-like designs/avatars, narratives and qualities. That, combined with masterful marketing, are THE two biggest factors in building up strong cultural mindshare and, if you can dominate the cultural mindshare, you dominate the money, especially if the other things are persistently high-quality.


This is something Sony are demonstrating they understand. It's even something Nintendo are starting to show they understand given the push for Nintendo properties outside of gaming, like the Universal theme park project. It is, however, something I feel Microsoft has NOT demonstrated they understand, and maybe their roots and dominant presence as a business software company are to "blame" here. In any case, it's something I hope they at least realize internally, and are looking to address with their upcoming projects and industry-related moves, because if they fail to do so they will never gain the type of market brand growth they obviously desire, and will definitely not gain the cultural mindshare that would massively benefit the brand's pursuit to larger wealth.

But anyway, I'm interested how the rest of you feel on this? Do you agree with my general point here, or disagree? Do you think this is a pressing subject for Microsoft to take into consideration, or is it just a bunch of hot air over nothing? Sound off and let's have a discussion on it.
 
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peter42O

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Microsoft should get a super hero IP but only if one of their internal studios want to develop one and are passionate about it. If not, then no because the game will be forced and wouldn't be any good. You can see Insomniac is extremely passionate about Spider Man and in a few years, Wolverine.
 

Men_in_Boxes

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Sony will do well with it's big name games. They'll sell a few more million copies than typical but...

Microsoft is still going to make up a lot of ground with GamePass until PlayStation implements its counter.
 
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kingpotato

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They could do with a new Master chief/ Marcus Fenix short term. But long term next Fallout and the next The Elderscrolls trumps anything Playstation or Nintendo has coming atm IMO.
I agree with regard to elder scrolls, but isn't fallout kind of on the rocks? I got the impression the fan base liked 3 better than 4 and 4 better than 76... Also both of those games won't really have much in the way of mascot appeal because they feature customizable player characters. Maybe Doom guy, Steve from Minecraft, Banjo Kazooie, the character from The Gunk, (or after next Wednesday, Sonic) might do the trick if they start to push them that way.
 

CthulhuPL

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I agree with regard to elder scrolls, but isn't fallout kind of on the rocks? I got the impression the fan base liked 3 better than 4 and 4 better than 76... Also both of those games won't really have much in the way of mascot appeal because they feature customizable player characters. Maybe Doom guy, Steve from Minecraft, Banjo Kazooie, the character from The Gunk, (or after next Wednesday, Sonic) might do the trick if they start to push them that way.
I see what you did there...
 
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Trogdor1123

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I agree with regard to elder scrolls, but isn't fallout kind of on the rocks? I got the impression the fan base liked 3 better than 4 and 4 better than 76... Also both of those games won't really have much in the way of mascot appeal because they feature customizable player characters. Maybe Doom guy, Steve from Minecraft, Banjo Kazooie, the character from The Gunk, (or after next Wednesday, Sonic) might do the trick if they start to push them that way.
Dean Winchester Reaction GIF
 
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I have no ideia about MS.

Sony just keep showing and delivering games.

this has NOTHING TO DO WITH SOFTWARE QUALITY!!!

Like it was the first thing posted xD!!!

So essentially what you're saying is that if you ignore Microsoft's big IP's that they don't have any big IP's that can compete with Sony, right? Because that's what it reads like.

[This is the editing feature for missed quotes being stupid. It's my own reply v]
No, that's not what's being said. What I'm asking is if they have any IPs with brand power (this has nothing inherently to do with game quality, btw) that are large enough or even transcending gaming enough to have a major impact on cultural mindshare and be a part of the general gaming zeitgeist when it comes to that mindshare?

IPs like Fallout and Elder Scrolls are huge in the specific context of (non-mobile) gaming, but do they draw the big attention of mainstream celebrities and people who are not big into gaming? Are they IP that would be considered cultural milestone moments in general even among the non-hardcore/non-core gaming crowds?

I think that's a valid question, regardless how the next Fallout or Elder Scrolls turn out (IMO I think they will both be very high-quality experiences).
 
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EDMIX

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Damn.. you read all of that in less than two minutes!

When you read a lot, you also tend to read faster then most... lol

To Op's point I don't personally believe Microsoft needs to do anything to compete with Sony in this area as of right now Microsoft needs to be competing with themselves to actually allow their development teams that have creative freedom and creating new intellectual property to bring in new consumers regardless if that is superhero or otherwise you also need to take into consideration it's not like Spider-Man has always been the success to argue PlayStation always needed it to move units or something weird like that so yes Spider-Man doing something crazy like 20 million units definitely helped the PlayStation 4 sales but I would argue the fact that Sony was publishing it and Insomniac was developing it is key to why the game was so massively successful because consumers trust that combination.

Because you have to ask yourself why did the other Spider-Man games not movie even a fraction of that? It's not like Spider-Man just recently became a big property it is always been a very massive IP one could argue if it was multi-platform prior to this how come it was not moving even more Monster units?

So what this means is simply taking a popular franchise and putting money behind it doesn't necessarily mean it's going to do Spider-Man numbers because lots of Publishers had control over the Spider-Man license and failed to move those type of numbers so I don't believe simply just having the property magically make some money lol



Even funnier is the idea of this mass-market appeal concept I would argue Master Chief is a bigger figure than some of the Sony franchises that move even bigger numbers than Halo you need to understand being recognizable and people having your attention doesn't always mean they have your respect and doesn't always mean they're going to purchase the game I would argue that's like trying to fucking say something dumb like people all over the world recognize Pac-Man so what you're telling me is Pac-Man's going to move Call of Duty numbers? So right now the recognizability of a Halo is not necessarily translating into it beating Battlefield or Call of Duty or anything like that those days are long over and do the property has recognizable imagery a lot of that isn't translating into gangbuster sales it's simply trying to live off of The Nostalgia of yesteryear and I believe it's a bad idea for Microsoft to put all their money behind such a concept when the shit literally has not fucking work for them for several Generations now move the fuck on put the money into a different property and allow Halo to Simply Be A once-in-a-generation type deal.


So I don't really believe this as much to do with mass-market appeal as much as it has to do with that Sony has built up deep trust with the consumer. This trust is so deep that it doesn't actually matter what property it is simply knowing that Sony's publishing and one of their teams are working on it is enough to get people excited look at how hype people are of the Wolverine game it's not like we never fucking got a game like that before it's that we've never had the combination of Sony publishing as well as Insomniac making the game there's a difference.

Consumers understand this and it's why I always believed it was a better idea for Sony to focus on supporting their development team instead of trying to just live off of a few intellectual properties because ultimately it is the trust of that development team that allows consumers to purchase new properties confidently without feeling like they only need one property here or there it's why that Community easily takes new intellectual properties because we're fucking used to it by now.



So in my opinion that is something Microsoft needs to do because whenever they're bringing out new properties a lot of us feel there hesitation to put a big budget behind it, or a trusted team.

I have nothing against Perfect Dark or even the new Fable game that's coming out but to me it sounds like even the money Microsoft is willing to put behind properties only seems to be something they're going to do with a established properties. It should not take development teams already working on new intellectual properties in Microsoft purchasing them for them to fucking support new intellectual properties...



My God why did it really take several generations of these guys are losing to realize they need new intellectual properties of the AAA variety? Lol

So I'm not going to go as far as to agree with anything like mass-market appeal at the end of the day Microsoft has a reputation of starting the generation very strong with lots of promises and then basically just giving you the same exact properties like clockwork and anything new that they bring out is going to be double A or pretty small or not that interesting or not with one of their top teams or something like this and I believe the community feels this.

Imagine if Electronic Arts kept telling you they loved new intellectual property and every single time they told you this they just talked about that A Way Out game lol



It comes across as a complete hollow gesture that's trying to run on semantics. So I think the direction Microsoft is going in right now is the correct one and I believe they're going to do just fine but ultimately I believe they just need new AAA intellectual property like clockwork for the Gaming Community to trust them long-term with new properties and that's about it.

When they're able to do that for a few Generations like clockwork then we could talk about what they would do with a superhero franchise because to be honest with you that is what's going to get people excited not that Microsoft is doing it but that the Microsoft we know that can deliver solid games regardless of development team is doing it.... that's why the community was excited about Insomniac doing Spider-Man and Sony publishing.


That combination has a history of delivering now Microsoft needs to build that trust in order for the same excitement to ever be had with such a concept. Sony has focus on their TEAMS that makes you a fan of the teams ablitiy to make a new IP and Sony's trust to fully fund it no different then the other IP they did prior if not even more funding. So because of this, we feel when Sony puts out a new IP, we know they will put money behind it, we know their teams will treat it as a new series if need be and that at any time, a series can come out by them that moves monster units.











Before OP get mad at this tree, you make one, prepare to get it how you give it lol

Its only fair.
 

Withnail

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Master Chief lmao

IP holders like Disney know that if you want a high quality action adventure videogame you go to Sony. It's not only about Insomniac, it's all the other behind the scenes stuff that goes into a videogame where other devs/pubs are miles off the pace. Just have a look at Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers if you think this is just about getting access to an IP.
 
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Bryank75

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I have such a superhero fatigue I don’t really give a shit about them. I just want games that are fun, smart, challenging or simply leave me in awe. And speaking of being in awe, I just finished playing The Artful Escape and that game has it covered.

You say this as if PlayStation have 20 different superhero games....

I don't even consider Logan a hero...he is an antihero and very different to Spider-man.

So there is Spider-man aaaaand?
 

ManaByte

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Aw bless. Poor PlayStation fans. Still don’t have that halo killer after all these years.
But...


Microsoft needs critical success in terms of reviews and a string of them, that's what's been Sony's strong suit more than they need a IP that everyone knows.

Normal people play games. They don't play Metacritic.
 
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reksveks

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You say this as if PlayStation have 20 different superhero games....

I don't even consider Logan a hero...he is an antihero and very different to Spider-man.

So there is Spider-man aaaaand?
Could be referring to the wider media culture. I am growing a bit tired of the MCU. The whatifs aren't doing anything to help.

In gaming, we have had avengers, miles morales, Spider-man remastered, the Switch marvel game in the last two years to be followed by guardians, wolverine (who is a hero for 80% of his popular runs/adaptation), another spiderman game and that x-men game.

Hopefully you can understand how some people are getting a bit fatigued with the superhero culture.
 

Rubberwald

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You say this as if PlayStation have 20 different superhero games....

I don't even consider Logan a hero...he is an antihero and very different to Spider-man.

So there is Spider-man aaaaand?
I actually wasn’t really talking about Sony. I‘m just reaaaallly tired of superhero movies that have taken over blockbuster cinema and it looks like it could happen to games as well. It is understandable for many reasons and these characters are well-loved by millions, so there is no way we are going to get rid of them. There seems to be a public pressure on MS to get their own superhero franchise after Wolverine reveal, but I would rather see MS focusing on their own characters and create new, iconic ones and take risks with them.
 
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EDMIX

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I have such a superhero fatigue I don’t really give a shit about them.
I actually wasn’t really talking about Sony. I‘m just reaaaallly tired of superhero movies

We've only had a handful of actually solid super hero games, like 99% of them are bad tbh.

Batman from Rocksteady
Spiderman from Insomniac

in terms of "movies".....yea none of that shit matters that you tired of them, I don't even watch most of those films, but its irrelevant to the bigger picture.

Someone cares enough for that shit to get record ticket sales, record views etc. Thats like me saying I don't care for Call Of Duty and I'm "fatigue" as if thats suppose to give us a sign of whats to come lol Nothing against your view, but its irrelevant to the bigger picture. I can scream all day how I don't care for like 99% of Nintendo games now days, doesn't really do much when the numbers show its massively popular.
 
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Andodalf

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Master Chief lmao

IP holders like Disney know that if you want a high quality action adventure videogame you go to Sony. It's not only about Insomniac, it's all the other behind the scenes stuff that goes into a videogame where other devs/pubs are miles off the pace. Just have a look at Guardians of the Galaxy or Avengers if you think this is just about getting access to an IP.

Sony can keep Spider-Man out of the MCU. That’s why they get stuff. Don’t be naive
 

Captain Hero

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The difference between Sony and Microsoft is that Sony are making the games and Microsoft is just making games. Let me put it in a simple form..


The last of us
God of war
ghost of tsushima
Horizon zero dawn
spider man
Infamous
Returnal
R&C
Dreams
Death stranding

There is (are) some(things) connect all of these games together and that would be..

Passion
Story
The Characters
A Base for the future

.

Edit :

It's a personal opinion and that doesn't show that Microsoft has no games, I'm just pointing the issue I see within the Xbox games ( again it's a preference ).
 
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Hendrick's

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The difference between Sony and Microsoft is that Sony are making the games and Microsoft is just making games. Let me put it in a simple form..


The last of us
God of war
ghost of tsushima
Horizon zero dawn
spider man
Infamous
Returnal
R&C
Dreams
Death stranding

There is (are) some(things) connect all of these games together and that would be..

Passion
Wildness
Story
The Characters
A Base for the future

.
psilocybin mushrooms shrooms GIF
 

reksveks

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Thats like me saying I don't care for Call Of Duty and I'm "fatigue" as if thats suppose to give us a sign of whats to come lol Nothing against your view, but its irrelevant to the bigger picture.

It is understandable for many reasons and these characters are well-loved by millions, so there is no way we are going to get rid of them.

He knows that his fatigue means fuck all regarding marvel continuing to push movies and games.
 
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LMJ

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Building a franchise let alone creating a mascot is a very tricky thing to do...it requires time, marketing and allowing the devs time to let said franchise grow organically. I always chuckle when a thread for the LOU2 comes up and the usual war begins...I almost always see the defenders shout out "you probably haven't even played the game" when the irony is often the people who are pissed at the sequel are a huge swath of those who LOVED the first game. That's how you know when you have a great IP on your hands when the fans become so passionate at what happens.

Sony has this now, but during the early PS2 days this wasn't always the case, it took time for Kratos, Jack and Daxter, Nathan Drake Sackboy, etc to flourish and become the face of Playstation.

MS already has Master Chief an incredibly recognizable IP/Mascot, but Marcus from GeOW never really took off, Fordza and GT are the cars, so while instantly recognizable they don't have that mass appeal like the aforementioned IPs... With Zenimax, and the giant collective of new 1st party studios their chances go up though lol

I believe that while first party many Bethesda titles will simply be seen by the masses as "now owned by MS" rather than a MS IP...if that makes any sense lol

While right now I would say they're lacking, by the end of the generation I would assume they will have more than a few new IPs that will have that kind of appeal, their own Uncharted, GOW or LBP if you will.