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Forums - Gaming Discussion - Hardware First, Software First, Services First: How The Big 3 Sell Their Brands, As I See It

While I think you're right about Nintendo, I have to disagree with your assessment of MS and Sony.

To me, MS is more like "Services first/Software last." While they do have a handful of solid IPs, namely their core trio of Halo, Gears, and Forza, they have struggled to make a diverse library of solid AAA titles, and have also been heavily dependent on third parties to provide them exclusive titles. That's not to say they're lacking in games, but of the Big Three they're the ones that have done the least to make their library of exclusives really stand out.

Sony meanwhile seems to strike too much of a balance. They've made some solid hardware, they spent the last two generations putting in an A-class effort to make their selection of first-party titles really stand out, and they haven't skimped on the services either, with PSN have been on par with XBL for years now and them having some other successful services as well. They are the jack-of-all-trades (and try to be master-of-all as well) of the Big Three. While I've never been a huge PlayStation fan, I do have to admit they are the most well-rounded console maker.



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In accordance to the VGC forum rules, §8.5, I hereby exercise my right to demand to be left alone regarding the subject of the effects of the pandemic on video game sales (i.e., "COVID bump").

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HylianSwordsman said:

I'd like to remind everybody that the way I'm speaking of all this isn't just in the objective facts about each companies products, but also in the subjective way that they sell their offerings, their brand, their vision for their products and services and their brands as a whole. Yes, that means a certain amount of actual investment in powerful technology or lots of new IPs or new services, but the path they get there by is based on a philosophy that centers around one of the three categories being the focus by which they sell the rest.

Sony makes software and services, but they sell them by selling the console, and their software and services crush the competition only when their hardware's momentum is at its peak, because the entire strategy is centered on getting that hardware investment and just building the software development ecosystem around it. You all take this for granted, because it's so straightforward, but I'd argue that while this affects all three to some degree, Sony organizes their whole strategy around it, does it better than anyone, and you see it in their results.

Microsoft makes software and hardware, but they're just trying to get you to buy their service. Like I said before, why else would any hardware company even consider selling their service on another console? It's mad, mad I tell you! Unless the service is the entire point. They have some of the best hardware, but they also have lower end hardware, and are developing no-hardware options. The hardware isn't the point for them, it's getting you to buy their services that is the point. Software is a necessary evil so that you have something to do on the service. Hardware...might not even be necessary, actually, so they make hardware for people that want it, but if they could get by without it, they would.

Nintendo makes hardware and has services too, but as Reggie, kicker of ass and taker of names says, they're about making games. It's completely fair to say that people buy Nintendo consoles to play Nintendo games, because let's face it, they do. Nintendo would love for everything to be on their console, so they too make an effort to get indies there, but the important part for them is the quality of the software. It's been this way for them since the beginning, reviving an industry when people lost faith in the hardware due to bad software with fucking Super Mario Bros. Then again with the Nintendo seal of quality, immersing their brand as best they could in the idea that if software is on Nintendo, it's good software (*when its theirs). Hardware changes are at the whim of the (*their own) software, advancements don't come unless Nintendo sees how it affects the (*their own) software. And services? What does that have to do with software? Until Nintendo sees how it enhances gameplay possibilities, their services will never get much focus, and they're just starting to see now.  (*their own, means they dont do hardware for the demands of others (3rd party), like Sony would do, Sony will litterly design a console that conforms to demands from 3rd party developers) (nintendo ONLY considers themselves, when they design "their" hardware)

I agree with this alot.

I'd say in terms of the software theres clear differnces between the 3 as well.
There visions in what is great software is differnt too.

Nintendo loves platforming, family friendly games, exploration, simplistic/cartoony graphics, fun messing around > story telling.


Sony loves adventure, singleplayer, pulling your heartstrings, for them a good game is like a good movie, it provokes emotions through story telling.


Xbox loves shooters, completitive online multiplayer, GaaS, their big on gore (which is why that no smokeing in Gears 5, comes off as odd)



Sony with software last? Yeaaaah, no.
Software has been the very key for Sony in beating Microsoft, especially this generation. And that didn't just come out of nowhere, it has been a long and arduous project that is now starting to bear fruit. In fact, software was very largely a factor in breaking Sony into the console business to begin with. They went with CD and snagged a few killer titles that would have gone to Nintendo traditionally, and that's how the ball started rolling. Sony has been pushing great gaming libraries every gen and that is how they have built their brand. You know you will get the games, whether they are popular multiplats or great exclusives, they will come and they will be good.
You are right in that Sony has always been a hardware company, that's what they originally were and still make all kinds of hw in different markets. But they went through a major crisis on that front, which made them see the value of their gaming brand and shift their focus accordingly. They saw what they have to do on the software side and they nailed it.
I don't really see why an arbitrary 10 million sales figure would be some kind of a measure for how important software is to a company. A game only needs to sell enough to be decently profitable, and when you churn out enough games that are well received, you will begin to see customer trust and brand value. When you have all of the multiplats on the roster, your own games don't need to carry the whole load.
Like Holly said, Sony is pretty well balanced as a whole. I'd say they are pretty much equally hw/sw, with services dragging behind a little.



HylianSwordsman said:

And how long have we been hearing the higher ups at Nintendo, especially Iwata, say that "software sells hardware"? SNES won its gen not because it was the superior hardware, but because it had Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid, amongst others.

Well, technically the SNES was the better overall system in terms of hardware as well. While its processor wasn't as fast, in every other metric the SNES outclassed the Genesis. It had more RAM, arguably better sound, could display more sprites, could display more colors on-screen, and had a vastly larger color pallet.

Also, the SNES won primarily because of Japan. The Mega Drive flopped there, coming in third place behind the PC Engine (or TurboGrafx-16, as we know it in the West). In the U.S., the SNES did eventually secure a relatively narrow win, but the limited data we have suggests the Genesis was the top system in 1993 and 1994, and only fell behind after 1995 due to the SNES having better legs. In Europe, the Mega Drive supposedly outsold the SNES by a comfortable margin.



Visit http://shadowofthevoid.wordpress.com

In accordance to the VGC forum rules, §8.5, I hereby exercise my right to demand to be left alone regarding the subject of the effects of the pandemic on video game sales (i.e., "COVID bump").

Not bad. I pretty much agree with all of that in a very general regard.

However, I do think we are looking at a move toward a more holistic philosophy by Sony. They want Playstation to be a well-rounded platform with good support at all points. Though, yes, as of right now, hardware is the central pillar, they do seem to be looking at life beyond that.

Nintendo might also be looking at a similar path, at least in terms of services, which they neglected badly during the last regime. The fact that they're trying to catch up is a good sign.

On the other hand, Microsoft is working toward something different than the others. They want Xbox to be more akin to Steam than Playstation or Nintendo. The services part is clearly far more important to them than hardware or software, neither of which they really want to be in the business of selling. With Xbox, hardware and software are both a means to an end.



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Shadow1980 said:
While I think you're right about Nintendo, I have to disagree with your assessment of MS and Sony.

To me, MS is more like "Services first/Software last." While they do have a handful of solid IPs, namely their core trio of Halo, Gears, and Forza, they have struggled to make a diverse library of solid AAA titles, and have also been heavily dependent on third parties to provide them exclusive titles. That's not to say they're lacking in games, but of the Big Three they're the ones that have done the least to make their library of exclusives really stand out.

Sony meanwhile seems to strike too much of a balance. They've made some solid hardware, they spent the last two generations putting in an A-class effort to make their selection of first-party titles really stand out, and they haven't skimped on the services either, with PSN have been on par with XBL for years now and them having some other successful services as well. They are the jack-of-all-trades (and try to be master-of-all as well) of the Big Three. While I've never been a huge PlayStation fan, I do have to admit they are the most well-rounded console maker.

Exclusives is not the point. Read what I've said several times now, I'm tired of explaining it.

If people want to argue the "X Last" part of it, I can see that, but you have to admit that with the "X First" part, I'm right about each company's brand philosophy.



Shadow1980 said:
HylianSwordsman said:

And how long have we been hearing the higher ups at Nintendo, especially Iwata, say that "software sells hardware"? SNES won its gen not because it was the superior hardware, but because it had Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid, amongst others.

Well, technically the SNES was the better overall system in terms of hardware as well. While its processor wasn't as fast, in every other metric the SNES outclassed the Genesis. It had more RAM, arguably better sound, could display more sprites, could display more colors on-screen, and had a vastly larger color pallet.

Also, the SNES won primarily because of Japan. The Mega Drive flopped there, coming in third place behind the PC Engine (or TurboGrafx-16, as we know it in the West). In the U.S., the SNES did eventually secure a relatively narrow win, but the limited data we have suggests the Genesis was the top system in 1993 and 1994, and only fell behind after 1995 due to the SNES having better legs. In Europe, the Mega Drive supposedly outsold the SNES by a comfortable margin.

Again, not the point. It doesn't matter whose hardware is best, it matters why they did with their hardware what they did, and what it means to the brand. With Nintendo, hardware follows software. Back in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th generations, diminishing returns had not even begun to set in, each generation felt leaps and bounds beyond the last. This meant that there was a strong incentive from a software perspective for Nintendo to invest in better hardware. This isn't about who won, but what their philosophy was in trying to win.

Last edited by HylianSwordsman - on 23 July 2019

JRPGfan said:

I've been saying the same thing as the OP for along time.

MS see's themselves as a service provider. Their hardware + software, is there to sell you into their services. Dont care about selling hardware or software anymore, just want to lock people into subscriptions. Probably want to do away with hardware, and get you locked into streaming.

Nintendo see's themselves as a game dev. Their hardware is there to run their own games, and they potentially see other game devs as competition.
(ei. they dont want too much 3rd party support, okay with smaller indies being there though (they arnt real competition to nintendo own stuff)).

Sony see's themselves as a (hardware) platform provider, they want to sell you their hardware, and profit off of the cuts of selling games on their platform. The more good games, the better. So basically everyone is welcome, 3rd party games ect. They have the "classic traditional" viewpoint.

I also agree with the OP that they have very differnt visions, of what the console does, and where it goes in the future.

JRPGfan said:
HylianSwordsman said:

I'd like to remind everybody that the way I'm speaking of all this isn't just in the objective facts about each companies products, but also in the subjective way that they sell their offerings, their brand, their vision for their products and services and their brands as a whole. Yes, that means a certain amount of actual investment in powerful technology or lots of new IPs or new services, but the path they get there by is based on a philosophy that centers around one of the three categories being the focus by which they sell the rest.

Sony makes software and services, but they sell them by selling the console, and their software and services crush the competition only when their hardware's momentum is at its peak, because the entire strategy is centered on getting that hardware investment and just building the software development ecosystem around it. You all take this for granted, because it's so straightforward, but I'd argue that while this affects all three to some degree, Sony organizes their whole strategy around it, does it better than anyone, and you see it in their results.

Microsoft makes software and hardware, but they're just trying to get you to buy their service. Like I said before, why else would any hardware company even consider selling their service on another console? It's mad, mad I tell you! Unless the service is the entire point. They have some of the best hardware, but they also have lower end hardware, and are developing no-hardware options. The hardware isn't the point for them, it's getting you to buy their services that is the point. Software is a necessary evil so that you have something to do on the service. Hardware...might not even be necessary, actually, so they make hardware for people that want it, but if they could get by without it, they would.

Nintendo makes hardware and has services too, but as Reggie, kicker of ass and taker of names says, they're about making games. It's completely fair to say that people buy Nintendo consoles to play Nintendo games, because let's face it, they do. Nintendo would love for everything to be on their console, so they too make an effort to get indies there, but the important part for them is the quality of the software. It's been this way for them since the beginning, reviving an industry when people lost faith in the hardware due to bad software with fucking Super Mario Bros. Then again with the Nintendo seal of quality, immersing their brand as best they could in the idea that if software is on Nintendo, it's good software (*when its theirs). Hardware changes are at the whim of the (*their own) software, advancements don't come unless Nintendo sees how it affects the (*their own) software. And services? What does that have to do with software? Until Nintendo sees how it enhances gameplay possibilities, their services will never get much focus, and they're just starting to see now.  (*their own, means they dont do hardware for the demands of others (3rd party), like Sony would do, Sony will litterly design a console that conforms to demands from 3rd party developers) (nintendo ONLY considers themselves, when they design "their" hardware)

I agree with this alot.

I'd say in terms of the software theres clear differnces between the 3 as well.
There visions in what is great software is differnt too.

Nintendo loves platforming, family friendly games, exploration, simplistic/cartoony graphics, fun messing around > story telling.


Sony loves adventure, singleplayer, pulling your heartstrings, for them a good game is like a good movie, it provokes emotions through story telling.


Xbox loves shooters, completitive online multiplayer, GaaS, their big on gore (which is why that no smokeing in Gears 5, comes off as odd)

Regarding the part I bolded/underlined/italicized in the first post, this is a really good point. I take back what I said, and wholly endorse your strikethroughs and bolded parts in your response to my post. Your points on how Sony designs their hardware vs how Nintendo does really drives my point home.

Nintendo was actually notorious during their first few gens for being a terrible company for 3rd parties to work with and difficult to publish on, they were so controlling because they felt like the kings of the industry and liked having control over the software on their system. 5th gen was the first time they really felt the burn of their own hubris, thanks to Sony's strong competition. Gamecube's failure taught them a lot, and they cut out some of their controlling nature around software. But yeah, back before indies were a thing, they were pretty terrible to work with, and you're probably right that this was due to them seeing everyone else as competitors. But it's not like they were trying to keep good games off of their system (come on, the SNES had plenty of great 3rd party games, including timeless classics like Chrono Trigger), they were just super controlling over them, because they wanted absolute control over Nintendo's software brand. Even now, it's not like they let up all that much, mostly just on indies. Like you said, they're not going to let third party publishers have any say in the hardware. Even basic shit like making a console compatible with Unreal Engine 4 only came once they decided they liked UE4 enough to make Yoshi on it, one of their own games.

Last edited by HylianSwordsman - on 23 July 2019

Sony should be a balanced software/hardware first and services last.



Shadow1980 said:
HylianSwordsman said:

And how long have we been hearing the higher ups at Nintendo, especially Iwata, say that "software sells hardware"? SNES won its gen not because it was the superior hardware, but because it had Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid, amongst others.

Well, technically the SNES was the better overall system in terms of hardware as well. While its processor wasn't as fast, in every other metric the SNES outclassed the Genesis. It had more RAM, arguably better sound, could display more sprites, could display more colors on-screen, and had a vastly larger color pallet.

Also, the SNES won primarily because of Japan. The Mega Drive flopped there, coming in third place behind the PC Engine (or TurboGrafx-16, as we know it in the West). In the U.S., the SNES did eventually secure a relatively narrow win, but the limited data we have suggests the Genesis was the top system in 1993 and 1994, and only fell behind after 1995 due to the SNES having better legs. In Europe, the Mega Drive supposedly outsold the SNES by a comfortable margin.

I mostly agree with what you are saying, but I would say the SNES beat the Genesis "in spite of" superior hardware rather than "because of" superior hardware. 

In Japan, Nintendo had a huge software advantage over Sega, which is why they won Japan in spite of having more expensive hardware.  In the US, the Genesis had EA sports, which meant the SNES only had a minor software advantage over the Genesis.  The Genesis had a price advantage (being the weaker console), and so it and the SNES sold fairly close to one another because one had a slight software advantage and the other had a slight price advantage.  By the end of generation 4 both consoles became cheap enough that price became less of a factor, and it was at this point the SNES had better legs due to their software advantage.  So SNES won over the long haul, because Nintendo stayed competitive through software and eventually could make their console cheap enough, but the more expensive hardware put them at a disadvantage for much of generation 4.