All’s fair in love and war. That’s what the Sony executives would have said, when they sealed the deal with Activision for its exclusive advertising campaign for Destiny. The irony is, that Bungie, the team behind the biggest game of this generation, was the developer that helped to seal the success of the Xbox. And now its success is boosting sales for Sony’s PS4.
When Bungie split from Microsoft, it was the end of an era that gave Xbox gamers two generations of Halo games. Thankfully, for fans, the Halo series is now in the seemingly, safe hands of 343 industries, securing its future on Xbox One.
However, the original Halo opened the floodgates for the FPS generation and we’re still living with that legacy, for better or worse. But it was the multiplayer aspect of Halo, that really helped to sell Xboxes.
When Xbox 360 launched, Microsoft’s console was synonymous with the multi-player FPS, even though Halo was no longer top of that particular tree. Gears of War had its day in the sun, but it was really the Call of Duty series that reigned supreme and Microsoft exploited that.
Every Christmas came with a new CoD launch that was bound to dominate the sales charts, so much so, that publishers began to push releases to January or February to avoid a clash. Microsoft meanwhile struck marketing deals that paved the way for adverts that implied exclusivity. CoD ads splashed XBox 360 logos about, but deliberately forgot to mention that it was also available on PS3.
In the UK, the Xbox 360 outsold PS3 consoles 1.5:1, so Microsoft must have been doing something right.
Fast forward to 2014 and we’ve got the same old battle for gaming hearts and hands. But the tables have turned. PS4 is outselling Xbox One 1.5:1 in the UK and Sony’s going to make the most of its head start.
Bungie’s new IP was always going to be a big deal. In the run up to launch, Destiny has become ‘the future of gaming’, if you believe the hype, as well as the most expensive game ever made. The reviews are rolling in and although they’re largely positive, they don’t speak of the second coming.
Activision has invested a reported $500 million in Destiny, but fortunately it became the most pre-ordered new IP in history, clocking up $500 million in sales on day one. Of course, those millions won’t all go to Activision, but it’s still a solid launch figure.
When Bungie bakes a new pie, you can be sure that Sony and Microsoft will want a slice and true to form, Destiny has become a battleground. This launch marks the beginning of the Christmas countdown (or holiday season), making it a title that could shift consoles.
Recently, Sony announced that it is treating Destiny like a first-party title for PS4. In the UK, this is supported by a marketing partnership with Activision, which stops the Xbox UK team from advertising Destiny as an Xbox One game, despite it being a cross-platform title. For all intents and purposes, Destiny adverts imply that it’s on PS4 only, with no mention of PS3, let alone Xbox.
It’s a marketing tactic Microsoft has used for years with CoD, not to mention it’s confusing ‘exclusive on Xbox One’ deal with Rise of the Tomb Raider. So all’s fair in love and war, right?
The question is, will it make any difference? It may not swing the console war one way or the other, but it will certainly secure Sony’s comfortable lead. Destiny is the MMO/FPS hybrid many have been waiting for and looks set to be the biggest seller of the year, so far. In addition, to play with your friends, you need to have the same console. For instance, Xbox One owners can’t play with PS4 owners. But anyone buying it on a last gen console, will get a free copy, if they upgrade to current gen, as long as they stay with the same brand (PS3 to PS4 or Xbox 360 to Xbox One).
It seems that the UK fell a little out of love with the PlayStation brand in the last generation and Sony isn’t going to let that happen, this time around. The figures speak for themselves – there are more PS4 owners than Xbox One owners. So, if people want to play Destiny with their mates, who are more likely to be existing PS4 owners, they’ll need to follow suit. Just as CoD players did with Xbox 360, a generation ago.
I’ve noticed an interesting UK TV ad for Xbox One, which suggests that team Xbox does feel a little on the back foot. It features a montage of Xbox One exclusives, such as Sunset Overdrive and Halo The Master Chief Collection, plus the multi-platform Call of Duty Advanced Warfare and Assassin’s Creed Unity. This all comes with an inspiring voice-over from Sylvester Stallone, as Rocky. It’s all about getting up, when you’ve been hit and coming out fighting. Of course Destiny was noticeable in its absence and now we know why.
And there’s yet more irony for Xbox One, because I think it’s got a stronger Christmas line-up than PS4. Apart from the games mentioned in the montage advert, it also has Forza Horizon 2 and exclusive content for CoD and AC: Unity.
PS4’s big exclusive is The Order: 1886, but it’s been pushed to 2015. Sony does have exclusive content for Far Cry 4, but other than that it’s got LittleBigPlanet 3 and Driveclub for Christmas. PS4 needed Destiny, going into this crucial sales season, so this was a clever strategy for Sony and could prove key to maintaining its lead.