Early this week, Sony took a step toward teaching its video-game industry competition how to deal with demanding customers: listen to them.
For those who don’t know, this week is E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) during which, amongst other things, the big video-game companies announce what will be upcoming from them over the next year. This year Sony (Playstation) and Microsoft (XBox) are talking about their new consoles coming out this holiday season: the Playstation 4 and the XBox One. There have been a lot of interesting bits of information floating around on these consoles for a while now, but over the past couple of days Sony has all but secured their place in the consumer’s hearts (and wallets).
How did they do it? They listened to their customers.
Microsoft’s reveal was marred by a slew of announcements that had the consumers raving mad. Amongst these were:
– major restrictions on “used games” including that only pre-approved retailers will be allowed to take your trade-ins (meaning there’s less competition and you’ll end up getting less money for them) and that used games can only be sold once, at which time they are locked to that buyer’s Microsoft account for all time.
– games will be restricted to the Microsoft account that has purchased it, meaning that you can’t lend a game to a friend; it won’t work on their system because they didn’t pay for it.
– the XBox One must been connected to the internet, even if you aren’t using it. You must “check in” using the internet at least once every 24 hours, or your games will literally stop working. Yes, that includes single player games that do not require internet access in order to play.
– the console carries a starting price tag of $499.
All this, plus a few other startling concerns (the One has a camera and microphone that can never be turned off…look out folks, Big Brother Microsoft is watching!) combined to create a swirling storm of rage in consumers’ bellies. “When I buy a game it’s my right to resell it when I’m done!” they cried, “And checking in via the internet daily? Are you insane? What if I don’t even have the internet?! And I can’t even lend a game to a friend? What the hell are you getting at? And for all this I’m expected to shell out $500 before even adding on the cost of games and peripherals?!”
And then Sony came along, and they did this:
For those who didn’t watch the video, here’s what Sony did in a nutshell: the exact opposite of Microsoft. They announced that they will be supporting the used game trade; there will be no restrictions on selling or buying used games. In addition to that they announced that your game is in no way restricted to your account; you can happily lend your game to a friend. Finally they announced that you will not require an internet connection to make your games work (unless, obviously, it’s an online multiplayer game) – you can play offline without restriction if that’s how you like to play. To top it all off, the PS4 is going to be $100 cheaper than the XBox One.
You see what Sony did there? They watched Microsoft, listened to all the complaints that consumers raised as a result of Microsoft’s announcements, and then went on stage and addressed those issues. Now, chances are that most of these issues were things that Sony had already addressed previously, but the fact that they brought them to the forefront, and effectively promised that they won’t be doing all the things that Microsoft is doing, is extremely effective marketing. E3 has barely begun and already people all over the Internet are saying that Sony has “won”. I tend to agree; I think Sony has done an excellent job of netting themselves the majority of gamers for this next console generation.
Now, would you believe that I’m going to turn this discussion around and make it about writing? Watch me.
Writers can take a cue from what Sony has done this week. In particular, I am referring to writers who blog, which is a kind of business in which you struggle to get, and keep, readers. Blogging can be a very fickle mistress. Sometimes you will spend a ton of time and effort pouring your heart and soul into a post, only to look at your site’s stats and find that no one has read it. Such a thing can be a huge slap in the face, but it can also be a helpful kick in the pants. Instead of sulking about the posts that barely got any views (and certainly no comments), focus on the ones that did get decent traffic, the ones that people seemed to enjoy. In other words, listen to your “customers”. Look at what they looked at, listen to their comments, and plan future posts accordingly. For instance, a while back I noticed that whenever I wrote about motherhood and little things that I’ve learned from my daughter I tended to get more visitors that day, so I began to make it a regular thing (“Things I Know About Kids”). Another example is how I noticed that posts (mine as well as other bloggers’) that feature at least one image tend to wind up with more visitors since people, even readers, are visual creatures; so I recently began making a point to try and include some kind of media into every post.
It’s a pretty simple concept, when you really think about it… Whether you’re a small-time blogger or a multi-billion dollar corporation, if you neglect to give the consumers what they’re looking for they’re going to go looking elsewhere. Microsoft failed in that lesson this week, while Sony leaped in with a grin on their collective face and showed that they did, in fact, have their ears open to the public. This excellent decision on their part, along with several bad ones on Microsoft’s, will mean a lot when it comes time for gamers to choose which of the new consoles they’re going to be spending their hard-earned money on. Take that lesson and apply it to blogging, and your ability to listen to the readers will determine which blogs they spend their hard-earned time on.
Will you take this lesson, learn to listen to your readers and give them what they want? Or will you be the blogging version of Microsoft, hanging your head and sulking in the corner while all the attention goes to someone else?