Take Microsoft’s recent decision to liberate its entertainment apps from behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall, or Sony locking online multiplayer behind PlayStation Plus, both of which bring the services closer in line.
Then there’s Sony’s announcement at E3 2014 that it will begin to dabble in original, live PlayStation content with an adaptation of the comic book Powers, which echoes one of Microsoft’s current strategies.
We asked Xbox Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Yusuf Mehdi about competing with Sony on multiple fronts and making decisions that cater to fans, and you can read an excerpt from our chat below.
‘Superheroes in their own right’
TechRadar: What’s the current vision for original content on Xbox now that competition from Sony and from other services is heating up?
Yusuf Mehdi: One of the things that’s great about some of these games is they’re really incredible stories. Halo is probably the key one. Halo is a universe, literally, in the sense of the story of it, the characters are iconic, they’re superheroes in their own right.
Bungie’s greatest strength is world-building.
It really is. And 343 is carrying it forward. The opportunity to tell the story across a variety of mediums, obviously in a triple-A game but also through a television series or through a movie – I think that is a thing that the entertainment industry has known for a long time, and the game industry is really starting to step into now with both feet.
You’re going to see us continue to pioneer a lot in content that is focused on our gaming audience and what they like, which is different from the mass public. Whether it’s some of the sports, like we’ve done some stuff with Every Street United or for the World Cup we’re getting a lot of content prepared, or it’s something deeper like [Halo] Nightfall. You’ll see a lot from us in that area.
Content that’s not directly related to gaming?
It will be related to the gamer. It may not be related to gaming. That’s our focus.
With PS4 multiplayer locked behind PlayStation Plus and you guys releasing your entertainment apps from behind the Xbox Live Gold paywall it seems these two services are becoming more and more similar. Are the changes you’ve made to Xbox Live more in response to competition or to giving fans what they want?
It was more a response to the fans, and it was even more a response just to drive usage. It wasn’t even like it was the most hotly asked-for feature. It was more, you know, in the spirit of really showing up as a champion for our fans.
We look at all these areas of "Where are there pain points and what can we do?" and I think one of the ones people said was "Why are you charging for some of these services when I can get them on any device?"
And I’m already paying for Netflix, I’m already paying for Amazon Prime, for HBO …
Right. I mean, history-wise I think we were the first game console to put Netflix on the system. We kind of put the whole concept on the map. And we did a lot of special work to make that happen and the make the experience great.
So back then it made sense. "OK, well this is a special thing we’ve worked to get together." Now because they’re more commonly accessible, we saw feedback and we said let’s just make it free for everybody. And hopefully that will drive usage. That was really the decision process.