Xbox Against Wii And PS3--Who Has The Strongest Community?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on September 25, 2007

Any corporate “suit” reading this blog should take note of the incredible passion felt by the communities of gamers surrounding the Xbox 360 or PS3. They are posting comments like crazy! This emotion, this attention to detail, this competitive in-your-face loyalty is exactly what so many companies need to create and can’t achieve. Read the comments slowly and understand the gamers. This is the kind of community you want around your product.

Speaking of community, Matt Vella has an amazing review of Halo 3 that describes the powerful social networking elements that might signal a whole approach to gaming. It doesn’t look like Sony’s PS3 has anything that can approach this kind of social networking and user-generated content—is that right?

All the hype around Halo 3 has focussed on the great graphics and amazingly fast gameplay—but the real killer app may be in harnessing the community. This is what Matt has to say:

“Taking cues from sites such as MySpace, Flickr, and YouTube, Halo 3 is one of the first console titles that allows players to collaboratively create and swap content as well as keep tabs on opponents and teammates remotely from the Web—a strategy that could help developers squeeze additional profits from even the most popular games.”

Wii, of course, backed away from performance and speed kinds of games for more of a social and cooperative gameplay with its motion-sensitive technology.

Bungie, bought by Microsoft and developer of Halo 3, has stuffed it full of social networking features. Check out the bungie.net site for how it all works.

OK. So can the PS3 compete with the Xbox 360 in social networking with its new Halo 3? What does it offer?

Reader Comments

CynicalThought

September 26, 2007 1:22 AM

it's all about community on the xbox 360 through the xbox live service: i'm able to network with all my friends as well as meet new ones online, play our favorite games, chat, text...as well as track stats and have a fun compedative nature...wii might sell more units, but xbox gamers play more games more hours, online, and use a service that allows them unpresidented access to media at home, with out leaving the couch =) !!
it's that, xbox live service that will change gaming...not some fluffy motion sensing device..xbox makes casual gamers more "hardcore"....we've racked up billions of hours on the service for a reason...and nintendo and sony have yet to come close to that experience..

Tony

September 26, 2007 4:54 PM

I think Nintendo has the strongest community. Nintendo is viewed as the sweetheart/ underdog that was able to beat off the Sony and Microsoft. Also Sony and Microsoft are seen as brands that would do anything to bleed money out of you...

Few companies share the “cool/zen/hip/happy/I’m everybody’s’ friend” type of image that Nintendo has. In my opinion, some of these companies are VW, Apple, and Whole Foods Market. Just think of the type of people that drive a Beetle or a Jetta… now the type of people that prefer OSX… and what about the earthy healthy type that shop at Whole Foods… I hope you see the pattern…

Daniel

September 26, 2007 4:57 PM

You nailed it,

I bought Halo 3 @ midnight, played a few (3) multi-player objective games, shut it down went to bed. I got home from work the next day and I saw my buddy on there, linked up with him for some slayer, before I knew what was going on I had played through a fourth of the game with poeple I did not know before hand, my friend went to bed, I was with his friends playing coop. It was a great expierance, we became a team, after one hour; flanking, having the designated sniper and a comedian that kept it laid back. I was awe struck, we were yelling help and OMG did you see that, every five minutes, thank you's, and you save my butt came spewing over the mic's as well as strategy. I have three new online friends now, and I only played 3 hours of this game. They also made a scoring system so it can get competitive, and one person is always going to steal your kills, but then you reach back into the depths of your mind to talk some smack. I played for 3 hours, but I could talk about it for 20, so much happened the TV depicted things that I could barely asess

youker

September 26, 2007 5:06 PM

well, xbox 360 is made and developed in the united states, seems only right to support something made in the states. Japans community clearly made it known that they will not support the xbox 360 because it was made in the usa. Isnt that crap? I say the heck with the PS3 and all of sony. I own a xbox 360 and it is hands down the best console ever produced.

Frederick

September 26, 2007 5:22 PM

PS3 has tons of social networking functionality. PS3 already has tons of multiplayer content with plenty of social networking features (chat, friend lists, clans, player tracking, etc).

Currently, both PS3 and 360 are quite competitive on the social networking front, but I think this will tip in the PS3's favor as they release SingStar, Home Beta, and PlayStation Eye, while already having better overall cost (due to integrated WiFi + no subscription charge), better keyboard/headset/peripheral support, and better hardware reliability.

b4hoops

September 26, 2007 5:37 PM

This competitive in-your-face loyalty, as you call it, or "fanboyism" as its called in gaming circles, didn't just happen overnight. It was nurtured during the early stages in the history of console gaming and has evolved over the last 20 years. It happened when there were only two players in the console market, Sega and Nintendo. Like Coke or Pepsi, gamers took sides. Digging deeper, the loyalties were borne out of financial and social reasons as well. The Sega Genesis launched at $389 -- not cheap by even today's standards. Kids, or their parents, couldn't afford to buy two consoles -- so, you became a Sega "fan" or Nintendo "fan" almost by default. Socially, oftentimes, if your friend had a Sega Genesis, you made sure you got one as well. That's how you become a "fanboy" of a particular console maker. That two horse rivalry continued with the Nintendo 64 and the Sony PlayStation, as gamers could really only afford one or the other. For the most part, if you liked furry animals and sunshine you'd buy a Nintendo 64 and if you liked alien hordes and desolate worlds you'd get a PlayStation -- judging from the PlayStation's sales, I guess a lot more people liked alien hordes. So, that's a little bit of the historical analysis. But, now, I have to disagree on the topic of loyalty, because the landscape has changed dramatically. I think the factor of loyalty is significantly diminished -- just ask Sony how its been going trying to get the millions of PS2 owners to buy into the overpriced PS3. Loyalty isn't getting those PS2 fans to put up the necessary $500. They're bying Xbox 360s and Nintendo Wiis. The demographic is older, there's more disposable income, and people are buying multiple consoles. Also, the exclusivity in software, which I should have talked about earlier, is gone. Gamers can now pretty much play their favortie games on both the Xbox 360 and PS3. The comments you're seeing on message boards and blogs -- the "fanboyism" -- is only a small hardcore segment. Not to diminish their importance, because they should be part of any console strategy, but the bigger piece, the mainstream gamer is key. And this is not someone who has never played games before. On the contrary, this is someone who possibly plays a lot of games, but has lost that urge toward console or company loyalty. That's the big piece of the pie. And that piece is concerned about the best value -- the best games at the best price. They want innovation, with games like Wii Sports, and they want excitement and entertainment with games like Halo or Metal Gear Solid. That will be the key to success in today's gaming world, not relying, as it has been in the past, on the folks that post on message boards and leave comments on blogs.

csven

September 26, 2007 5:44 PM

Let's be honest, adding machinima capabilities and a map editor are about as basic as they could get and still be able to realistically claim user-generated content... for those of us who don't equate something like Yahoo's LaunchCast music recommendation system with "content". And the social component is in their XBox Live service, which is what Sony was mostly targeting with their now-delayed Home virtual world service (and which is why XFire's purchase by MTV a while back was so interesting).

As for whether or not it's the kind of community a company wants around, that's debatable. There are plenty of casual gamers who absolutely abhor interacting with the kinds of players one finds in such fanatical communities. To put it another way, would Harley Davidson have wanted the worst kind of motorcycle gang members hanging around their showrooms day and night scaring off the well-heeled white-collar wannabe's from a chance at living their "Easy Rider" fantasies (and forking over a lot of money to Harley Davidson)?

I doubt it. But to some degree that's what you have when foul-mouthed teens with too much time on their hands and mommy's credit card account at their disposal are your customers.

Certainly that's not true of the entire community but it's not uncommon either. I find plenty of that behavior when I jump online for a quick series of deathmatches. For reference, in case you missed it, this video made the rounds some time back (NSFW): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ex-TeSxHHLk .

Additionally, the success of Nintendo's Wii is more than just in the motion-sensing hardware; it's in their entire approach to games. While Sony and MS have been chasing the hardcore gamer crowd with hardware, Nintendo has focused on a much more scalable segment. Read up on their current CEO and you'll probably see someone more interested in developing a Miyazaki property than in figuring out how to make blood spray more realistically from decapitated bodies using Cell clusters to help calculate a more accurate fluid dynamics simulation.

Personally, I'd like to see MS and Sony - and the developers themselves - truly embrace UGC and micro-transactions instead of throttling it while they attempt to figure out how to best monetize it. I can imagine Nintendo - who, afaik, doesn't have a system in place for that sort of thing - will beat them to the punch again.

doublehelix

September 26, 2007 5:55 PM

Halo 3 is to console gaming as World of Warcraft is to Computer gaming, except Halo addicts aren't afraid to admit there obsession. Both has the ability to keep you connected with friends and networks you to many new people. Both communities capture not just the outcasted lonely souls, but a wide spectrum of different kinds of people looking for a gaming hobby. The advantage to Halo is that it doesn't require infinite hours of grinding for Gold or experience for a never ending story which at times causes the gamers to lose the reason why they play in the first place, to simply have a great gaming experience with other gamers. With Halo, this is ultimately what it is all about and has such a solid framework to keep it competitive and fun. For the next three years there will be lots of Halo parties in people's homes, coming together to share their passion and show off their skills.

nynja

September 26, 2007 6:28 PM

One word for Playstation fans: SOCOM.

This is our Halo.

b4hoops

September 26, 2007 6:33 PM

Though I agree with csven that Sony and MS need will eventually need to take even greater advantage of their online infrastructure's capability to support more UGC and micro-transactions, I disagree that the industry has been slow in adopting these funtions, particularly UGC. The pace has been just right. Take Xbox Live Arcade for example. It's a perfect platform to allow user-generated content, but Microsoft has been closely guarding the platform. That content control is exactly what has made XBLA so enjoyable and allowed MS to control the product quality. You can't just open up that platform, because policing the content, for one, will become a huge issue. Now, slowly, MS is bringing publishers on board and allowing them to use their own servers and police the UCG for their own individual games -- under MS guidelines of course. The online gaming space is a competitive environment and still is in its relatively early stages, particularly in the console space. Your own experience has been marred by "foul-mouthed teens" as you say. It is important for Sony and MS to maintain some level of control, at least for the foreseeable future, despite the fact that this might lead to slower adoption in the short-term.

csven

September 26, 2007 7:15 PM

@b4hoops

I'm not sure why, for example, MS can't let the developers police content; they're game-specific anyway. After all, the Marketplace code is (last I recall) either included or not included based on the developer's own interest in participating. But from what I'd read - and I'll confess to having mostly given up tracking developments over the past year - the developers are mostly interested in figuring out how to use the service to sell their own add-ons, and *not* to foster a virtual marketplace that leverages user-generated content... which, btw, would also likely spawn a more robust social network around that property and increase sales of the game itself (ala that old standby example Half-Life). And that's kind of the point here.

If there have been *real* changes, please site some examples. I'd be happy to hear of some movement on this front.

And fwiw, I'm not relaying my *own* experience with "foul-mouthed teens". I've been around the FPS block for a good long while now. I'm relaying what I've heard from friends and colleagues who are casual gamers by virtue of not having the time to play, rather than not having an interest in the games.

Steve

September 26, 2007 8:05 PM

"PS3 already has tons of multiplayer content with plenty of social networking features (chat, friend lists, clans, player tracking, etc)."

Funny, I remember doing all those things with my old X-box. I think what he's highlighting here are some new tools that might not be revolutionary, but they're certainly new to consoles.

b4hoops

September 26, 2007 8:15 PM

csven,

I think we agree on the merits of UGC for games. As you said, they would drive content-specific social networks, and drive sales, and they could also lead to entirely new games, reduce cost of populating game content, particularly for massively mutliplayer online games, can be tied to marketing in the real world, among many other functions. So, I don't think we disagree there.

But, where I think we do disagree is the pace at which UGC implementation should happen in the video game world and on the fact that there have been relatively significant UGC implementation already happening. You asked for examples, well you can trace it back to counter-strike growing out of Half-life, for one. Then you'be got virtual economies, and user-created virtual assets, in games like Second Life and Project Entropia for example. Or Will Wright's Spore, allowing players to create their own animals and cities to populate an online universe. Games are even starting to tie in with real-world UGC. Check out a game called Fastr, which ties in with Flickr. Or the talk that the PS3 @Home network may allow video uploads to populate its "virtual movie theaters". So, progress is being made I think. But, yes the pace has been relatively slow, which, again, is exactly where it needs to be.

Ryan

September 26, 2007 10:01 PM

I don't think this is an argument of X-Box 3 having a stronger or more loyal community than Wii. What Nintendo has done with Wii is expand the gaming community and essentially make the total pie or market for gaming larger. Of course you will have overlap between those who game on both machines, but the reality of it is, is that Nintendo appeals to a broad group of people, many whom will never be interested in Halo 3 no matter how good it is. If I was a gaming company I think I would rather market to a much larger group of people in a 3B market (for example) and have 3% of that market with room to expand, than market to a 1B (for example) market and fight for control of 10 to 15% of the market. Nintendo has expanded its reach to new gamers who are arguably are less likely to game on an Xbox both because it offers a different type of social community, but also, because of costs, ease of use, ect. I have both machines and they both offer a different experience so I don't believe it is fair to say one is better or one has a stronger community. They appeal to different people.

csven

September 26, 2007 10:44 PM

b4hoops,

I was referring to examples over the past year where either MS or Sony or their developers were encouraging UGC and supporting virtual markets/micro-transactions that traded in that content. They both have marketplaces to support the activity, yet neither company - nor their developers - seems prepared for independent 3rd party content generated by interested fans.

While "Spore" may be the future of most three-dimensional user-generated content and, to use Yahoo's Bradley Horowitz's term, spur the growth of 3D "synthesizers" to fill out his content pyramid, it's still unreleased. Further, user-created "Spore" content is, iirc, auto-distributed, so what form a Spore-based virtual market *might* take under those conditions is still unknown.

So I'm very much aware of all these things you mention - as well as being involved in content that spans both tangible and intangible markets (and opens up what I call "true reverse product placement" - http://blog.rebang.com/?p=1365 ), I just believe that the pace is too slow. The only reason I see for this snail's pace is the perception that it protects... someone. But given the difficulty of creating much of this content, the general slowdown in the mod community due to the increased sophistication and complexity of content development, and the ability for each developer to set up their own vetting process to meet their own needs (assuming they want to allow UGC in the first place), I see no reason for the delay other than concern that "add-on" revenue will be threatened.

Kinda funny. I mean, it's not like they're going to sell DRM-free versions of their music or anything...

truth

September 27, 2007 1:15 AM

one word: Littlebigplanet for ps3 will beat halo 3 in its online community networking area!.
WATCH THE TRAILER @ gamespot!!!! it also won the award for the best game @ E3 =P

Arvis

September 27, 2007 1:28 AM

Three words you should pay very close attention to, Bruce: LittleBigPlanet. Look it up. Be amazed.

Lix

September 27, 2007 6:01 AM

I second those comments Arvis, Little Big Planet will indeed rock thy world.

blitz30952

September 27, 2007 6:10 AM

i agree Arvis, LittleBigPlanet FTW!!!! XD

Dustin

September 27, 2007 9:07 AM

its all about sony and ps3 i believe they will come back on top and shock the gaming world internationally. sony has a few surprises left halo isnt going to stop them.

believe it!

thomas

September 27, 2007 12:05 PM

Look at it from my perspective..Nintendo rules

Chucky

September 27, 2007 1:59 PM

LittleBigPlanet.

Home.

Singstar.

PS3 doesn't have these NOW, but they're coming very soon, and offer more by way of social networking and a user generated focus than Halo3. Halo3 merely dips its toes in the water with Forge - it's like a very simplified (and less powerful) version of the map editors that have existed in PC FPS games for ages now. It is nice, though, but it's not revelatory or anything.

b4hoops

September 27, 2007 4:23 PM

csven,

I think, UGCs tied into virtual markets will happen in the console space, and you're right in saying that both Sony and MS have marketplaces equipped to handle this. But, the console market is fundamentally different from the PC space, as you know, where this is obviously more mature -- it has historically been a close development environment, where a large chunk of revenue is driven through royalties, so it requires a little bit of a paradigm shift to drive implementation.

But, having worked in the industry I can say that add-on revenue specifically is relatively insignificant when compared to retail sales or royalties, so I don't see that as a true deterrent. But I do see the issues of policing and content control as more significant in why adoption has been slow, as you say.

C

September 27, 2007 4:46 PM

wait till super smash bros brawl

csven

September 27, 2007 8:22 PM

b4hoops,

Enjoying the back-n-forth. And while I've also worked in the industry, it wasn't serving the console market. So by virtue of that fact and my own sense that "add-on" revenue issues aren't what's *really* causing the delay, I'll go with your explanation. However, I'd like to know - if you can explain it - exactly what it is that's insurmountable wrt policing and content control.

I'm imagining that if a developer accepted submissions, used a percentage of virtual sales to pay for vetting efforts, and controlled which additional content was added to either MS's or Sony's marketplaces, then there isn't much stopping anyone. They don't have to accept all manner of content; maybe just skins, maybe just levels, maybe just environmental models... each with its own level of expected submissions (i.e. skins would likely draw lots of submissions while levels and 3D content would draw significantly less). So where is the hiccup? Why do developers seem to be pushing "synthesizers" and not original content creators?

b4hoops

September 27, 2007 9:25 PM

csven,

Same on my end. Enjoying the healthy discussion. I'm also starting to think some of our disagreement stems from the fundamental differences between the console and the PC space, as I understand it. Although I fear I may not be completely convincing, hopefully I can justify my explanation of the issues with policing and content control. There are simply a variety of barriers on the console side. First, the developers, publishers and platform makers, in my experience, are resistent to the idea of UGCs because it might taint the user experience. That plays back to what I was saying about control. There was a lot of resistance from folks in the early days of user-dictated game soundtracks leveraging the hard-drives in today's consoles, but of course now it has became common-place.

Second, although this isn't based on any empirical data, given the highly competitive and cutthroat nature of the console market, as opposed to the PC space, mistakes can be fatal -- which of course leads to the industry treading quite lightly when it comes to real innovation. When considering UGCs, questions of IP infringement and quality of content, good vs. bad, come up. Questions come up about the end-user experience. Are console gamers sophisticated enough, like PC gamers are perhaps, to distinguish UGC from original IP -- and not associate poor UGC content with a company's precious brand, like Halo for example? Third, there is constant oversight from a variety of parties in the console space when it comes to mature content, or whether something is appropriate for the console demographic, which I'm sure you'll agree is very different from the PC one. So, policing comes into play.

All of these questions have to be carefully answered and the paradigm shift has to happen slowly. Because, console makers can't make a mistake -- the environment is entirely too competitive.

While in a perfect world, we'd see the same type of UGC adoption in the console space as with PC gaming, I think in the real world developers, publishers, Sony & MS need to be a little bit more careful.

But, in the end, you can not deny the collective intelligence of communities and the independent development spirit, so, as I said, adoption is bound to happen.

csven

September 28, 2007 3:11 PM

b4hoops,

I understand where you're coming from, I just think the drubbing Nintendo has given both MS and Sony should push them both to be more innovative in ways *other* than hardware advances; especially when there is plenty of evidence to suggest that giving players some real sense of ownership can be a great way to build a community and strengthen a property (e.g. NWN). It's instructive, I think, that Second Life's *real* growth came after a change in the social covenant and not after the addition of some code or feature. By granting users ownership and facilitating their independence - in effect, by letting go - Linden Lab laid the groundwork for a platform that still has no contemporary and continues to grow in spite of its many failings.

In other words, I don't understand why console companies don't consider Open API-style practices relevant to their business. Unless, of course, they see it from only a technical point of view or an entrenched IP ownership point of view; neither of which has faired well of late.

We'll see, I suppose. But if Nintendo announces a marketplace and takes the lead in promoting user-generated content, and as a result delivers a second slap to the faces of MS and Sony, I'll not be surprised.

There are two ways to deal with competitive environments: cede the leadership and become a follower to avoid mistakes, or take intelligent risks and learn from the inevitable mistakes. Personally, I'm a "fail early, fail often" kind a guy.

All the best.

trev

September 29, 2007 8:58 PM

LOL This is the kind of journalistic nonsense only a Microsoft paid monkey would write. Xbox 360 are old consoles..just a bog standard pc! PS3 is a highly architectured gaming console - you just cant compare the two.. 360 is like a wii to the PS3.
PS3 is full media player, massive online community growing and growing.

b4hoops

September 30, 2007 5:55 AM

csven,

Yeah, I think console manufacturers, mainly MS and Sony, are starting to grasp the advantages of building strong communities around their best online brands. And, really, the open environment is the most interesting and engaging, and drives innovation. So, from my perspective and I'm sure from a lost of folks in the industry that's the end goal.

In general though, Nintendo may have the first mover advantage now -- just in terms of innovation -- but I think MS and Sony both have plenty of time to make up the deficit.

Best to you.

b-nickel9

March 28, 2008 5:15 PM

PS3 in my opinion is the best because first of all this is the last of halo (Halo wars not halo) xbox just lost HD-DVD because toshiba discontinued it. You cant depend on your xbox because eventually it will get the red ring of death. Xbox Live is a great online but it should be free unlike ps3 and wii.
The Ps3 is already catching up to the 360 and with HOME and other things such as the PSPHONE and Playtv right around the corner . How will 360 keep up? I'll tell you in two words.........They Can't.
Not to mention this is sony's with exclusives coming left and right such as MGS4,GT5,HAZE,Killzone2,Resistance2,God ofwar3,littlebigplanet,and motorstorm2.
Just some of the exclusives comming.
So in my opinion I think any one who goes out and buys a PS3 over a 360 is a very good investor.

Dv8thwonder

December 26, 2008 3:15 PM

Having read every one of these comments word for word its apparent that "fanboyism" seems to be alive and well.
The fact of the matter is that M$ and SONY have been exclusively chasing the "hardcore" and ignoring the casual from the beginning.
Nintendo on the other hand embraced them from the very start.

A wise person once said, " A wide net catches more fish"

If the Wii online community expands further as it is into the next console cycle, not only will offer more content for its users but solidify Nintendo as a major player in the online gaming community.

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About

Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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