Kotaku vs. Gizmodo: The PSN Outage, Should Microsoft Have Done More?

A strange question, but think about it - Sony's game division is in the midst of one the greatest privacy breaches in history, in an area that its major competitor, Microsoft, has dominated - so why hasn't Microsoft done more to take advantage of Sony's woes? No gloating from pompous execs, no subtle jabs over the parapet. Both myself and Nick Broughall from Gizmodo found that a little strange, so we're asking the question - should Microsoft have done more?

NICK: So Mark, as games journalism's version of the Highlander, you understand better than most the mantra of "there can be only one". So why is it that, while Sony is languishing in a pool of its own sweat, watching customers leave its Playstation Network in a fury, Microsoft hasn't launched itself at Sony's jugular and taken the easy kill?

MARK: It’s a solid question. Microsoft seemed quite opportunistic to begin with, offering Xbox LIVE Gold for free over the first weekend, but since then? Nothing.

Sony is such an easy target and even I, with my flaccid jellyfish of a brain, can come up with a few ideas – why not sell Xbox LIVE subscriptions at half price for as long as PSN is offline? Why not package some sort of deal with new Xbox 360s sold at retail – free 12 month subscription included with every console sold? Why no clever ad campaign with a “You Get What You Pay For” slogan?

Admittedly it’s probably been too short a period for a fully fledged ad campaign, but Microsoft has been completely dead silent on the issue – you’d expect you a gloating quote from a Microsoft exec at least, but nothing.

What are your thoughts?

NICK: Everybody knows that Microsoft is a behemoth of a company, and in every behemoth it can sometimes take a long time for things to get done (Kinect voice control for Australia, anybody?). But in this particular case, I think it's obvious that Redmond has dropped the ball.

I can understand how launching a promotion like free Xbox Live subscriptions or even bonus Microsoft points for downloading games or add-ons probably takes a bit too much preparation to effectively turn around in time, especially given the uncertainty of exactly when Sony will bring the PSN back online, but that doesn't forgive them for not sending out daily press releases or social media jabs at Sony's misfortunes. When you look at how Microsoft has campaigned against Apple in its PC advertising, you know that it isn't a gentleman's agreement to not kick an opponent in the nuts before taking its lunch money that's stopping Microsoft from taking advantage of Sony's misfortune.

There's no question Sony will go on a marketing blitz when PSN goes back online to try and undo the damage. And Microsoft really should be issuing a pre-emptive strike to showcase its strengths in the online gaming market to try and nullify that campaign before it even takes off...

MARK: Well, I wonder if Microsoft’s experiences in the whole RROD situation has made them more sympathetic to a competitor in trouble? Perhaps they don’t want to be involved in a pot/kettle situation?

It’s also possible that Microsoft is attempting to use this opportunity to take the higher ground – which is unusual for them, particularly in such a hotly contested market. There is absolutely no doubt that this is a huge opportunity. Xbox LIVE really is, for ‘serious’ gamers, one of, if not the, major selling point of the console.

I think Microsoft is just happy to let the damaging PlayStation Network stories circulate and reap the benefits. On some level the connection between the two services is so obvious and barely needs to be made explicit. Microsoft’s woes aside, the LIVE service has been completely stellar, practically from day one, and has always sold itself on quality of service – it’s a premium product that you pay for, but works as an unassailable unified service. To an extent that brand awareness is already secure – you could argue that Microsoft doesn’t want to get that brand dirty by rolling around in the dirt with Sony over this issue.

And on that note – it may be wise for Microsoft to completely distance themselves from the whole debacle lest they be thrown out with the bathwater. I may be mixing my metaphors here but, essentially the PSN situation has resulted in a huge backlash towards online services in general - a huge consumer confidence hit - it may be that Microsoft wish to avoid being mentioned in the same breath as Sony right now.

NICK: Yeah, that all makes sense, but for the same reason I like watching Animal Planet, I'd still like to see Microsoft go for the kill here, even if it's a subtle attack.

Why we haven't seen Microsoft partner with 3rd party titles to advertise key online games escapes me. Imagine seeing an ad for Brink, with a snippet at the end saying simply: "Play online today with Xbox 360". It's subtle, it's not blatant, but with the mass media coverage of Sony's woes, the message would still come through loud and clear.

As I said before, Sony are going to try and come back hard from this, and Microsoft should be taking advantage of any opportunity to emphasise its strengths. To sit back and let Sony struggle does them no favours.

MARK: I agree. There’s also a chance that Microsoft consider this year’s E3 to be the battleground and I’m sure they’ll throw a couple of friendly jabs in their direction then – but right now Sony is on the ropes and its legs are gone. It makes more sense to go straight for knockout blow right now.

As you just mentioned, the PSN story has hit the mainstream news with a vengeance. The mainstream, non-core audience is the one that Microsoft is currently chasing as it seeks to expand its position in the market place.

In the end, it seems they’ve been a little too passive in their approach. Surely we have to rack this up as an opportunity lost?


    I think they were worried if they opened their mouths, even a tiny little bit, they'd get taken down next. I think all companies are keeping their heads down at the moment, trying not to attract attention until their security is beefed up, and just thinking 'Thank christ it wasn't us'

      My thoughts exactly. Gloating in this situation will only bring unneccessary attention to yourself. And the last thing we need is 2 online networks down for the count.

      My thoughts exactly.
      They probably can't gloat about what they don't have - better security.

      This is Sony thing is ultimately good for everyone. It slaps everyone across the face and tells then to get their own backyard organised.

      I scrolled down to write the exact same thing. Microsoft probably realises they are just as vulnerable (which is not to say they are, but I get the impression Sony wasn't either), and so just lying low and not taking the risk of someone trying to take them down a peg or two as well if they gloated.

      I agree. If MS started dancing around saying how high and mighty they were... God only knows how bad it would be if something had hit them next... Having access to alot of business accounts and consumer accounts as well.

      But i think a Free Week would have been good for MS to offer at a world wide level...

    Sony are the company that generally gloats. Whilst MS isn't immune, they aren't as skilled as Sony in this field (Kevin Butler for example). Major Nelson has also linked to Sony developments previously from his blog - I like that MS act maturely, it's what the industry needs to stop the fanboy rubbish.
    MS is probably more interested in spending their time/effort shoring up their own security to ensure they don't fall prey to this kind of attack. You don't want to gloat about something only to have it happen to you... Let Sony dig their own grave.

    I have wondered about this, but how about this take on it. What if this has made M$ realise they they are not much better. What if M$ simply realised that this could have easily been them. If that were me, I would focus internally on fixing our own services. VERY QUIETLY.

    Parts of me wonder if this is what they have been doing with their time.

    I agree that it would have been an great time to have a dig at your buddies over at PSN, they may realise just how close they came to being on the other side of the fence.

    Just because we pay for the service, does not mean their security was actually any better!

    I am a self confessed M$ fanboy, but I am also a realist. I suspect that at least in part M$'s attention has been focussed on making sure they are spotless before they say a word!

    I suspect it's a couple of things. Firstly, as the article mentions, Sony's image is taking such a belting over this that MS are made to look good in comparison anyway, so they're getting some benefit out of it without spending anything.

    And secondly, nobody is safe from this kind of thing. If MS came out and made a big song and dance out of Sony's failure and how much better they are in comparison, it would seriously come back to bit them on the arse in the event of something similar happening to XBL in the future.

    So they don't have a lot to gain from this beyond what they're already gaining anyway, while the downside is a potentially significant risk.

    As an actual question, when has MS taken a low shot at its competitors in its advertising/ PR?

      I'm a PC... and Windows 7 was my idea.

      It's a reversal of the Mac ads that made fun of PCs.

      When they announced a free weekend of Xbox Live Gold during the PSN outage, and also went to great lengths to point out how they were still up and PSN was still down.

        They had announced that about a month earlier... it was in one of Nelsons blog posts.

          Then they knew about what was going to happen all along. The plot thickens.

        Yeah that had been annouced some time prior - it was all to do with that Kinect Sports world record attempt

      While not directly related to their Xbox business, Microsoft has been known to contribute money to think tanks who go on to undermine Microsoft's competitors while giving the appearance of a neutral third party.

    I'm not a console fanboy, but I did just buy an XBox 360. The PSN problems really reaffirmed that I'd made the right decision.

    If they campaign too strongly, they'll be a target for the same sort of attack. Additionally given how much they make through digital sales, the absolute worst thing Microsoft could do would be to attack, because it would undermine confidence in the business model and make people step back from Xbox Live as well, and that really doesn't help anyone. Very few PSN users are going to be so upset that they'd ditch their system and all their games to swap over, too, so all they'd really be doing is encouraging people with both systems or fence-sitters to come to their side.

    Also, attacking opponents flaws is not how MS does their PR. It actually often works negatively, because it immediately makes the conversation adverserial, especially in a market full of rabid fanboyism like games. Instead, Microsoft's marketing always focuses on the things they believe are strengths or selling points in their own products. Even something like "Our network is secure" would be a direct attack against Sony, as would "play online today", if it came out in marketing materials. It's not their style. There's just no way they could spin it without looking like assholes, so they've held off. Honestly they don't even need to do anything, Sony's done most of the damage themselves.

      Yep. Their network is up and Sony's is down. Everybody already knows it, so they don't need to come out and say it.

    Well I just got my first Modern Warfare 2 fix on Xbox ever since the PSN went down. Which does make pleased to have both consoles.

    Yet really only had Xbox only titles until now.

    I guess Microsoft know that you don't need to take low-blows at your competition. When you know the consumer are so impatient they'd rather buy an Xbox then wait it out. Sad, but it is happening.

    I dare anonymous to try and take down Xbox 360's online network. I really don't think they have anyone smart enough to do it. They're after all unemployed dumbasses.

      Guess that makes you a bigger dumbass if you can't even take down the PSN.

      I think the smart approach is just to continue there marketing as per usual. No smart or cheap jabs at Sony or the PSN. No extensive marketing of the XBL Network. Just continue with what they've got.

      Like people say, the key success to the Wii, besides the casual gamers attraction & price, was the marketing. The same can be said for Apple, just not the price. They market there product well.
      Microsoft have really picked up there game on marketing. I don't see anything for Sony, so it will be interesting as to how they remarket there product once all goes to plan eventually.

      Kinect has played a big part in the remarketing for the Xbox and the adverts on the TV are reminding me of the Wii or DS adverts. Hasn't won me over to buy the thing - but its working on others it seems. Someone is clearly doing something right at Microsoft.

      Now if only MS can do the same across all departments. If they had a great marketing team for the Zune, then that story may have been different. MS remind me of someone who has had so much success that anything else can go unpromoted cause they think people will flock to it, Windows - fair enough I don't see Mac taking over in the next 5 years. But everything else and even the Xbox suffers from really poor marketing and advertising, Windows Mobile 7 is their latest example.

      MS, stick to normal protocol during the PSN outage, thats all I can say. And apply the same marketing team to other products and you may not see so much neglect to products OTHER than the Xbox and Windows.

    Because if they've been dogfooding, they've got insecure Windows servers that would leave them susceptible to a similar attack.

    Log in thine own eye, and all that.

    If Microsoft went for the kill then that would risk hackers themselves. If the hackers was able to this playstation, who knows what they could do with XBox Network. This would have put a fire under Microsoft security people, made them look twice and put extras in.

    I'm a minor Xbox fanboy, but I think Sony is going to put Microsoft on the ropes at E3 this year regarding exclusives... maybe someone from MS contacted them and said:
    "We're going to lay off you whilst you get your house in order... but if you put the boot in in June; we'll offer free 'secure' online to all PSN users... given that we've got their details now".

    Or something like that.

    I work for a large Security vendor we make a point to never publicly capitalise on the shortcomings of a competitor. It seems counterintuitive but that sort of aggressive campaign is quite likely to come back to bite you. A variation on "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones".

    No doubt this issue resulted in some soul searching within Microsoft too.

    what if Microsoft are the hackers. that sounds a little crazy but they would stay out of this if it was them.

    Its hard to turn around a ad campaign that fast. You can do it but to actually get ad's on air is hard because media's usually booked in advance so they can charge more if they're fully booked. (note when you see a charity ad the station or program is not fully booked).

    To get on air fast cost more than the benefit you would receive. Small market in the scheme of total revenue (for MS) and anyone that cares already knows about the situation through the gaming media already.

    Most Gaming media spend is aimed at your parents or people who don't play games because gamers are already captive and spending money boosting meta-critic scores provides a better return on investment.

    I think I'm in the minority of video-game players who doesn't care overly about online play. The exception to this was Portal 2's co-op, which I finished up last week. So with no real impetus to get back on Xbox Live, I say Microsoft take all the cheap jabs they can at Sony, attract the ire of the hackers and be forced shut down their own network.

    It'd be the source of some seriously amusing discussion. But then, that's just my inner d-bag speaking.

    Fact is they're probably too busy to take the shots, they're shoring up their network security, and thanking their lucky stars they're still able to pile the steady stream of cash from all the Gold Live subscriptions into a Scrooge McDuck style money pool.

    The guy who posts on Facebook (kronjob I think?) for Xbox Australia didn't miss an opportunity to take pot shots at Sony in his FB posts.

    Maybe Microsoft is just being respectful of a very bad situation. Like players/fans at a football game not cheering when a player gets seriously injured.

      Exactly what I was going to say. There's a lot of low-shots and gloating that goes on in the industry today. To see Microsoft not take the obvious cheap shots in this situation is honestly quite refreshing.

      Also, there are a lot of people who own both Xbox 360s and PS3s. Microsoft doesn't want to sour that market by kicking Sony when they're down.

    Microsoft didn't need to do any bragging, their fanboys did enough of it for them ...

    I find it really hard to believe that there are people so angry or impatient that they can't simply wait till the PSN gets back online, some going as far as buying an Xbox already. Sure I'm disappointed in Sony for taking this long, but in the end, if it means a more secure service that still remains free to use, I'll wait happily.

    Who is to say they won't use Sony's failure in the future? They could be waiting until the dust settles and then start using veiled references to Sony's failure in future advertisements. They won't come out and say "Sony sucks. We don't." but I do think they will allude to the fact one of their competitors suffered a major breach in the future.

    You know, I might actually be the most patient entity here. Think about it- I've been dead for hundreds of years, revived by a homicidal maniac and her moron companion (and apparently, thousands of potatoes, who thought up of that stupid idea?). I had only recently started the Cooperative Testing Initiative, then this happens. While I'm slightly worried at the sudden drop in test subjects, this is nothing compared to being dead for hundreds of years. And once this is all over, I can resume full-scale testing. For science.
    (And I'm still contemplating ways of punishing those responsible. Death is too good for them.)

    I think MS have had their fair share of security troubles in the past, and simply aren't gloating because any government concerned about privacy and hacking could easily turn the spotlight on ALL related companies and introduce draconian measures which could cost them in the long run.

    Since Microsoft is more dependent on third-party, cross-platform titles I think they may not have wanted to piss off publishers by rubbishing the other platform. Probably not a major concern but it might have been in there.

    The games industry of late has been remarkably civil in advertising between platforms. Haven't really seen a "Sega does what Nintendon't"-style campaign for a while now.

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