Dennis Durkin, Xbox CFO for Microsoft, has a vested interest in proclaiming his company’s products to be “superior” to their competitors. In a recent interview with IndustryGamers, that’s exactly what he did.
I think our first party performance in terms of quality bars and units per title this shift has been superior to our competition’s
It’s hard to criticise the guy for doing his job and trailing the company line but the assertion that Microsoft Studios are noticeably superior doesn’t appear to make much sense to me.
Statements like this are needfully non-specific. Is Durkin talking about every Microsoft Game Studios title released this generation? Is he including the Games for Windows and Windows Phone 7 content that Microsoft Studios publish too? Is he discounting sales of bundled software like Wii Play? Without clarification, it’s impossible to determine what he means and that makes it impossible to argue with his statements. Except that I’m not sure it works on any level.[drop2]Of course, it would be equally as foolish to claim that Sony have had a clear advantage in anything but actual number of exclusives published on a home console. It’s simply too difficult to conclusively prove superiority in general terms when there are so many factors to be considered.
Metacritic averages for critical responses to each stable shows that Microsoft and Sony are very close (73 and 75) with Nintendo just faring slightly better with critics at 77. So there is a rough similarity with general critical response but using the best data we’ve got access to, and the most basic way of presenting it, Nintendo comes out on top.
Economically, of course, it’s a little more difficult to pin down. It’s almost impossible to get accurate data with many retail outlets not counting, a discrepancy between “shipped” and “sold” and no European figures at all. But it’s reasonable to assume that titles like Wii Fit and Super Mario Galaxy, with their astronomical sales and long tails, have outstripped first party offerings from either of the HD consoles. So economically speaking, at least on specific titles, Nintendo seem sure to take that crown as well as their narrow victory with the critics. But it’s all very marginal and based on a fair amount of guess work and supposition, not to mention wilful manipulation of the data.
Of course, another way to look at it is by taking specific examples and pitting them against each other. For example, is Uncharted 2 a better game than Gears of War 2? I think so, but then I also suspect that Gears of War 2, as great as it is, will have sold more units. So financially speaking, Gears would be the better product. But that triumph is short lived when Nintendo weighs in with Wii Fit. Is that a better game? I would say not but I think the sales figures, if we kept accurate data, would say it outstripped both Uncharted 2 and Gears 2 by quite a considerable margin.
It’s a murky debate perpetuated by plenty of participants with varying degrees of knowledge in the subject but, ultimately, it’s a fruitless one. The only sensible thing to do is to enjoy the games you enjoy on whatever machine you want to play them on and let the executives, like Durkin, worry about what business they’re doing.