Retailers, Brands Take Sides in PlayStation 4, Xbox One Launches

The latest videogame console war recruits Toys 'R' Us, Taco Bell, Doritos, Mountain Dew, the NFL

Retailers are rallying around the launch of Sony and Microsoft’s next-generation videogame consoles, both launching in November — and some are ready to take sides as the release of the systems heat up a new console war.

Microsoft got the jump in August when Pepsico’s Doritos and Mountain Dew brands began promoting the Xbox One, giving away thousands of consoles as part of the largest campaign in the brands’ history. The two gamer-friendly companies have been closely associated with the Xbox 360 brand for years, promoting the console and the company’s franchises like “Halo.”

■ Toys ‘R’ Us put Microsoft’s Xbox One on its “Fabulous 15” list of its pre-holiday recommendation of products it believes kids will be most excited about, according to the company. Also on the list are toys featuring characters from Universal’s “Despicable Me 2,” Disney Junior’s “Sofia the First” and “Doc McStuffins,” Sesame Street’s Elmo, and Activision’s “Skylanders SWAP Force” game and figures. The items appear in circulars and on the company’s website. The PlayStation 4 is still mentioned in a separate “Hot Toy” list.

■ Taco Bell has thrown its support behind the PlayStation 4, with the fast food chain hyping the console through a six-week promo that launched Sept. 26 and runs through Nov. 10, offering consumers the chance to “play the future first,” and win one of over 4,000 PS4s. Effort is backed by TV, radio, social media and in-store marketing. Taco Bell sparked to the idea to promote the PS4 because “our fans love gaming,” according to Chris Brandt, the chain’s chief marketing officer.

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The move is a shift for Taco Bell, which helped launch Microsoft’s first Xbox in 2001, and has hyped franchises like “Halo” in the past, exclusive to Xbox. But Sony wanted to work with Taco Bell again after promoting its PS Vita with the eatery last year, according to Guy Longworth, PlayStation’s senior VP for brand marketing.

Sony is first out of the gate, releasing the PS4 on Nov. 15 with a pricetag of $400, while Microsoft launches the Xbox One on Nov. 22 for $500.

Of course each company is spending heavily around the roll outs, but the support of major retailers — most of which are backing both launches in order to reach a larger consumer base — will boost the profile of the consoles. It’s been seven years since the two companies went head-to-head with new consoles (although the Xbox 360 launched in 2005 and the PlayStation 3 bowed in 2006).

Still as each device looks for an edge over the other, having a retailer put the spotlight on one is clearly an advantage. Worth noting is that Walmart’s “Top Toy List Chosen By Kids” did not mention either game console.

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They’re also hitting consumer on all fronts, with Sony having already gone after men watching the NBA finals and Microsoft using its relationship with the NFL to target football fans (see its latest ad below). Neither company is revealing their overall marketing spends for the launches.

Sony and Microsoft will need all the help they can get, since most consumers only buy one gaming console.

So far Sony looks to have the edge in upcoming sales.

According to a recent Reuters-Ipsos poll, 26% of those asked if they would buy one of the consoles before the holidays said they will likely purchase a PlayStation 4, with 15% choosing the Xbox One. Among those under 40, 41% picked the PS4, while 27% chose the Xbox One.

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