It would be an understatement to say Sony's recent marketing has been poor. From the early PlayStation 3 (PS3) commercials to the lack of any marketing push for certain titles (ex. Sly Cooper Thieves in Time), the company has struggled to get a grasp on how best to market many of its products. As I discussed last week, Sony has a unique opportunity on their hands with this week's Futre of PlayStation event and despite past struggles, the marketing for this meeting has been absolutely superb.
Sony has released a video each day, starting with the history of the original PlayStation (PS1) this past Friday. Saturday night's video detailed the story and hype of the PlayStation 2 (PS2). Sunday's video focused on the PS3. Does this point to a PSP video for Monday and a PS Vita video for Tuesday, all leading up to the PS4 event this Wednesday? That remains to be seen, but of the videos released thus far, they will undoubtedly conjure up a number of memories about owning your first Sony console. This sense of nostalgia is exactly what Sony is hoping for with these videos.
Geoff Keighley of GameTrailers.com tweeted out "Best PlayStation Meeting video yet coming to GT early next week." But even folks who aren't directly associated with the video game industry are taking notice. Mark Gurman of 9to5mac.com tweeted "Sony continues teasing the next PlayStation...they're setting ridiculously highly expectations us.playstation.com/meeting2013 ."
So have they set the expectations too high? I suppose we won't know the answer until Wednesday, but the expectations themselves though are certainly high. As someone who works in marketing myself, I'm more intrigued by the why. Why are they releasing daily videos? Strictly just for hype? How do they relate to the PS4 event? Some answers are obvious. They want to ride a continuous stream of momentum leading up to Wednesday. They're focusing on their "past" while teasing the "future." But there's more than that; specifically, why is Sony attempting to draw on their past in hyping their future?
Reason #1: Brand Loyalty
Sony currently holds the #1 and #2 spot for all-time home console sales with the PS2 and PS1, respectively. Each system sold more than 100 million units worldwide with the PS2 selling over 150 million (source). Those numbers are staggering. For comparison's sake, even the most optimistic estimates have the PS3 selling roughly 77 million units worldwide. That's nearly a 50% drop in user base from one generation to the next! Think about that for a second. Of those 150 million PS3 owners, roughly half of them purchased a PS3. And this is assuming that no one bought the PS3 as their first Sony console, which is highly unlikely.
With these videos, Sony is hoping to bring back those 150 million PS2 owners. They're attempting to remind you of the feelings you once held toward the brand, feelings that resulted in more sales than any home console ever. In a sense, they're conveying how they once had your full trust as a consumer. They were the go-to option for gamers, a pinnace they're boldly trying to reach again...with PS4.
Reason #2: Brand Power
This could almost be included with reason #1, but I thought it different for a couple of reasons. Sony has often been described as an arrogant company. They once posited that gamers would get a second job to afford the insanely overpriced launch PS3. Aside from Nintendo though, I'm not sure anyone can claim to have changed the industry as much as Sony. And that certainly brings a sense of power and respect that Microsoft just doesn't have yet. These retrospective videos attempt to show Sony isn't a new kid on the block (Ouya) or the still relatively young but promising (Xbox). They are showing how they were (and still are?) the company that once toppled the almighty Nintendo for console supremacy back in the mid-90's.
Reason #3: Gamers Can Relive That Past...While Enjoying The Future (theory)
It's entirely possible these videos were only designed and created for the reasons already mentioned. After all, a strong brand is an incredibly powerful tool. Perhaps I'm giving them too much credit, but I think there's more to it than the first two reasons I outlined.
Let's start with Sony's purchase of Gaikai, the streaming service. I think it comes full circle here with the announcement that every PS1, PS2, and PS3 game will be available from day 1 on the PS4 via cloud gaming. How is that any different from PS1 and PS2 classics currently offered on the PlayStation Store? Well for starters, it's every game. And second...it's going to be part of the PlayStation Plus subscription service. Users won't actually pay on a game by game basis.
Anyone remember Sega Channel? No? Didn't think so. It was such a niche product, I don't know anyone else who had it. My wonderful parents realized its awesomeness and gave it to me as a gift. For a monthly fee, I had unlimited access to roughly 35-50 games, which changed each month. Sound familiar yet? Personally, I think Sega was ahead of its time as this is almost exactly what Sony has created with the PlayStation Plus service and its Instant Game Library. More on Sega Channel here and here if you're thinking I'm a loon who created this with my imagination. How big a statement would it be if Sony announced that every game you grew up playing will be available on PS4 through a new Gaikai application?
These videos, while expertly crafted and resulting in rampant speculation, mean nothing if Sony's event flops on Wednesday. Although I'm clearly a zealous PlayStation fan, I think it accurate to say Sony has our attention for this week's PlayStation Meeting. The gaming world is watching; will Sony deliver?