PlayStation Marketing: One Bad Decision After Another

A rant about disappointments in PlayStation's marketing campaigns.

Note: [All opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of GamerXChange]

Have you turned on your TV and seen a commercial, so catchy, so great, that you just will never forget it? Or has there been a commercial that comes on so often, that it has been beaten into your brain? More than likely, you have experienced both. There are just some companies that know how to market their products and services. Whether it is a TV spot, magazine ad, or some other form of marketing venture, some companies just get it. As I’m writing this, the Pillow Pet song, Mario toys with BK Kid’s Meal, those catchy colorful silhouetted iPod commercials, all resonate in my mind. However, there are some companies that just don’t get it. One in particular leaves me a little disheartened – Sony Computer Entertainment of America, aka, PlayStation.

Yes, PlayStation has fallen from grace since the advent of the PlayStation 3. One failed campaign after another and others that simply do not exist. I’m not usually one to go on a rant and write about it, but after seeing plans for an upcoming PlayStation commercial today, all these feelings bottled up inside have to come out. So join me as I pour out my heart in this rant on why I am less than pleased with PlayStation’s marketing.

Many of you have already seen the teaser for a teaser, that is just teasing a commercial to air this week. Yes, I’m talking about the God of War: Ascension Super Bowl spot. You might think, “Well PlayStation is finally marketing a game on TV – to a huge audience at that – and you’re complaining?” Well, yes. Yes, I am. This is why: Over the years, SCEA’s marketing has missed so many marks and sent too many games to an early grave. Hardware like the Vita and tons of great titles like Resistance 3, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Starhawk, and LittleBigPlanet PS Vita have received either very little, or very bad marketing. The result? Low software sales and even unfortunate studio closures and layoffs – BECAUSE NOBODY KNEW THE GAMES EXISTED! Now, I’m not sure if PlayStation has this illusion that the internet gaming community is the whole gaming community. The reality is far from that. What we interact with online, that is just a very small percentage of people who play games. It is not enough to advertise games online on gaming sites. It is not enough.

“So, what’s the problem then?” you may continue to ask. The problem is that PlayStation is advertising God of War during the Super Bowl. Let’s put this in perspective: Since its debut on the PlayStation 2 back in 2005, God of War has essentially become a flagship PlayStation franchise. It is popular. Very popular. As of 2012, God of War III (2010) sold over 5 million copies. People know about the franchise and people follow the game. When I used to work in games retail, people would come into the store over and over and ask, “So when is that new God of War coming out?” even if there was no new God of War announced yet. While marketing is still needed, it is one of the few franchises that has a hype train that helps sell itself. But still, that’s not the problem. The problem lies within the fact that CBS is charging a record high $4 million for a 30 second spot on Super Bowl Sunday. $4 million. That’s $4 million that could be put to better use.

There are a few problems with the Super Bowl spot. So far, the teasers are indicating that this is a live action commercial with no gameplay. Well, we all saw how well that worked with the recent PlayStation All-Stars commercial, right? Okay, live action spots are neat. Sure. But they do not sell games. People want to see the action, the gameplay, or at the very least, cutscenes pulled from the game itself. The next problem with the spot? God of War: Ascension needs marketing, but it does not need as much exposure as other products that PlayStation has. If PlayStation really, truly, and honestly wanted to splurge on a Super Bowl spot, couldn’t it have been for something that actually needs more marketing and exposure? Let’s say, something like the PlayStation Vita?

Since its launch almost one year ago, the PlayStation Vita has received little to no marketing in any beneficial way. At the start there were some confusing MLB 12 commercials that really didn’t show off the Vita’s features. It didn’t make people want to buy one. After those commercials, within a few weeks of the system’s launch, the airwaves were silent. This Super Bowl spot could be put to so much better use to advertise a product that actually needs it. Would it be so much to ask for a montage commercial for the PlayStation Vita Instant Game Collection bundle? Or how about a game that is coming out even sooner? Like, let’s say, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time? A franchise that should receiving more attention has garnered just about no support from SCEA’s marketing department to the general populace. The Sly Cooper franchise is great; It appeals to gamers young and old and it comes out in just a few days. The Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time demo was magic. Even more magical is the price – $39.99 for a brand new PlayStation 3 game that even includes a free copy of the Vita game. That’s a deal. A bargain that would appeal to the masses. Would it not be advantageous to advertise the game and the cross-buy promotion?

This perpetual marketing strategy that Sony has adopted over this last generation has me constantly wondering, “What is wrong with them?” PlayStation is a great company when it comes to providing new enjoyable games. Even their PlayStation Plus service is very consumer oriented. But what’s the point if there is nobody to enjoy it? I really think changes need to be made and it’s as easy as looking at those companies who have been successful. Companies like Apple, Nintendo, and Microsoft Xbox.

It saddens me when I play an amazing game from PlayStation and nobody has even heard of it. It’s depressing when I pull out my PlayStation Vita a year later and nobody knows what it is. This needs to change. I’m not a marketing major but I think the 101 is the same, you need to spend a little money to make a little money. I don’t expect Sony to mass market all of their titles, but just a few a year would be great. Take Nintendo’s marketing for example. I can turn on Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and expect to see a Nintendo commercial; And it’s not just for juvenile games! In fact, I’ll probably see those commercials a few times throughout the day. Is it really that difficult for Sony to do this with a few of their titles? I might not know the running rate of advertising on those channels, but surely it is not $4 million for 30 seconds like this Super Bowl Sunday commercial.

What about marketing partnerships? Would it not be advantageous if Sony partnered with a fast food chain like Burger King or McDonald’s and advertises the Vita or games on bags, and throw a toy from Sly, Ratchet & Clank, or LittleBigPlanet in a Kids/Happy meal? Kids get excited over these things and this type of marketing has been proven to work.

I’m a little tired of Sony making games that are released into an empty void. I’m a little tired of playing games that nobody else has. Games that I would love sequels to but will probably never get because of a lack of support. Sony can not expect consumer support if they do not support their titles and hardware a little in the form of marketing. Here’s hoping someone somewhere will have a voice and make a change inside the SCEA marketing department. I hope someone grows the balls to step up and say, “Hey, look at what these guys are doing! Why can’t we do the same?” I hope that PlayStation finally learns a lesson and begins to push their products and games, PlayStation Plus, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation Mobile, PlayStation Move, new IPs, and other first party games. I’m hoping. It’s up to you now, PlayStation. Consumers are ready and willing to buy and play – but they need to know. So, go to where the people are, their homes through their TVs and computers, restaurants, theaters, magazines, newspapers, and advertise, advertise, advertise!

 

Update [1/30/12 2:00 pm EST]: Sony has commented that the God of War: Ascension Super Bowl commercial will not air on television during the Super Bowl, but rather online. This however doesn’t change the general gist of the article. If anything, it helps reinforce it.