With Sony unveiling their latest console this week, the PlayStation 4, I thought it would be a good time to look back on how Sony went from ‘noob’ to ‘elite’ in the console war over the past two decades.
Sony launched their original PlayStation (PSX) back in 1994 into a market dominated by Nintendo and Sega. Originally intended to be a joint venture with Nintendo when contract negotiations fell through Sony decided to go it alone. Breaking into such a market was not an easy task and a solid strategy was required to do so.
Sony launched their console with a wide variety of titles to accompany it leaving gamers of all kinds hungry to pick one up. The ad campaigns were all a little ‘odd’ and intriguing too. It’s a format Sony has stuck with, as we’ll see later.
Perhaps the most iconic advert for any Sony PlayStation has to be the ‘head girl’. At the time it shocked audiences. There were articles in the news about it. How was this possible? Who was the girl? The advert certainly whipped up a bit of a storm and ultimately raised the profile of the PSX. The console was the first to sell 100 million units. Needless to say it was a commercial success.
In 2000 Sony released the PlayStation’s successor the PlayStation 2 (PS2). Now the market leader Sony strived to stay ahead of the pack. They pushed the boundaries incorporating DVDs allowing for more data per game. Once again Sony took the ‘odd’ approach with their adverts, selling the system as something more than a console.
I don’t think the impact was quite as strong as with ‘head girl’ but they did the job. The PS2 went on to become the best-selling home video game console to date.
However a new rival emerged as Microsoft launched their first games console the Xbox. Although one step behind Sony at this stage it was clear that they could become a major contender to Sony’s throne.
In 2006 Sony launched the PlayStation 3. Once again they made significant improvements on the last model, perhaps the biggest being the introduction of Blu-Ray (the first time we had really seen the technology in commercial use). The problem was that such innovations didn’t come cheap. The console launched with a price tag of around £425, pretty steep for most gamers. This is when Microsoft pounced. Their console, the Xbox 360, cost substantially less. Sony’s marketing didn’t help matters either as they stuck with the same quirky approach they had for the previous two campaigns.
Although sales have now surpassed the 360 the console had to undergo numerous price drops before doing so. This gamer didn’t pick one up till he got a good deal on a second hand model, long after buying an Xbox 360.
Overall I’d have to grade this entry a C with a “could do better” note” alongside. It’s not a bad console by any means, but even fans have to concede it hasn’t had the same impact 1 and 2 did.
So here we are. Playstation 4. Will it be able to re-capture what made the first two models great? Will we see another new batch of technology emerge? Will it provide experiences that its rivals just can’t match?
Ultimately its success will come down to marketing.
I feel Sony may need to go back to the drawing board with this one and really think about what will inspire gamers to go out and pick up their console. I’d advise they take a look at what Microsoft has done.
Below is one of my all time favourite console ads that never was. Pulled before it got to TV it simply shows people having fun, and thats all any console advert needs to say. I think Sony need to take a similar approach before they end up creating something Dior would be proud to call their own.