Is The PS Vita’s Marketing Really On Target?

The PS Vita’s out on the 22nd of February. Just over a week. It costs around £225 for the Wi-Fi version and you need a memory card.

There, I’ve done it. It’s not that hard. But, frustratingly, it appears that Sony are unwilling to get this device where it needs to be to actually get that information out there to the public. Sure, TSA readers and hardcore gamers will probably be switched on to the vital statistics of the new handheld, but Joe Public? I wouldn’t have thought so, and Sony are running out of time to get this thing pre-ordered.

Let’s start with the positives. Vita Rooms was a brilliant idea and from what I could see it works well enough – everyone that attended the Glasgow launch event loved it (including us) and the buzz about the system was palpable.

Showing off the Vita and the games alongside a knowledgeable member of staff is crucial, but the relaxed atmosphere and wide array of titles was conclusively positive.

[drop]And the coverage on the PlayStation Blog? Great, there’s been lots of developers allowed to post up content and most of the first party games at least have had a fair amount of coverage. So, SCEE have catered to those that read the official Blog and those that follow them on Twitter and Facebook nicely enough.

In terms of magazine coverage, most of what I’ve seen standing out has been in MCV (and indeed, on their site) which is great for those of us in the industry (MCV’s a trade magazine) but I’ll wager most gamers haven’t even heard of the magazine, let alone subscribe to it. And as magazine readership dwindles, is this really a medium that still represents best value for money for advertising buyers?

Where are the adverts on the sides of buses? Where are the advertising boards around the football matches?  Big pre-roll ads in cinemas like Sony did with Gran Turismo 3? Global, non-specialist magazines like Wired, or Time? Where’re the TV adverts? The only thing I’ve seen on TV was a fumbled, embarrassing attempt at showing off Reality Fighters, arguably the Vita’s poorest game, on Something For The Weekend. Hardly inspiring.

Do most people know when the Vita’s coming out? Do they know the games can be bought via the PSN? Do they know which games need a memory card?

Apparently SCEA are spending $50 million on advertising the Vita, with John Koller saying the target for the ads will be “men in their 20s who play video games eight hours a week or more and own a PlayStation 3 console.” You could argue that this market is those that are most likely to already know about the Vita, although I’m happy enough to concede that all marketing has to have an initial focus – hopefully it’s expanded to a wider audience later.

There’s a theme, too, throughout the campaign – “Never Stop Playing” – and, and you might expect, a hashtag – ‘#gamechanger‘ – it’s a neat idea, but try searching for that and see what you get just now.

And then, back to Europe, there’s the quirky relationship between the SCEE PlayStation Blog and the Official PlayStation Magazine UK website. The former’s run by Sony Europe and the latter is run as an offshoot of the Future Publishing published OPM mag. But there’s an odd amount of overlap between the two, with tweets from the Blog account regularly pushing plenty of readers the way of OPM (and OPM doing the same with weekly round-ups).

[videoyoutube]I get that it’s official, that’s fine, but when 200,000+ followers of SCEE’s account get forwarded to this – “PS Vita’s complete launch lineup” to quote ad verbatim – it’s annoying. On two levels – the article is hardly comprehensive (and a little inaccurate – Escape Plan will not be available from ‘any self-respecting retailer’ as it’s PSN only), and secondly because we tried to get a ‘retweet’ of our much more substantial report the weekend before. One took two days solid, the other reads like a press bulletin.

Sadly, we didn’t get a mention at all from either of the main PlayStation accounts. We tried, and we’d have thought the followers of the Blog twitter account would appreciate some solid, hard evidence about game prices, download sizes and honest thoughts, but apparently not. In fact, it looks like the @PlayStationEU account doesn’t link to anywhere apart from the Blog and OPM.

Or, indeed, reply to any questions. This, as any social media specialist will tell you, is not really considered good practice, and is hardly interactive or inviting.

In fact, it appears from the stream that for the last few weeks all that account has done is fire out links, and ignore any incoming questions. Perhaps there’s not someone employed to manage the account, but with 200,000 followers there damned well should be – the last time there was a retweet or reply of any kind was on the 13th of January, and that was to @psaccess, another affiliated account.

We’d be responding to questions, inviting people to ask us stuff they didn’t know, and to gather valuable marketing information. We’d be pushing pre-order links (especially given recent rumours about GAME’s stock levels) and – you know – links to the community sites like TSA that give up lots of time to collate all this data.

I see so many unanswered questions and so much confusion around the web. On forums, in comments – people don’t know everything they should know a week away from launch, and it’s frustrating. We’re not here to do Sony’s work on this, but it feels like it’s the community and sites like ours (of course, there are many sites doing what we do) responding to queries and filling the gaps that should – in my opinion – already be filled in.

I’m happy to be proved wrong, but all this isn’t really working for me just yet. The Vita is a wonderful machine, don’t mess this one up, Sony…

This is a personal blog and the views do not necessarily represent those of anyone else.

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43 Comments

  1. Sony have dropped the ball before they’ve even caught it. The Vita is in BIG trouble. It’s a great little machine, but it’s the wrong price, at the wrong time, and with the wrong marketing campaign. Just like the PSP-Go all over again.

    • yep, Sony love to make a ballsup of pretty much every single advertising campaign for any product.

      • Kevin Butler would like a word.

      • I think Bilbo meant over here. Hell, even Sony screwed that up too! I think I speak for most folk when we would’ve lapped-up Kevin Butler on our TV screens during the commercial breaks.

      • God, I hate Kevin Butler; he’s not even funny.

      • I think that puts you in the minority, I bet you hate Cave Johnson too.

        And the Kevin Butler ads were a huge success, at least in the amount of buzz they got, even if some people disliked them. We haven’t seen anything like that from SCEE. (Why didn’t they call SCEA and ask to use their ads?)

      • I absolutely detest advertising as a rule, but the Kevin Butler ads got me, I liked the light hearted nature of them a lot. They felt innovative and fresh whilst SCEE’s adverts are invariably pretentious and boring, on those rare occassions they even materialise at all.

    • I agree with you to some extent, definitely not an ideal time, and the wrong or lack-thereof marketing campaign, but I don’t think it’s doomed. The PSP-Go was wrong from a hardware perspective – essentially a smaller version of the PSP, there was nothing new – if anything it lacked a lot less features and people were already set on the regular PSP. The Vita is a whole new beast that can be marketed as such. New hardware, new game experience… I think it will catch on… just give it some time

  2. I fear youve hit the nail on the head. I was talking to a few friends last week who claim to be casual gamers. I asked them if they were considerin g the Vita and they just gave me a blank look as if i had spoken some foreign dialect to them. They had absolutely no idea what it was!

    • I honestly don’t see how casuals would be interested, The Vita for me seems to appeal to the core more.

      • I agree with you, but they should at least have a small clue as to what it is.

    • Same here 99% of my mates dont know what a Vita is. Sony better get their act sorted quickly!

      • Also my mates claim to be rather core.

    • Same here. For years, Sony has almost failed each and every time when it comes to marketing a product (or a game). I don’t quite know what’s happening at HQ but I assume that the marketing department is woefully underfunded which breaks my heart. It’s like Ford coming out with the best car possible then telling barely a soul about it.

      How can Sony NOT see the benefits of pushing this properly? It’s almost arrogantly ignorant and it’s easily the most frustrating problem I have with Sony. If they were making shit products I’d understand but the PS3 and Vita are stellar bits of kit. How can they NOT see what others are doing? Why are we not seeing Sony/PS3/Vita daubed on every livery known to mankind?

      Jeez, guys. Please, please learn from this one day.

      • This was the downfall of SEGA consoles as well.

        The Dreamcast was a beast of a console, way ahead of it’s time with fabulous games and peripherals (memory cards that are gameboys? wtf!).

        Only nobody ever heard of it.

  3. Wonderful article. Hit the nail on the head. The Twitter accounts should be run by an outside PR agency (but no one will ever tell you that…it’s “Sony”). The independent sites have really taken up the Vita baton, but Sony’s PR coverage on TV and the larger press is abysmal, properly shocking. Whoever is responsible needs re-assessing.

    • OK, looks like the PR remit (which should include twitter accounts, newspaper & magazine articles, youtube videos, TV appearances, events etc) is handled by Shine Communication in the UK, which the launch of the Vita being a primary task.

  4. I’d like to be a fly on the wall in Sony Europe’s marketing and PR departments. Then again, it’d probably be empty judging by the lack of coverage.

    • I think they may have lost the keys to those departments.

  5. Great article, marketing appears to be slack. The Vita is also a great opportunity to grab some of MicroSofts’ fanbase, it’ll give 360 owners the chance to have a portable console, and benefit from experiencing some of Sony’s exclusives such as LBP and Uncharted. Therefore the marketing is key and it seems pretty non-existant so far.

    • Not it won’t. Pretty much the only reason anyone buys an Xbox 360 is because it’s the CHEAP alternative, the exact same reason the PS2 was more popular than the Xbox. and considering the Vita is fuck of expensive (more than a PS3, for a bloody handheld!) it’s hardly a mainstream games machine like the PS2 was back in the day and the 360 is now.

      • You can’t assume no XBox owner can’t afford a Vita, nor that people buy a 360 as its cheaper. Some may have bought an Xbox as their friends did, or as it came out before the PS3. PS3 owners are probably far more aware of the Vita than XBox owners, therefore the more it is marketed, the more potential is has to succeed and reach outside Sony’s target audience who are PS3 owners.

      • You see- Microsoft learn from their mistakes (ps2 was more popular than xbox because it was cheaper) as you see in the 360 (which is much cheaper than ps3). However, Microsoft make MORE money than Sony because you have to pay for almost everything you could imagion.

  6. Good article, they’ve got the launch title’s ect right this time around, but PR has been awful. If it was me doing PR, everyone would know D/L prices in all regions a month before launch.

  7. It’s a pity that Sony cant take a leaf out of Ninty’s book with the superb advertising campaigns that they run…..especially with TV adverts. Do Sony feel that it’s too humbling or something? I really don’t get it, such golden opportunities missed :(

  8. Most people that I know that are gamers, although not that serious haven’t even heard of Vita. Some that do know something about it truly think it’s called the PSP2. And then the rest that do know more about Vita are confused about exactly what it does and what you need i.e a memory card. I think they’ve got confused as they haven’t followed it through various news sites, they just hear/read something about it every now and again. But the thing is, where detail have changed, such as the ability to switch PSN accounts etc, they still think they can.
    Sony need to realise they have to spend money to make money.

    • Same here. People playing on the PS3 seem to believe it’s the PSP2 or they havent heard of the Vita. They also had no idea of the SEN/PSN thing.

  9. “Biggest advertising campaign ever” is on the way. Presumably starting at/after launch like SCEA’s though

    http://www.mcvuk.com/news/read/sony-has-biggest-campaign-ever-ready-for-vita-paunch/089480

    • Vita paunch, the mental image is awesome :)

  10. I heard it referred to at the weekend as a Playstation Vimto. I’m not sure if the (casual gamer) friend was joking, but it says it all really.

    • Well Sony will be the one’s getting “Tangoed” if they don’t put the message out there soon.
      *cough* Ahem sorry, had to be said! :P

    • VImto. One word: genius

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