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.