Articles on artshole - Playstation market campaign
Work produced by Liou Ming Law
Playstation market campaign
Sony (Also known as Sony Corporation), a multibillion-dollar company and are well known worldwide for their electronic products with ever-changing cutting edge design. Sony began their life first with the radio transistor in Japan 1955, then moved onto the smallest and lightest television in 1962; next the first home tape video recorder in 1965 and the world ‘s smallest tape recorder in1978. Progressing into the digital age, Sony created the famous Walkman in 1980, then established the one-piece CD player in 1984 and moved onto the write-able CD in1990. All these are merely a brief illustration of some of Sony’s leading inventions. The year 1994, birth of the Playstation, is what I am intended to focus my analysis into the relevance and effectiveness of media and marketing strategies for this particular Sony invention which I believe is very successful both because of the coherence and representation of what Sony is about, and the continuity of its previous design with the insertion of new ideas developed amongst all the rivals.
My interest was first triggered in 1995, when I brought a Playstation imported from Japan costing £399.99. The price was relatively high considered that you could buy the UK version a year later at half the cost. The most important and distinctive feature about the machine was the quality and capacity of the 3-D (three-dimensional) rendering of each clip of the actions. Its 3-D medium allowed you to manoeuvre easily within a virtual space giving you a sense of freedom closely mimicking the reality - a totally new and visually stimulating experience to date for computer gamers. However not long after the launch of Sony Playstation, other well-known game console giants such as Sega and Nintendo also began to offer a similar entertainment, Sega Saturn and Nintendo N64 respectively, to secure their positions in the market. Sega was famous for its arcade games and Nintendo was the giant of home entertainment since 1988 for its 8-bit machine. By comparison, Sony Playstation were virtually unknown in the game console market. How did Sony Playstation become the dominant player within such a relatively short period of time?
The development of 3D technology is a very important and influential ingredient in the next generation of home entertainment, a medium that forms a crucial part of the progressive development of the new sensual and intricate strategic levels of arcade games. Like Namco’s Ridge Racer, a virtual racing title, was a great success in Arcade history. In order for the audience to know that Playstation was capable of producing such standard, they also had Ridge Racer as one of its first eight software titles. Using previous success of Namco to market the Playstation, getting the message across, and letting people know the capability of their products.
interest in computer gaming goes a long way back into the year 1988. While
Nintendo was developing the Super Famicom, Sony had forwarded the idea
to develop a CD-ROM drive on the Super Famicom. It was called a Super-Disc
at the time, and eventually became what’s known as the Playstation,
a machine that could play both Nintendo cartridges and Sony CDs, where
Sony were be the ‘sole worldwide licenser ’ stated in the
contract. As time progress, CD-ROM gradually became the next big thing
in home computer entertainment, Nintendo feared the negative impact of
this joint venture could potentially side lined the Super Famicom. In
1991, Nintendo decided to break the contract with Sony and join up with
Sony’s long-time rival, Philips. Since then, Sony has been working
on a system independently - the Playstation. On December 3, 1994, the
Playstation was released in Japan with more than 300,000 units sold. People
in Japan were queuing outside the store, at 9:00am in the morning just
waiting to buy the system, like queuing up for Christmas sales!
Sony Playstation were officially launched in UK in September 1995, priced at £299.99 each, around 350 000 units sold by Christmas 1995. Such success would not be the credit of the consoles alone, but the careful planning of the marketing strategies, one of which was distributing the Playstation through the wide range of retailers. Big Stores like HMV, Virgin Megastore, Dixon, Toys R Us, Electronics Boutique etc were displaying the Sony Playstation on their windows, and posters were seen on the street. Sony also advertised the Playstation in the underground; it was a very unusual place at that time for computer games to be advertised. The idea was fresh and made noticeable, like the TV advertisement with the catch line ‘Don’t underestimate the power of the Playstation’. The initial idea of Playstation advertisement was to let people know the age group for computer games was no longer limited to kids. It has expanded to people of all ages, hence not bound by age or sex. Therefore the marketing strategy was mainly aiming at an older group of audience rather than the 8-16 year old demographic of the past.
tag ‘U R Not E’ (the ‘E’ being ready) and a rumoured
$40 million to spend on Launch marketing, Sony Playstation swiftly positioned
themselves as the game console market leader. Perhaps in my perception,
the computer games that were once targeted at kids and teenagers in the
last generation have also grown up. The audience and users of the last
generation have followed their upbringing and continued into the next
generation together (existing domain) with the new generation of kids
and teenagers (new domain). The Sony Playstation have managed to keep
their users from generations to generations, representing the essence
of home entertainment where the Playstation provide not only personal
entertainment but also fill the gaps between generations of a family of
users. Hence the idea in expanding and reaching out to an increased domain
of audience would be highly critical. The canvas for advertising Playstation
were endless. I have even heard of the Playstation adverts being broadcasted
on the radio! The expansion to promote the console continues, giving demo
disc with computer magazines to promote new release, and game testing
in shops. The easy accessibility of the public media provides infinite
number of continuous links for the Playstation to spread out like a web
to reach us.
People tend to buy game console with the largest software selection and cheapest prices because consumer are not stupid and want good value for their consumptions with maximum entertainment turnovers. Sony Playstation has always been a price leader, incorporating aggressive strategies. As a new entrant in 1996, Sony recognized that it would have to reduce switching costs for existing consumers while attracting new customers, so the company led a market share entailing low prices.
Minimising costs for producers and retailers has always been part of the pricing strategies that Sony consider as a key factor for survival. This has been evident since the Playstation’s first model, where it had various slots on the back of the machine, expansion slot for video, network slot, power input, and various video output source (AV, DC, S Video). Then, the second model excluded all other output, with just one video out called multi AV. Finally ‘PS one’, the final model, with just power input, video output and a network slot. Through a strategy of trial and improvement, started with many ideas of what the Playstation might be, and breaking it down to one idea purely focused on profit seeking. Needless to say, Playstation must have had many prototypes before actually being sold into the market. The idea of simplification in Sony design originated from its Founder, Masaru Ibuka. Nobutoshi Kihara, a technical engineer at the time who was working on the tape recorder, in 1947 he stated:
‘…Ibuka would say that a cassette version would be handier than a reel to reel, or a smaller and lighter machine would be easier to use and easier to sell…’
‘…I’d have five or six of these prototypes stuffed away under my desk-experimental models. Then one day Ibuka would say: ‘Kihara, a cassette style portable would be very handy to have, don’t you think?’ …’
expansion in Sony’s thinking represents the budding resources they
possess, this means they would always churn out ideas that are too far
fetch for their competitors. Like the Nintendo 64, a 64-bit machine, which
has already beaten Playstation technically, but Nintendo 64 would never
stand a chance because of the lack software producers’ support.
Companies likes Square-Soft, Namco, Capcom, Konami etc were large game
companies that produce games for Playstation. Software companies are like
a design brand or an author, people tends to follow because they knew
and trusted the contents and styles. Sony also design software of their
own as a way of generating more profit for the company. Instead of keep
on advertising the Playstation, the software companies can advertise their
new release game into the market, using them as a source to advertise.
In Hollywood, games like Jurassic Park, Die Hard were early signs of film-converted
games for Playstation. Another strategy from Sony to lure in more consumers
in buying the Playstation, attracting the audience with greater variety
and establishing a firmer trust, ensuring them that the Playstation will
succeed as the next generation’s console.
Despite all these, the most important aspect about Sony that influenced the whole home entertainment principal was that they wanted to simulate an experience, which matches, if not betters the real world. Things that most people would not be able to do realistically, like crashing in a car at 200mph, picking a fight with many opponents.
such as steering wheels that were made for racing games, vibrating control
pads that were made to expand the experience, fishing rods and many others,
just to provide the actions with more dimension. Playstation could grant
those people who suffer from the hectic and routine “nine to five”
life, a chance to quickly switch into an exciting moment; in another word
people of any kind are buying this new and exciting moments of colourful
experience in its virtual world. For those who cannot afford long uninterrupted
game play sessions, Sony made “memory cards” that allow them
to pause and resume those moments in the virtual world. Rather than being
seen as a console for people to entertain alone, Sony want to change such
perception in all angles. The “Four-player Adapter” converts
the indulging moment in the virtual world into a social event and this
is just the beginning of Sony’s progression to the future gaming
world. The twists and turns, its innovation in the function of computer
gaming, give the audience solid reasons to buy a Playstation, it’s
strategy have leapfrogged most companies in this industry and have set
Visual consistency and coherence are crucial in generating a sense of familiarity to the audiences/ users. The colour chosen for Playstation is a grey of a particular manufacturing code, this will remain consistence throughout their themes. The grey coats the main board, with the four-letter word SONY in a particular font which have been a common theme in all their products, this is already a great way of advertising the Playstation as many people are already very familiar with Sony’s many products and their qualities. Many people know the name Sony because of their electronic products, but what if Sony didn’t make electronic, would Playstation still be a huge success? For Playstation, the secondary colour is black, which is used in advertisement and on the back of each Sony Playstation CDs. The black CD has made a strong identity for Playstation. The visual working together creates a luxurious feeling, assuring the consumers that the products are of supreme qualities, they have been well thought through both in terms of the inside (functions) and the outside (aesthetics).
Playstation Controller Pad was a great break through; to understand more we need to look at the design of the control pad through Sega and Nintendo. Sega Saturn pad came from the idea of Mega drive, the four simple buttons ABCD with the direction buttons (up, down, left, right). Nintendo’s idea was pretty much the same, except the button were other alphabets YBXA. When Playstation launched into the market, the Playstation controller pad was totally new to people. The buttons OX?? on the Playstation, produced brand new image of how the machine is different to the others. Even though the Nintendo 64 had a new shape for it’s controller pad, but Playstation’s pad was still more efficient in comparison, with the increased number of buttons and reduced in size. This demonstrated Sony’s determination to invest into the future success of the Playstation.
the Playstation is almost as important as any other visual content, the
word Playstation simplified into ‘PS’, ‘P’ in
red, ‘S’ in yellow, blue and green. The user-friendly look
of the colourful spectrum, positioning the text in a 3-dimensional way,
express a meaning of futuristic 3-D entertainment, creating a strong visual
impact. This logo is then centred beneath the company logo ‘SONY’,
the globally recognized logo to conclude its status as a Sony Entertainment.
Sony’s intention of setting aside an identity for their brand goes a long way back. For example the Walkman was supposedly to have a different name in every country because the name Walkman was Japanese-English. ‘Sound-About’ in United State and ‘Stowaway’ in Britain, but Sony later, for the sake of simplicity, decided that the name Walkman would appear with no variation regardless of the language differences in different countries. However, with the name Playstation, the Japanese thought it would convey to native English speakers of an infant baby playing in its crib. Until now Sony’s products have always stayed with one name for each brand, they want the public to know it’s a Japanese product, establishing the Japanese culture.
‘….Ohga launches into a lecture. The television, he tells the silent room is ‘the centre of home.’ Just as Sony transformed the TV business once with Trinitron, it must do it again, making the television set a single, simple control centre, so that you point the remote control only at the screen rather than at each individual machine.’
approach for design is Simplicity and Relaxation, entertainment without
any confusion. The user-friendly adaptation of Home Entertainment is the
key objective that drives the Playstation forward. The ‘Plug and
Play’ system with a controller pad resembles the mini game console
centre, selling this idea as more of an interactive entertainment venue
for everyone, not just a plaything for kids.
‘I have switches in my head… and when I throw them, they change me completely. When I fly my jet I ‘m a pilot and all I think is flying safely. When I land I remember I must negotiate a contract. Then I remember I must conduct and I pore over my score’
This is one of the many statements, which shows the ‘Sony Spirit’, especially in Japan designers who work in large company has to follow and broadcast the spirit of its founder – the originator of the essence of the company. On 7th of May 1946, the post-war period, Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita who were the founders of Sony, they gathered a group of engineers in the trying to rejuvenate the country’s spirit. Their dream was to reconstruct Japan and elevate the nation’s culture through electronics, establishing freedom-relieving stress after agonizing pain people went through in the war.
Sony’ brand have set people a new standard of life, the visual look of their products based on the simple and clearly distinguished silver, grey and black; assuring that the qualities of their brand are trustworthy, by proofing consistency in functions and excitement in new ideas/ products. More importantly was Masaru Ibuka’s idea for efficiency, one of the things he stated in the management policy:
‘We shall eliminate any unfair profit-seeking practices, constantly emphasize activities of real substance and seek expansion not only for the sake of size;’
It was that strictness that Ibuka established early in the company, that helped the followers to carefully market with minimal loss for their campaign.
Throughout my research, I have grown much admiration for the spirit of Sony, how a group of engineers can develop into a worldwide known company. Through the concept of their founders, the devotion of the followers, creating an endless trail of Sony spirit in each and every brand. Come to think of it the Japanese might have lost the battle with the Americans but their achievement in electronics have already outshined them by far. The success of the Playstation have much to credit on its technicality and innovative design, but what lies behind is the Spirit of Sony emerging through the effectiveness of the media and marketing strategies, they worked hard to let the outsiders see what we see Sony was, is and will be.
Private Life, by John Nathan; HarperCollins Business, 1999
Work produced by Liou Ming Law