Sony stretched the truth of the PlayStation Vita’s capabilities in early advertisements for the handheld, and now the company is paying the price for misleading consumers.
Sony Computer Entertainment has agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission over claims that the game and hardware maker engaged in false advertising for the Vita. The FTC took issue with Sony’s claim that the Vita enabled gamers to pause any PS3 game and pick up playing it from anywhere using the Vita’s “cross-save” capability. The problem is that cross-save only worked for a handful of PS3 games, and the functionality varied from release to release, but the advertising made it seem like it worked for every PS3 title. Sony also failed to mention that you needed to buy both the PS3 and Vita versions to use this feature.
The terms of the settlement prevents Sony from making misleading claims in the future. The company must also refund $25 in cash or credit or a $50 merchandise voucher to anyone who bought a Vita before June 1, 2012. If you’re eligible, Sony will send you a notice by email.
The FTC also claimed that Sony implied gamers could use 3G wireless on Vita to play live multiplayer games when that never actually worked. You can read the full FTC complaint against Sony here.
“As we enter the year’s biggest shopping period, companies need to be reminded that if they make product promises to consumers — as Sony did with the ‘game changing’ features of its PS Vita — they must deliver on those pledges,” FTC director of consumer protection Jessica Rich said. “The FTC will not hesitate to act on behalf of consumers when companies or advertisers make false product claims.”
A Sony spokesperson provided GamesBeat with the following statement:
“We believe that PlayStation Vita is the most advanced and powerful handheld video game device on the market, and the ultimate companion for a PlayStation 4 system. The advertising at issue in the FTC inquiry went to market more than two years ago at PS Vita’s launch in February 2012. Although we have a strong difference of opinion with the FTC as to the message that PS Vita purchasers took from that advertising, we decided to settle the FTC’s inquiry in order to focus on the PlayStation 4’s momentum into this holiday, where PlayStation Vita continues to play an important role. PlayStation has always been and will continue to be a brand built around our consumers, with a mission to deliver the best gaming experiences as our top priority. To that end, our settlement with the FTC will offer qualifying PS Vita owners the unique opportunity to get additional value and content for their handheld system.”
The FTC also included Sony’s advertising firm Deutsch LA in the complaint for “astroturfing” on social media. Astroturfing is when a corporation or powerful entity tries to create what looks like a grassroots campaign but is actually paid advertising. In an internal email, a Deutsch LA executive asked employees to get on Twitter to use Sony’s “#gamechanger” hashtag for the PlayStation Vita. Many did so without disclosing they worked for Deutsch LA. The FTC claimed this made the hashtag misleading since many of the responses were not from real consumers.