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"You play video games?"
"I have a PS3."
That is a completely real conversation I had with a coworker a few days after I got a job at the bumper factory in town. Many more very similar discussions have taken place there since. In fact, of the 30+ guys that work in the same department as me, I believe I am the only one who games primarily on a PlayStation 3 instead of an Xbox 360. And they are all pretty adamant that I am a loser for doing so.
If my coworkers are any indication, this is the audience that Sony is missing out on. They are fairly new to gaming (in fact, they probably used to make fun of it), they primarily play shooters, and they have a seemingly undying support for the Xbox. Sony hasn't connected with these people. Even more so, the company is a joke to them. How can they make the name PlayStation synonymous with quality gaming experiences in the minds of the millions of players that only started taking the hobby seriously within the last generation or two?
They can't. The PlayStation brand needs to die.
Because Sony needs this guy to like them.
I have countless fond memories of PS1 and PS2 games, and the strong brand association I hold because of that most likely contributed at least in small part to me owning a PS3. You would think it'd be hard for another company to top that nostalgic loyalty, but Microsoft launched their product at the same time that gaming was increasing its ground with a mainstream audience and backed it up with genius-level marketing.
The numbers are telling. Sure, at this point the PS3 is only about 3 million units behind the 360 in worldwide sales, but when you break it down by country, you realize how vital this unconvinced segment of consumers really is. In Europe, the PlayStation 3 has sold 4 million more systems than the Xbox 360, and in Japan, they're a whopping 6.4 million ahead, with the 360 only maintaining 7.2% of the market over there. The difference all comes down to North America, where Microsoft's 36.7 million consoles sold dominates Sony's 22.2 million and tips the overall scales in favor of the 360. (Source: VGChartz)
That 14-million-unit gap in North America is where Sony's unconvinced group of detractors exists, and they see the 360 as the be-all-end-all for gaming. The PlayStation? Not so much.
A strong brand is a remarkably powerful thing when it comes to selling products. You might think commercials are annoying and pointless, but they exist for a reason, and they are usually very successful in achieving their purpose. Plenty of studies show that you've stored all of those pitches, slogans, and stupid little jingles somewhere in the back of your head, and when you're in the grocery store staring at the toilet paper selection, all that shit will affect the purchase you ultimately make.
No amount of branding will help this one, however.
Now you see just how much Sony needs to sell the uninitiated on their brand of gaming, but the only way I see that happening is for them to start over. These people aren't poring over game sites for news; they get their gaming advice from friends, and their buddies all think the PS3 is lame. If Sony came out with a new console called the PlayStation 4, these people wouldn't give it a second glance. If they came out with a new brand, however, they might. They don't hate Sony, the PlayStation brand just carries negative connotations for them.
I actually thought Sony was setting us up for this a month ago when it sent out mass emails to those with PlayStation Network accounts saying that your "PlayStation Network account" was going to be renamed as a "Sony Entertainment Network account". The change seemed to point to future products that weren't under the PlayStation brand but also accessed their network. That's probably just conspiracy theory as the network in general still goes by the same name, but with E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo, gaming's big event for unveiling new hardware and games) approaching fast, they might very well show off a new game console, sans PlayStation name.
It might seem like a trivial change that would make no real difference, but perception is key. When the original PlayStation hit the block, they were the cool kids up against the old fogeys, and they held that status until Microsoft came along and took their place as the hot new thing in gaming. A name holds a lot of power; it gives the impression of a new beginning, even if the product would have been exactly the same under the PS4 name. And besides, doesn't everybody love a good trilogy?
How about a quadrilogy? Pffffft.