(The following article is an editorial contribution by Kev. J from Electronic Theatre)
The PLAYSTATION3 is an unusual beast. While many before it have strived to be the most powerful system of their respective generation, each has found itself falling into second place. Obviously, a commanding factor in this would be retail price – the higher a systems’ technical specification, the harder it is to bring manufacturing costs down – but in the case of the PLAYSTATION3, brand strength is more likely a decisive dynamic right here in the UK.
To suggest that the Xbox360’s early stuttering has harmed the system in the UK would be entirely misleading. The fragmented uptake of the Current-Generation was undoubtedly a result of the extended wait for the PLAYSTATION3 and a lack-lustre line-up when it eventually arrived. A gap of nearly eighteen months between Microsoft and Sony’s Current-Generation launches resulted in the PlayStation2 being considered dead long-before many other territories had begun writing it off, and the availability of just one Current-Generation system helped to sway the judgment of those on-the-fence. Surely, then, with its greatly increased market share and aggressive online strategy, the generation had already been claimed before Sony had even entered the UK market?
While Xbox360 unit sales may remain ahead of the PLAYSTATION3 in the UK – even to this day – the public perception of the market doesn’t necessarily correlate to the press releases and statements issued on behalf of the platform holders. Brand strength is an important aspect of marketing in any industry, and is undoubtedly Sony’s trump card here in the UK. “PlayStation” has become synonymous with videogaming in the same way that early eighties titles were referred to directly as “playing Nintendo”, as opposed to “playing videogames”. Gamers, for all their worth, would surely never confuse a system even at the slightest glance, yet their grandmother, neighbour or partner may often find “PlayStation” a more amiable point of reference than “videogames console”, and this most public perspicacity is not without merit.
The videogames industry as the UK sees it now is founded entirely upon principles established in the mid ‘90s. Innovative marketing campaigns aside, the PLAYSTATION3 is aligned on shop shelves – and, therefore, in the consumers minds – in much the same way as the original PlayStation system. While Nintendo featured the ever-widening Mario cast, Fox McCloud and Link as the stars of their ‘90s show, and SEGA continued to push Sonic along with a handful of unfamiliar faces, Sony insisted that the “PlayStation” brand itself, represented their more modern ethos. And here in the UK, things have certainly not changed. Mario adorns nearly every-other first-party release on Wii (and those which don’t invariably feature Miis) and Microsoft is heavily involved with their machismo protagonists, whilst Sony has avoided any such attachment with the PLAYSTATION3. LittleBigPlanet, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Killzone 2 and SingStar – these are just some of the gameplay opportunities the PLAYSTATION3 is home to.
Despite Microsoft’s effort with new franchises such as Scene It?, Viva Piñata and You’re in the Movies, there has been little to convince the Casual Gamer that Microsoft’s console would hold their interest, whereas the PlayStation brand retains the all-encompassing reputation earned through the PlayStation2’s extensive software catalogue. Despite the obvious gap in sales and software libraries, the PLAYSTATION3 is considered to be the console for those who require more choice in their range of software.
Price-point may affect a videogames consoles sales dramatically, but there’s little it can do to sway public opinion. With the basic PLAYSTATION3 model costing almost three-times as much as the basic Xbox360 bundle, many already believe the Xbox360 has run its course – as was the first major stumbling block of the GameCube when Argos forced Nintendo’s hand for an official price-drop less than a year after launch – rather than the PLAYSTATION3 being over-priced.
I would like to thank Blend Games for this opportunity to address the US audience, and hope that you will remember that not all is as the press releases suggest.