Next Friday, Sony will ship the PlayStation 4 to retailers throughout North America, delivering on a next-gen promise they made back in February when they first unveiled the PS3’s successor. Normally a big launch like this — you know, the whole “a new console only comes every 7-10 years” thing — warrants a big marketing and advertising push. For the past couple of weeks we’ve all seen one, but it hasn’t been from Sony. Microsoft, which ships its competing Xbox One a week after the PlayStation 4 hits retail, has been lighting up the Web, TV, print and “real world” with a ton of Xbox One promos. Excuse me for a moment, but if the PS4’s coming out next week, where the hell is Sony?
Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone? Is Sony even alive coming into the PS4’s launch? For having a new console on the horizon, Sony sure seems suspiciously quiet.
Coming out of E3, Sony had every possible ounce of momentum on its side. It didn’t have a crazy DRM strategy. It had a killer game lineup. It wasn’t requiring online check-in every 24 hours. It cost $100 less than its major next-gen competitor. Meanwhile, Microsoft bumbled its way through a rough two weeks with the Xbox One, eventually issuing the “Xbox 180” statement in which it reversed course of just about every objectionable Xbox One policy known to humanity.
Microsoft spent the summer in catch-up mode, and while there are still grumblings about Call of Duty: Ghosts displaying natively in 720p on Xbox One compared to the native 1080p on Sony’s PlayStation 4, by and large the two consoles are on equal PR footing. To Microsoft’s credit, they caught up rather well on the perception front.
I was positive all summer long and through early fall that Sony was watching all this with a smirk. No doubt the company was preparing to unleash something huge on the marketing world. It started with the Taco Bell PS4 promo, which was similar to their PS3 promo but nonetheless an incredible investment. Then this week we heard about some freebies that every PS4 owner will get once they buy the console (PS Plus trial, $10 PS Store credit, etc.). And…that’s it. That’s it?
Don’t get me wrong, those promos take a ton of money, and I absolutely respect that. But the Taco Bell deal represents a single promotional partner, and the freebies promo announced this past week is only worthwhile to people once they’ve purchased a PS4. Why isn’t Sony doing more to get new people engaged in the next-gen conversation? Why is the company so quiet on the marketing and promotions front? Why has their private media site not been updated with any new assets since GamesCom? Is the PlayStation Blog really Sony’s one-trick pony? They’re screwed if so, because only the hardcore fans go there.
Look, Wired had a nifty PS4 “under the hood” video this week. OK, that’s quaint. Microsoft announced a major deal with Univision Deportes on Xbox One, lifted the embargo on a ton of UI and hands-on game previews based on an event a couple of weeks ago, and announced that 7-Eleven will give away an Xbox One every week through early January.
I realize Sony has pricing on its side. A $100 difference is nothing to sneeze at, especially in this still-uncertain economy. But Sony’s had that since June. And let’s not forget the company’s had its own PR hit of late with the Ubisoft announcement that it’s delayed Watch Dogs, thus neutering all those PS4 Watch Dogs launch bundles. If Sony’s serious about the next-gen console battle, why are they standing so quietly by the wayside allowing Microsoft to drive the next-gen discussion?
Sony has a killer console on its hands, but outside of the hardcore gaming blogs and forums, nobody’s really hearing about it unless they go eat their Fourth Meal at Taco Bell. Wake up, Sony. Show signs of life here. You’re just one week away from the biggest day your platform will see for the next seven years, and it seems like you’re petering out worse than Nintendo. I want you to succeed. I want you to unload with both marketing barrels and give Microsoft a run for its money. But you’ll have to speak up — loudly, and very very soon — to make that happen. The sooner you do, all of us gamers will be better for it. Because competition breeds improvement, and when games improve, those of us who buy your products all benefit immensely.