The New York Times is reporting that the PlayStation Vita will be receiving $50 million in advertising for its U.S. launch. The Vita has had a lukewarm reception in the Japanese market: the handheld had some serious issues at launch that resulted in Sony apologizing to early adopters, and the slow sales since then have not changed anyone’s perceptions.
The theme of the campaign headed by the company Deutsch will be, “Never Stop Playing.” Advertising focus will be on playing games during regular non-interactive activities, such as a commute to work, and being able to play against strangers in a local area.
Twitter will also be a focus of the campaign with a new hashtag, #gamechanger, in many of these advertisements. Jason Elm, Executive Vice President and Creative Director at Deutsch, described the target audience thus:
The target audience for the Vita are men in their 20s who play video games eight hours a week or more and own a PlayStation3 console…. “Very socially plugged in, mobile, out and about, both physically and on the Internet.” Using the Twitter hashtag on the ads would help aggregate all of the conversations people were having about the product in one place.
Sony will also be using online advertisements on twenty-six web sites like Yahoo, ESPN, CNN, and YouTube in addition to using promoted Twitter posts, in order to direct consumers to the Vita web site. Online will not be the only place to see or hear these advertisements: TV shows like The Simpsons, Tosh.o, NBA, and NCAA basketball games, and banners will put up in many major cities like New York and Chicago. The Howard Stern show will begin advertising the Vita during March Madness. Sony’s Senior Director for PlayStation handheld consoles, John Koller, gave the following statement about the campaign:
The PS Vita would allow users “to feel engaged and still feel like they’re playing on a console.” … The cost of the marketing campaign at $50 million “is the largest platform launch in terms of marketing investment we’ve ever had.”
Analysis: Sony is obviously trying to make up for the lackluster launch in Japan and trying to instill confidence in the Vita name, especially with the post-launch problems. The Vita looks like it could be a good product, but I will never buy first gen hardware again due to the many issues seen with countless devices, Sony’s included. However, this is obviously a risk Sony needs to take in the U.S. The handheld market hasn’t been doing well in terms of units sold for anyone, including Nintendo’s 3DS. With this much influx and Sony’s other financial problems, I doubt this will pay off as well they’re hoping for.
The first reason for this can be traced backed to Gaming Bus’s earlier report this month about the lack of support for the UMD Passport System in the U.S. This is going to leave many people wondering why they even bought the PSP and supported the proprietary UMD format by Sony. The second reason is due to the hidden costs associated with the device as described in the linked article: the proprietary memory unit is the first thing people will cite as being an unreasonable price for yet another Sony device that might not be supported in the future.
These are just a few the reasons why people will question Sony and why they’ll wonder if they should support the Vita or not. In fact, the system may still lead poor sales for Sony in the U.S. The hardcore adopters of everything PlayStation and Sony won’t care, of course. But in order for sales to thrive, Sony needs to address those questions and more, not just try to make us feel good about being able to play on the go.