Sony Gets A ‘Mac Guy’

Sony’s recently redesigned PS3 came with a price drop to $299, and a look at the future of their message of an all-in-one entertainment device. Their marketing has centered around somewhat eccentric commercials that portray PS3 as an experience, but in this economy, Sony is shifting to showcase the value of owning a PS3.

From Ad Age:

The character of Kevin Butler is part office drone, part smart-ass customer-service rep in the new style of ads that are more feature- and benefit-driven than any previous PS3 work. Nine creative executions with Kevin Butler at their center will address the different capabilities of the now-almost-3-year-old video-game console, pointing up everything from Blu-ray-movie playing to wireless connectivity. The tagline is “It only does everything.”

Peter Dille, senior VP-marketing, Sony Computer Entertainment America, joked that Kevin Butler is “the Shell answer man at Sony,” changing jobs and swapping out ridiculous titles in each ad.

“Humor, and especially irreverent humor, has been part of the PlayStation brand for a long time,” Mr. Dille said. “The price move [to $299 last week] to us is only half of the story. … We believe [the new ads] will work hard to reposition the PS3 for a more mass audience.”

The new commercials showcase Kevin Butler (played by actor Jerry Lambert) in a series of customer service discussions with everyone from a rumor-mongering blogger to a concerned girlfriend that doesn’t understand why her beau hasn’t hooked his PS3 into the Internet. His response to the latter? What s wrong with him?!

This is head-and-shoulders above Sony’s previous marketing campaigns for PS3, and ties together the new price in a great way for increasingly budget-conscious consumers. Take a look at a couple of the videos below:

 

Guitar Hero Brand Undergoes Tweaking

From Pentagram:

Today, Guitar Hero releases Guitar Hero 5, setting the stage for the next evolution of Activision’s business growth: the introduction later this fall of Band Hero and DJ Hero. This required the company to reexamine its overall brand identity for the first time. Activision enlisted Pentagram to assist in this effort.

The original Guitar Hero logotype expressed the brand’s heavy metal roots. Idiosyncratic with a vengeance, it became more and more complicated with the introduction of successive game versions. The extension of the “Hero” brand to new platforms, including Band Hero (a multiplayer game featuring a broader range of pop music) and DJ Hero (a new turntable-based experience where the player spins and scratches songs in unique mixes), called for a redrawn logotype that could consistently work across the range of product types.

What do you think of the new logotype? You can see a comparison here, and we’d love to read your comment below.

 

 

Rock Band Hits The Bar Scene

Rock Band is a great game, but it s just a little bit better when people get a little loose with some liquid courage. That s why Harmonix’s new effort to bring Rock Band to bars across the country is a fantastic idea.

Bar owners interested in the program are asked to sign up at RockBand.com/BarNights for a package that includes use of Rock Band promotional materials and logos, promotion of the bar s events on the Rock Band site, and, more interestingly, access to the game’s full catalog of over 800 songs.

We’ll keep track of this, but it s a great way to get in front of the consumers who have put the music genre on top and may have forgotten about games like Rock Band in recent months. First round’s on us.

Prepare For Video Games To Overtake Movies, TV

From Barron’s:

The videogame industry’s opportunity, to hear Activision Blizzard Chief Executive Bobby Kotick tell it, is nothing less than a chance to vanquish the film and television industries, a process that is unfolding now and could be realized in five years: “I view the medium as having the potential to eclipse film and television,” he asserted in a telephone interview from his office in the heart of the world’s entertainment capital. (Activision Blizzard is the only videogame company that is so situated.)

His industry will get its chance, says Kotick, when the next generation of hardware makes it possible to master the difficult art of facial animation, bringing characters to life and providing an emotional connection that allows for better storytelling and character development — what film and TV deliver today. The notion is not as far out as it might seem, as anyone with teenagers can attest. Already, videogames have begun providing an interactive and physical experience, with systems such as Nintendo’s Wii and games like Guitar Hero, that go well beyond anything on film and TV in terms of audience interaction and participation.

Video games have already made their impact on pop culture, with game-based movies Prince of Persia, Bioshock and Halo making regular headlines on Variety and The Hollywood Reporter as they get developed.

Considering the strides made in creating all-in-one entertainment platforms with Xbox 360 and PS3, we tend to agree that there’s a lot of unrealized potential there. It’s just a matter of having the right games and hardware at the right price points, and with the right marketing to expand the audience.

The Nintendo Wii shows it s not enough to just engage the hardcore, but to try and open up a mainstream consumer in ways that are still unrealized by Microsoft and Sony. The strides of the latter two companies are admirable with Blu-Ray and digital distribution, but until there s a low cost console that focuses on, say, the Netflix/Facebook/Twitter integration on Xbox 360, Kotick’s words will go unproven.

Massive Announces Massive In-Game Ad Deals

From Joystiq:

Microsoft’s in-game ad company, Massive, has announced that it will be providing ads for several major publishers this fall, namely THQ, EA and Activision. Massive will supply ads for EA’s sports lineup — including Madden NFL 10 — and Need for Speed: Shift. For Activision, the company will provide ads for the many upcoming Hero games, including Guitar Hero 5, DJ Hero and Band Hero, as well as Tony Hawk Ride and Blur. There will also be ads in THQ’s MX vs ATV Reflex as well as its smash hit UFC 2009: Undisputed. Also, expect ads in Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell: Conviction — projected on the walls, perhaps — when it launches next year.

You can take a look at all the details on their official page here, with an interesting deal with Blizzard and the revamp Battle.net probably kicking off with the hotly-anticipated Starcraft II. Recent integrations include a summer-long Sprint campaign for 1 Vs. 100, and in-ring and banner ads in the latest edition of EA’s Fight Night.

Dark Void Pre-Order Infomercial

More companies are hopping on the informercial bandwagon in recent months, with the latest entry being this cheesy informercial for Dark Void from Capcom.

The viral video promotes Dark Void and pre-order site Gold4Jetpack.com in a way that would make Billy Mays proud, with forced testimonials and grainy video like you’ve never seen. And star wipes?  You betcha!

All we want to know is who s more to blame: Ron Popeil or the Shamwow guy

Wii Sports Resort Dethroned In UK

The new Eidos game Batman: Arkham Aslyum had enough power to dethrone the number one game of the past several weeks in the UK, Wii Sports Resort.

Wii Sports Resort is Nintendo’s first blockbuster hit of 2009, but the masked hero was bolstered by a multi-console release and significant word of mouth to make it Eidos biggest all formats number one since 2000.

We expect NPD data for the US to come out any day now, and that will give us a good sense of how Batman is tracking against the almost-certain number one Wii Sports Resort in America.

[via GfK Chart Track]

Video Of The Day: The Ballad Of Gay Tony

Rockstar Games is releasing the second and last (known) expansion to the popular Grand Theft Auto IV, and this one is subtitled The Ballad of Gay Tony. The unfortunately reality is communities like Xbox Live can help foster a juvenile homophobia with (generally speaking) some young teenagers.

So it s a bit of a marketing risk subtitling the expansion to one of this generation s most important series with The Ballad of Gay Tony. Kudos to Rockstar, and you can now take a look at the beat-thumping, sparkle-rich trailer below as our video of the day.

AFK: Borderlands On One Wall

The upcoming Gearbox-developed shooter Borderlands is the subject of today’s AFK, and it gives you a look at the structure of the game’s storyline, all on one wall. Kotaku was at the studio and snapped the photo which goes to show, even the most high-tech products begin with just a paper and pen.

[via Kotaku]

 

Exclusive Feature: An Analysis Of The New PS3

At E3 2005, with Sony having conquered the video game world with the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 over the previous eleven years, the Japanese consumer electronics behemoth was faced with a surging Xbox 360, a soon-to-be-resurgent Nintendo and questions of whether or not they could pull it off a third time.


The Start Of The Fall

Attendees of Sony’s annual media event that year were given their first glimpse at an answer with a smoke and mirrors show unlike anything seen before at E3. Glorious demo after demo was shown, all presented by developers who swore up and down that these games, while not playable on the show floor this year, were examples of the power of the upcoming PlayStation 3.

Unfortunately, the stunning images shown that day wouldn’t come to pass, and that would be Sony’s first stumble in a painful transition from the market-dominant PlayStation 2 to the PlayStation 3. For an example, look at the disparity between the games first shown to the E3 crowd and the first batch of games that would eventually launch the system.

Reality would hit Sony and its fans extremely hard one year later when the actual PlayStation 3 would be shown to the world, leading to some absolutely painful viral videos that are today breaking over 1 million views each. A sample:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=IH2w2l1JTs4

Cringeworthy, to say the least, and it would lead to a staggered launch, multiple revisions on the PlayStation 3, and a drop from first place in the video game market to a third, all while Sony lost hundreds of dollars on each unit sold. If anything, this is an example of how a solid brand with a passionate following can falter and drop off the radar because of some short term gains in trying to wow consumers enough in 2005 to hold off on their purchases.

Slim Arrives

That s why all eyes have been on Sony in recent months, with rumors circulating about a new slim version of the PlayStation 3 coupled with a lower price point. After spending the last three years experimenting with different pack-ins, price points and models (five have come out), Sony announced a new single SKU for the PlayStation 3.

The new PS3 would come with 120GB hard drive, built-in Wi-Fi, a free online network (users of Xbox Live pay $50 a year to play with others online) and, most compellingly, a $299 price tag.

Couple this with a games library that is finally catching up to the hype, with Uncharted 2 regularly on the Amazon.com Top Five Video Games sales list, and Sony has set up a great foundation on which to build a brand. The price was finally right, the games were starting to actualize, and the system itself had a sleek new look and feel.

Now about that brand . . .

PlayStat– err, PS3

In the past few years, Sony has done everything to turn the ubiquitous PlayStation name into a hollow shell of its former self. The PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles are still widely regarded as opening up the video game market in the 90s and early part of this decade, and helped Sony attain the number one position in this lucrative market.

Unfortunately, the mistrust and disappointment over the PlayStation 3 so permeated the business and brand perception that Sony made one of the most drastic changes in the industry s history. PlayStation would not be elevated as the brand of note anymore. It’s not even called the PlayStation 3, and we dare you to find anything but a glancing mention of the word PlayStation.

Nope, it’s just PS3.

Everything, from the name to the logo to the video bumpers would start elevating PS3. Amongst the visual changes made include

Junking that horrible Spider-Man font
Focusing on the term PS3 instead of PlayStation 3
Making the multi-colored PS logo, unchanged in 15 years, a sleek chrome
Having a cutting edge, sleek look to the start of their trailers.

This lack of PlayStation branding and emphasis on PS3 extends to Sony s home country advertising, which you can see with an innovative Playface campaign below:

Introducing Kevin Butler

While the Japanese campaign is certainly sleek, it may be a little bit too eccentric for American tastes who were put off by some of the oddest television commercials used to launch the PlayStation 3 the first time around.

The new commercials showcase Kevin Butler (played by actor Jerry Lambert) in a series of customer service discussions with everyone from a rumor-mongering blogger to a concerned girlfriend that doesn t understand why her beau hasn t hooked his PS3 into the Internet. His response to the latter What’s wrong with him! Sony tapped Deutsch LA to create ads that are both witty and informative, with entertaining messages that highlight the PS3 s new price and features very clearly. Take a look at a couple of examples below:

Speaking with Ad Age, Peter Dille, senior VP of marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America, explained, Humor, and especially irreverent humor, has been part of the PlayStation brand for a long time. The price move [to $299 last week] to us is only half of the story. We believe [the new ads] will work hard to reposition the PS3 for a more mass audience.

When pressed for comment on the way features are heavily highlighted in the new campaign, Dille went on to tell the LA Times, “We have been a game company for years and we would never walk away from that, but research confirmed there is a larger proposition under our nose. We wanted to reposition as a total entertainment solution. We felt like we can really own entertainment.”

Are Dille’s words about non-gaming entertainment worrisome to the same hardcore gamers that fled Sony in the past couple of years Kaz Hirai, head of SCEA and the poor soul in those E3 2006 videos blasting Sony s media event, spoke with the Times Online and said, We can talk about all the other things that it can do in terms of the non-game video content, whether it’s the video delivery service or the catchup TV service or the movie rental service. But none of that makes much sense unless we can say first and foremost it’s a great video game console.

The groundwork has been laid, with a sleek new console, consumer-friendly price, a crisp message and brand, and what we feel is a very effective marketing campaign. Only time will tell if Sony can recoup some of that gamer credibility to get out of a tough third-place spot, but if you’re going to go with fake characters, make sure you’ve learned the lessons of Sony’s E3 2005 and stick with the Kevin Butler variety.