Sony Needs To Work On Their Trash Talk

By Adam Ma on April 17, 2011, 7:36PM EDT
PS3

I absolutely love watching major corporations fight one another in really immature ways, and since Nintendo tends to take the high road and just ignore everyone else, it's generally down to Microsoft and Sony to entertain me. Commercials that target the competition? Check. Press releases that announce how many units have been sold in comparative to the competition? Done. But what really gets interesting is when public figures take off the gloves and attack the enemy directly. There's nothing more amusing than watching Microsoft call Playstation Home, or slamming Sony's price through visual imagery (in beer, no less); unless of course it's Sony taking a swing back. But sometimes Sony misses a beat or two. Looking back at their most recent trash talk, Sony seems to fall a little flat when they're not directly quoting numbers; furthermore, with legions of Sony loyalists picking fights on forums with Microsoft fanboys, you would think that Sony would have an easier time coming up with some good insults.

Perhaps it's because Sony have always tried to keep up the appearance that somehow their system isn't just a gaming console and a Bluray player, but also an experience in and of itself. I remember back when the PS3 first launched and Sony attempted to justify the high price point by making a comparison to a luxury vehicle, while five years later they've changed the tune to match their sales pitch. When Tretton says the system is only now just hitting its stride, it really means that this is the sort of sales battle they've planned from the very beginning. I'm not one to doubt this kind of strategy, and by all means, if this is the way Sony had planned things to go from the very beginning, more power to them. As long as the industry is filled with compelling gaming experiences, who am I to judge how a console distributes these things? But you can't be the best, most flawless technological piece of equipment on the market and still talk smack on the court. It simply doesn't work that way.

Like tearing into the Kinect for example, using the Kevin Butler ad to insinuate that gaming without a controller is something only babies do; it's funny, but the point has been missed only a short while down the line with Kinect sweeping the holiday season. Not only that, but the fact that a new video/editorial springs up every few days talking about the Kinect working in conjunction with existing robotics technology, helping rehabilitate the injured, or being used to discover new ways to treat patients with various motor function/neurological disorders, it makes the whole arm flailing 'neener neener' commercial seem pretty juvenile in retrospect. These are things that Sony obviously has little control of though, it's pretty hard to encourage people go out and make things happen with the Move without looking like they're trying to steal some of Kinect's limelight. But calling the technology 'cute'? How does Sony win from a statement like that?

Even better is reviewing his expert analysis of the Nintendo DS, a console owned by just about every single twenty-something that I know. In fact, it's harder to find an adult today that doesn't own one than a household that owns the system within a particular demographic confine. Tretton's mistake again is belittling the consumer, not the company. When attacking a unit that is as popular as the DS why would you (or anyone) think it's a good idea to more-or-less insinuate the owners are immature for owning such a system. A statement like that shows how little Sony must know their demographic, let alone what gamers could actually want out of a system.

His point on the PS3 being a value in todays economy is completely lost as a result; it's hard to follow the context that the console was advanced for its time when Tretton seems so content with slamming the opposition's playerbase. Which, coincidentally, is a playerbase he would most likely want to switch to PS3 and PSP users. In no other industry would this sort of mudslinging be acceptable, a completely unveiled attack on general consumer interests. It's a shame, but not because this kind of behaviour is unacceptable, rather because he went about it with such a lack of tact that it's impressive he hasn't apologized yet.

I've criticized once before Kevin Butler's use in the Sony marketing campaign, and frankly this seems like one of those moments where KB really should have been the one doing the talking. It's acceptable for a marketing mascot to make these kinds of statements, particularly when they're reading from a script generally crafted to get a particular message across. It's pretentious, but it's also funny. Not to mention that the mudslinging is only one item out of the marketing pot. Take a look at the latest SOCOM 4 ad, poking fun at the competition is great and all, but poking fun at themselves, that's even better. As for a CEO talking smack? It's sort of funny, but not really in a respectable sense, and certainly doesn't do any convincing on behalf of the product. In the future, it would be nice to see this rule of thumb followed, perhaps leaving Sony's bigwig to spit out impressive sounding numbers and let the marketing teams handle the trash talk. They've done a pretty good job up until this point, best to just let KB take it away from here and do what he does best - after all, "you're only as strong as your weakest link."

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