Sony has managed to utilise the most powerful marketing tool of all: word of mouth
When Sony unveiled its next-generation home console and entertainment system, the PlayStation 4, back in February of 2013 both gamers and developers were shown features that didn’t arrive on the day of launch. But now, with Sony’s latest firmware update for PlayStation 4, many of those features are making their way into players’ homes. One feature among them stands out most, not just for its rather innovative way to create a community and garner online friendships, but because it’s one of the smartest marketing moves from any business, ever.
The new feature, known as Share Play, allows players to effectively “pass the controller” to a friend online who can then play the game you’re playing – even if they don’t own the game at all. It means pass-the-pad co-op is a viable solution for friends who want to play together, despite being in different parts of the world. It also means that you can play local-multiplayer games as online games, and lets you turn singleplayer games into multiplayer ones.
So far, so good. But where’s the marketing potential in this?
Well, it’s in pure word of mouth. Sony has found a way to grab this elusive marketing channel and hone in on it completely.
It means that potential customers who had been mulling over a game purchase can now just jump in and play a friends copy online with them for an hour – which is the playtime cap imposed by Sony. Think of it as an extended demo of sorts. That experience then leads to a sale, allowing for friends to play online together for longer, and for that sole player to enjoy the game themselves. It’s effectively a tool to ensure that people try more games, and thus buy more games. And, regardless of how many systems they own or whichever one is their ‘primary’ console, because they’ve experienced it first on the PlayStation 4, chances are they’ll buy the game they enjoyed online with their friend on the same system.
The new system update will also allow players to record footage and upload it directly to YouTube. Previously players could only record footage and share it on Facebook, Sony’s PSN systems, and to a USB stick – or they could stream live gameplay to services like Twitch or UStream. Now though, it means that players can edit their videos on the PlayStation 4 and upload the finished footage to YouTube to share with their friends and followers. Again, this is the dream marketing opportunity, especially with YouTube becoming so ubiquitous with the younger demographic.
It’s a little harder to see how this transitions across to other industries, but Sony is the clear winner in finally having utilised the power of word of mouth effectively.
The key, it seems, is give people a reason to share what they love, and make the most of user generated content.
Of course, we’ll see how well this all works out for Sony when the Share Play and YouTube upload update comes this Autumn.