News & Views

Back to Basics

by Contagious Contributor

Jonas Vail, planning director at 180 Amsterdam - PlayStation's agency of record - gives his take on the latest battle in the console wars.

On the bells-and-whistles-laden floors of Gamescom in Cologne this August it was clearer than ever. Despite the awesome evolution in processing power, graphics rendering, connectivity, and ever-increasing frame rates, one really important thing hasn't changed and never will: the all-consuming passion of gamers.

Ironically it was these kinds of advancements that were beginning to hinder gamers' enjoyment of their passion. Unlike other media and technology experiences that are immediate and seamlessly connected to, and integrated within, people's lives, the gaming experience was becoming cumbersome. So while hardware advancements were pushing the gaming industry forward, the true revolutions were happening outside the category.

Enter PS4. Acknowledging past hardware mistakes, PlayStation started the console development process early and decided to go back to the source: the gamers and the gaming community, putting them right back at the very heart of everything they do. As President and Group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Andrew House describes it: 'Our vision for the future is consumer-centric, developer-inspired, and characterised by an unwavering commitment to phenomenal play experiences.' By all accounts, it seems to have been exactly the right thing to do.

Since the announcement of PS4 in New York last February - where game developer after game developer took the stage or spoke in videos, alongside a bevy of Sony execs - the word on gaming blogs and magazine covers has been heavily in favour of this new generation PlayStation machine. One thing was made abundantly clear that evening: PS4 had truly been developed for gamers, by gamers.

As more was revealed about the console, its capabilities, and what it would offer gamers, the more it seemed that PS4 would be alleviating the aforementioned pain points that were keeping gamers from the gaming experience they'd dreamt about.

It also became apparent that Xbox One would be taking a very different tack. From its initial announcement in May, to its recent launch spot, gamers are taking a back seat to those looking for more general entertainment in a one-stop-shop box. It's a much broader direction, no doubt making them more competitive with the likes of Apple TV in the interactive home-entertainment space - but at what cost?

Only time will tell, but the clock has already started ticking. This week it kicks into high gear with the launch of the PS4 campaign, This is for the Players. The campaign is not just meant to sell consoles and bolster the brand. It's also an homage to those for whom PlayStation reaffirmed nine months ago were the reason they were doing everything: The Players.

Two teaser films and a film with no fewer than 40 hidden Easter eggs to be hunted down, are devoted to celebrating, hero-ing, and rewarding all the Players of the world, getting them - and everyone else - talking and playing.

Jonas Vail is strategic planning director at 180 Amsterdam and has been working on video game advertising for nearly 16 years - from the launch of Sega Dreamcast in 1999. In addition to leading the strategic thinking on PlayStation, he leads the thinking on a number of the agency's other accounts, including Ketel One Vodka.