We’d like to congratulate Eric Lempel and the PlayStation team on the success of Sony’s Play at Home Initiative. It was a response to the COVID-19 lockdowns that led to 60 million game downloads.
Lempel called it an “extraordinary success.”
The Play at Home initiative launched in April 2020, shortly after all the global lockdowns and regulations began.
It started with a freebie. Sony allowed customers to download the Uncharted games without paying for anything.
The company decided that giving folks access to free games was a “nice thing to do” for the homebound set.
When another lockdown began in 2021, Sony continued its Play at Home program. The company offered a free release of Ratchet and Clark. Sony also gave customers three free months of access to Funimation and Wakanim.
Lest you think that Sony is a charity, it didn’t disburse these freebies just to earn a good reputation. Those kinds of giveaways act as “teasers” so customers want something more.
And that something more will cost money.
Regarding the Play at Home initiative, Lempel says that the company is “honored to have played a role in supporting gamers around the world.”
But that was then, and this is now.
So how is Lempel updating PlayStation marketing as we return to the Old Normal?
Here’s some really fun advertising.
Late last year, the company released a brilliant two-and-a-half minute ad spot called “Play Has No Limits.” It was the first major brand campaign following the release of the PS5.
It’s a high-energy game of chess with actual human beings as “pieces” and an entire city as the chessboard.
Somewhere up in modern-day ivory towers, two opposing “kings” move chess pieces on a traditional chessboard. When they complete their movements, corresponding fighters within the city limits make their moves on opposing team members.
It’s got action-packed anime written all over it.
And, like much of anime, it’s creativity on steroids.
“We wanted to do something different here,” Lempel told GamesIndustry.biz.
Well he accomplished that.
“We wanted to do something bigger, a little more epic, and it’s definitely not about saying ‘here’s a product, and here is what it does and here is why you should buy it’. This one is about pushing boundaries.”
In fact, it’s an ad spot that might resonate with gamers better than anything I’ve ever seen. The video fulfills one of the first things we all learn in Marketing 101: get people excited about your product.
“It is surprising, because at first you don’t know what this is all about,” Lempel says. “Then you start to pick up on the idea, and then at the end it is a celebration. That is actually both sides coming together at the end and celebrating that a great game has just been played.”
The spot also ends with a pawn taking down a king. The message: anybody can be the hero.
And that’s just what gamers are looking for.
In fact, Lempel says that kind of messaging is core to the company’s brand.
The purpose of the ad? To celebrate gaming.
It also includes 30 “Easter eggs.” They’re references to various PlayStation titles sprinkled in scenes throughout the spot.
And that creates engagement. Gaming aficionados will scour the video over and over again trying to find, and identify, all 30 Easter eggs.
That works well for folks who can move the playhead back and forth on a YouTube video, but what about more traditional marketing?
Lempel notes that the longform version of the ad is intended only for the Internet. The company also produced shorter versions for TV spots.
He also says that’s a departure from how PlayStation normally does things.
“Normally, when we would do this, we would start with the main short-form for all the different channels, and instead we are flipping that on its head and saying this long-form version is the main asset, and then people can pick up the smaller asset through other channels.”
Wrapping It Up
Eric Lempel knows how to promote Sony PlayStation during a pandemic. He also knows how to promote it during “normal” times.
In other words, he can adapt.
And that’s the lesson we should all learn here. Be ready to update your marketing strategy based on circumstances out of your control.
If you do, you can be the hero like that pawn who captured the king.
If you don’t, you’ll end up as the captured king.