Today marks the official UK launch of Sony’s widely-anticipated PS4 console, promising to “open the door to an incredible journey through immersive new gaming worlds and a deeply connected gaming community” the console – and its launch campaign – is targeting hardcore gamers with a rallying cry of '4ThePlayers’.
Prior to the launch The Drum caught up with the agency behind PS4’s promotional campaign 180 Amsterdam to find out more about the launch, the strategy behind the campaign, and how hard it is to market a product as in-demand as this.
“4ThePlayers is a very focussed campaign and is talking directly to the core target audience of PlayStation and the people that have made the brand great over the years,” explained creative director, Graeme Hall.
“The players are at the core of this product, it seemed right to put them at the core of our campaign. What makes this campaign unique is we’ve said we’re not going to try and deal with everyone - like Xbox One which is trying to break into the entertainment market - we’re going to put out stake in the ground and say we are for the players. It’s a risky strategy but in this next-gen console war you need something to differentiate and hang your hat on.”
According to 180 Amsterdam president Al Moseley, the agency “went into the world of gaming and emerged six months later” in order to create a campaign laced with subtle nuances that only true ‘players’ would understand.
Despite all being fans of the brand, Hall even confessed to almost failing university due to a Resident Evil addiction, changes in technology, gaming and social media impacted on the creation and implementation of the PS4 launch campaign.
Hall said: “The environment is so vastly different from when the PlayStation3 was launched and the implications on society are huge. It’s no longer taboo to be playing games in public, everyone does it and there has been a dramatic change in people’s perceptions of gaming.”
Moseley adds: “Gaming has exploded as an idea; it’s much more complex than it ever was with PS3 or PS2. 4ThePlayers cements and identifies a group of people who really live and breathe gaming, rather than those who casually game on the way to work on their iPhone.”
Hall agrees with Moseley’s point that the PS4 isn’t for those who enjoy the quick game of Candy Crush every now and then. “Gaming apps are minor entertainment and will occupy your time but the games on the PS4 are totally different. It’s an immersive world where you’re having entertainment experiences on a par with movies, it’s about differentiating between those casual bits of gaming and what the PS4 can offer you,” he said.
Going back to the campaign itself Hall states that social media was vastly important for the promotional activity, describing the introduction of the #4ThePlayers hashtag as the “true launch” of the campaign. Since introducing the hashtag and the ‘monument pledge’, where gamers pledge their player status on social media, Hall and Moseley have seen interaction from as far afield as Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, with celebrity fans such as Rio Ferdinand also engaging with the hashtag.
Hall commented: “There’s no point in just doing a TV commercial, you need to feed into all the different types of media and become part of the culture.”
Discussing whether or not having a built in fanbase makes it easier or harder to create a launch campaign Moseley said it’s “tougher” as “the eyes of the world are upon you”. He goes on: “You have this very cynical audience ready to judge your marketing strategy, all sitting there ready, it’s not like you have to find people. And these people are smart and cynical and they’re connected to one another, you have to do something that inspires them and brings them on board. People know what the PS4 does, they want to know what it means and that is the role of our campaign, to give PlayStation and PS4 a voice.”
With launch day finally upon us, Hall explains the feeling of excitement isn’t just about how the campaign will be received for him “it’s more about how this is going to change the gaming landscape and how it will affect our experience of gaming.”
A sentiment which Moseley echoes, commenting: “Fans are anticipating this, and have been for some time. It feels like the World Cup, and that comes every four years, this is rarer than that. People are wondering what this is going to bring them and how it’s going to change their lives.
“I for one have cancelled out family Christmas; we’ll be playing PS4 the whole time. You don’t get Christmases like this very often,” he jokes (we hope).