So there I was, innocently watching Nickelodeon, and on came a commercial for the PlayStation Move. The realization hit me harder than any other before. It was so obvious. Far more obvious than the fact that Justin Bieber is unable to produce a quality song was the fact that Sony has majorly sold out. Here we have an advertisement for the PlayStation, which like the XBox, likes to think of itself as the console for real gamers. So many have said that Nintendo is the company that sold out with its targeting of everyone as potential gamers, but that is Nintendo’s nature, and always has been. It is Sony that has sold its soul!
We all know that Nintendo is targeting the ‘whole family’ and always attempting to bring gaming to an audience that they wouldn’t usually reach. Whether that’s older gamers, younger gamers or even the anti-gaming in-betweens, Nintendo has been successful with the Wii and DS series to expand the gaming audience. With this marketing strategy, other companies such as Sony, and especially their fans, labeled Nintendo as a “sell out” and not true to “real gaming”. Motion controls were labelled with that dreaded word of being only for “casual” gamers. Just wait until Skyward Sword finally puts that myth to rest, if Red Steel 2, for example, hasn’t already.
Look at Sony now. The PlayStation Move is what you get when you take a Wii remote, change its color to black, and add a glowing sphere on the top to be able to say it’s a different product. It is Sony embracing the motion gaming that they rejected, but with very little creativity. Take Microsoft for instance, you could accuse them of all the criticisms that I’m directing at Sony, but at least with Kinect they tried to do something slightly different by making your body the controller. Sony just took the exact idea that they had frowned upon for so long and embraced it themselves.
What struck me about their advertising campaign was not their direction to produce motion gaming hardware and software, but their direction of the commercial. For starters it was on Nickelodean, targeting a younger audience, and it opened with the phrase “this Playstation Move controller brings the whole family together”. Talk about copying Nintendo after criticizing them for it. I applaud Microsoft for Kinect, because it was more innovative than Move, but they did also copy to a degree with things such as Kinect Sports. PlayStation went for the carbon copy. Just look at how the Move commercial continued. It introduces the game of Sports Champions – which is ultimately Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort. Then it talks about Start the Party, also known as Wii Party to us, and goes on to finish on some game called PlayStation Move Heroes where you get to slash up some intergalactic monsters, according to the voiceover. Sell out seems perfectly fitting for Sony’s campaign here, which is so obviously a Nintendo carbon copy that it’s sad.
Many of the older fans of the PlayStation will continue to hate the Move and the targeting of younger gamers, but Sony as a company has realized the business potential and benefits for targeting the wider gaming audience. In fact, they’ve realized that they just can’t compete with Nintendo without expanding their target audience. Without embracing the new direction of gaming ushered in by Nintendo they would only fall behind. It’s amusing in a regard that Sony has finally caught up to motion gaming, and even portable gaming, as Nintendo ushers in portable 3D gaming and counts down the official announcement to Project Café. Whatever the new innovation of Project Café ends up being, Nintendo is bringing in the new console generation while Sony and Microsoft are said to not be considering new consoles until around 2015.
Ultimately, I see the recent “selling out” of Sony as a good thing. Perhaps now all gaming companies can move forward embracing the concepts of motion gaming and targeting wider audiences. I just wish that Sony, and even Microsoft, could be more innovative and original, which would trigger more competition in the gaming industry. Perhaps finally Sony has come to realize that gaming can be for everyone, but the way that they’ve had to go back on themselves and go against their initial comments on the Wii, it is so obvious that it is Sony that has compromised. Nintendo has stuck to their values, and always will.
The major gaming companies can be worse than political parties when it comes to opposing everything the other does just for the sake of being their competitors. Why can’t they embrace each other ideas? Or at least embrace Nintendo seen as they’re the only company with truly original innovation. I had hoped that with hardware like the Move and Kinect that finally there would be more understanding between the major companies. But it is not so. Sony has gotten immediately to work on the Nintendo 3DS calling it nothing but a “babysitting tool” that “no self-respecting twentysomething” is going to be seen with. Personally, I can’t wait for the day when Sony is advertising their first 3D portable console, which they’ve tried to make slightly different to the 3DS. They’ll probably use some tag-line like “the perfect way to entertain yourself and the kids you’re babysitting!” It is the reasons like this as to why Sony will always be behind Nintendo. We’ve all heard the cliché that “you should keep your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them later”. Sony should have learned this lesson by now, and the fact they haven’t, sums Sony up far better than I ever could.