“Play has no limits” – but does it?

“Play has no limits” – but does it?

Covid-19 shook the world and for most consumer technology brands it meant completely rethinking their 2020 product launch plans. In a previous blog, we discussed how to make a success of virtual launch events during the pandemic, but now we want to take a closer look at one of the biggest launches of the year – Sony’s PlayStation 5 console.

Time to takeover

In November, when most of us were waking up for another day in the home office, Sony took over central London, staging a colourful neon takeover of five high-traffic London Underground stations. The takeover lasted 48 hours and was trending across social media, with thousands of people praising the brand for its creative ingenuity.

If the aim of the stunt was to create hype, it certainly did its job.

Sony CEO, Jim Ryan, said that in just 12 hours the number of pre-orders for the PS5 surpassed the first 12 weeks of overall PS4 pre-orders. PS5 pre-order sales have surpassed one million units before its worldwide launch.

In some ways, Sony has been the victim of its own success. With so much demand for the console, many consumers have been struggling to purchase it in the lead up to Christmas.

Beating the bots

With the pandemic forcing millions of people to shop online, consumers around the world have been left in exhaustive virtual queues to buy a PS5 while robots hoover up existing stock. These units have then ended up being sold on the resell market for double, sometimes triple, their original price – leading to some negative PR for the brand.

PlayStation enthusiasts have not been blown away by Sony’s response to the issue either. On 25 November, PlayStation tweeted to confirm more PS5 inventory would be coming to retailers before the end of the year. But that was where communication ended.

In the age of social media, where consumers expect instant and regular communication, leaving loyal customers in the dark is not a good idea. Will a large, international brand like Sony feel the ill-effects of these issues? Probably not. But it is not a strategy we would advise smaller, challenger brands to take.

While the PS5 launch has undeniably been a huge PR success, it will be interesting to see how Sony next-generation console fares in the long-term against its Microsoft rival, the Xbox Series X. Perhaps those people waking up on Christmas Day without their dream console, frustrated by Sony’s lack of communication, will choose to invest their money elsewhere.

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