Let’s chalk up another win for gamer entitlement taking over rational thought; following Sony’s rather spectacular unveiling of the PlayStation 4, a group of gamers spat the dummy because Sony didn’t show the actual PlayStation 4 box.
It’s one of those moments where I quite genuinely felt an urge to beat my head against the keyboard. Never mind that Sony unveiled a host of features that we’ve never seen in gaming consoles before. Never mind that there were a bunch of really impressive games on show, and never mind that there’s around 150 developers signed on to what is clearly a developer-friendly platform. Never mind any of that; because Sony didn’t stick a picture of a plastic box in that Powerpoint presentation, people got upset.
It takes all of two seconds to realise why Sony decided not to announce either the pricing of the PlayStation 4, or show people what it looks like – both these things are inconsequential. Sony wanted people to focus on what the PlayStaion 4 does, not what it looks like, and by wowing people with features now, Sony is clearly working on the assumption that by the time the price is announced (and it’s all-but guaranteed to be expensive. It if was a bargain, Sony would have touted that for sure at the show), enough consumers have already been sold on the console that they won’t mind paying a premium for it.
It’s a common marketing trick for premium products. Certain catalogues for high-end fashion, cars and the like never bother to mention price in them. It’s assumed that if you’re seriously considering buying the product that you know is going to be expensive, then you’re going to find the money for it. You can assume the PlayStation 4 is going to be expensive, and Sony will position it as a premium product, so in that context the exact dollar amount is irrelevant. If you’re interested in the features and games of the console, start saving.
But I digress – back to the the console itself. The PlayStation 4 is focused entirely on social integration and Cloud services. Gaikai is the single biggest selling point and feature for the console. This stuff is intangible – it’s data floating around unseen. By not showing the design of the console hardware Sony is symbolically reinforcing to the consumers that it’s these “invisible” features that are important.
And taking that symbolism further, Sony’s focus for the PlayStation 4 is that it is a part of a connected experience. That is to say that every device you own – your tablet, your phone and your computer are as important to the PlayStation 4 as the PS4 box itself. If Sony had shown off the box itself its own marketing message would have been diminished – suddenly the PlayStation 4 would be about the PlayStation 4 console, and that’s not what Sony wants at all. It is so blatantly obvious that that is not what Sony wanted people to think that I would bet money that a sizable percentage of the monkey and gorilla population of the world would understand what is going on.
Short of being an interior designer and needing to figure out how to fit a PlayStation 4 into a home so that it matches the rest of the interior, I can’t think of a single reason why the actual design of the PS4 is in any way important. And to get upset at an amazing two hours of promises and potential over a couple of grams of plastic is nothing short of childish.