It appears as though Sony can’t catch a break. Between all the hacked properties to poor sales and the Japanese earthquakes destroying factories, it appears as though the once, most dominant, electronics giant is getting weak. Just a few weeks ago, a story broke that the games for its new phone/game device, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play have not been selling anywhere near what they had hoped or expected.
Sony Ericsson’s Dominic Neil-Dwyer said, “We know there’s a lot more to come that we’re not, obviously, releasing yet. We’re releasing as we go, rather than telling everyone the full story,” he said, emphasizing the fact that it’s a brand new platform that is in active development. It’s worth noting, as well, that the Play is just the first in a line of Playstation-certified devices, and others are on their way.”
This is of course, the typical marketing “PR” spin that these big companies do, in the marketing trade they call this “damage control.” It is a way of admitting poor sales but also pulling the sheet over the eyes of the general public by saying they aren’t worried. When in fact, they are worried, they are very worried. Sony’s Android devices are not selling any where near that of its competitors like HTC, Motorola, and Samsung.
The Xperia Play was to be their “gotta have it” device. They thought all of their diehard Playstation fans would rush out to buy this device. They thought wrong. There were some evident problems that were never addressed or were simply overlooked/ignored before the devices release. First was the lack of games to lure in those gamers and second, the price of these games are much higher than what most people expect to pay for games on smartphones. The third mistake was terrible marketing, by that I mean lack of marketing. While commercials were made, they were only spotted on the internet. I personally have yet to see an Xperia Play commercial on TV. I’m not saying they haven’t been, but I haven’t seen one since its release.
The other thing Sony failed to realize is that while hardcore gamers will buy just about anything, the smartphone “crowd” is a whole different animal. The market of smartphone purchasers is made up of a three primary groups; hackers or modders, hardcore early adopters, and causals (ie. Moms, Dads, Brothers, Sisters, just about every you see). The first two groups make up less than 10% of the total pie. Meaning that if Sony wanted to really sell this device they need to market to not only the hardcore, but more importantly the casuals. Those causals are used to downloading free apps or games that sell for $1.99 or less and yet, they are fantastic, gorgeous games.
For those Hardcore gamers that did buy the Play, they were treated to re-hashed games from the PS1.Games that most of them have already played. The other problem is that the system/device has little support from developers. If they [developers] want to make a game for the Android market, they will work on all devices (for the most part) but if they want the game to work on the Play and use its control scheme, the app has to be re-worked to be compatible, which costs money and time. If the device isn’t selling, it means their games won’t sell and that is a lose of money, time and resources.
If all this wasn’t proof enough the device is struggling and should be deemed a failure, check the image below from Amazon Wireless.
Here is a device that is less than 3 months old, running stock Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which is usually a big selling point to Android fans and yet it’s selling for just $0.01 with a new contract. They might as well be giving it away for free. That is all the proof that is needed to answer the question, is the Xperia Play a failure? While Sony has yet to admit it, it’s only a matter of time before they cancel those “other” Playstation-certified devices. When Sony makes a video game or system, they are selling to “video game players” who for the most part are all the same type of consumer. Sure they make like different genre’s but they are all gamers. Whereas in the smartphone business, the consumers are varied. You have people that just like to text or email. You have people that like to play casual games, that are cheap like angry birds and those who just like to surf the web.
If Sony wanted this device to succeed, they should have made a marketing campaign dedicated to casual users showing that the device can do everything they normally do with the added value of the Playstation function. They needed to offer a lot of free and cheap games that aren’t re-hashed games from 1996. And, stop doing commercials that are oddly bizarre and down right creepy, like the Android robot getting prosthetic thumbs put on its arms. This won’t appeal to the casual users…gamers yes, but not the majority.
I’ve worked in advertising and marketing field for over 10 years and I can tell you from my persepective, Sony missed the ball on this one. They aimed for the fences and yet only seemed to bunt to the pitchers mound. The device was ambitious and well designed, it’s to bad they couldn’t figure out how to sell it to everyone.
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