Forgive me for starting off with a blunt saying but…
Back in 2005 Sony had the gaming world by the balls. There’s just no if’s, and’s, or but’s about that. They were the top of the food chain thanks to the PS2′s overwhelming success and everyone looked at Sony to usher in another tremendous generation with the PS3. Turns out things wouldn’t go so well for the media giant. The PS3′s launch and beginnings were frowned upon, labeled, torn apart, and, oh my, the memes. Things looked pretty bleak for the PS3 in the beginning. Sony landed in a ton of financial trouble, as well. The PlayStation brand saw its first slump and gave way for Microsoft to leap ahead after their first console offering failed to dethrone a once untouchable king.
Now that we can look back at this generation, I think it’s safe to say that this rough start for the PS3 made the king humble and actually benefited Sony greatly. Let’s look at what happened after the not so smooth start and how Sony has answered not only the criticism but loyal fans’ worries about the brand’s future.
PS3 Has No Games
The meme that spawned a thousand pictures had major use during the PS3′s earlier years. Until the latter part of 2007, the shelves holding PS3 games looked to be filled to the brim with bad ports, unwanted games, and a few gems. When 2008 was on the horizon, things started looking up as the PS3 started seeing a ton of exclusives that focused on creativity and things we haven’t seen before in games. Sony answered this meme and the call for more with a slew of titles that defined the system beginning with an onslaught of releases in 2008 that is still going on today.
Sales And Numbers Are Important, Too
While the PS3′s library started to look more and more like the top shelf at the liquor store, the console’s lifetime sales were still a worry. Would the console sell enough to ensure Sony a somewhat beneficial return? With the company struggling to balance out a financial situation due to many other departments in the company, the focus seemed keen on the PS3 and its retail performance. So how did Sony answer this? Enter PlayStation Plus, a console redesign, and a bunch of system bundles.
Sony used 2009 and 2010 as a major relaunch of the PS3, of sorts. The console’s look, performance, feature set, and design were all updated and gone were the days of the PS3 grill and skyscrapper memes. Instead, a sleek and slim model launched aside bundles and special promos with big named games. The PS3 was starting to look like a major player outside of its amazing exclusive game offerings. When you factor in the impact that PlayStation Plus has had since its launch in 2010, these two years proved to be huge for Sony and the PS3. Sales skyrocketed and the financial questions died down. It was at this point that the rest of the gaming industry took notice and the true next gen battle started.
Unfortunately, 2010 also saw the release of the PS Move which didn’t wow us as much as Sony hoped it would. Initial sales were impressive but looking back at the motion-capable controller, it was largely a blunder. Still, one peripheral couldn’t derail the massive momentum that the PS3 was gaining.
The Year Of The PS3
How many years did publications, blogs, and gamers proclaim to be the “year of the PS3″? 2008 was the first, if I can recall correctly. When 2009 began to take shape, that too was labeled as a PS3 dominated year. 2010 made another strong offering for the console’s yearly reign in terms of entertainment releases. The point here is that for multiple years in a row gamers rejoiced in what Sony’s late boomer was doing. The amount of quality exclusives and new features that headed to the PS3 between the years of 2008 and 2011 really bolstered the console’s rising position in the generation race. It seemed like nearly every year a handful of PS3 exclusives received Game of the Year honors and awards from conferences and top publications.
While Sony and the PlayStation brand have seen some amazing years and dominated two gaming generations, the same can’t be said for the company’s marketing department. Sony has had so many failed and obscure marketing campaigns that you could have a “top 20″ list — err, perhaps “bottom 20″. However, in 2009 Sony changed their game up with the successful “It Only Does Everything” and “Long Live Play” campaigns that featured the highly personable Kevin Butler character.
Kevin Butler became an icon amongst gamers and every new commercial became a hit. Sony can contribute a nice chunk of its success from 2009 and onwards to their marketing as the clever campaigns and Butler character drove home a lot of fan support and approval. Hell, I know a ton of 360 loyalists that even like Kevin Butler. It’s a shame he’s gone now but the ride that character had on the TV screen was a home run for Sony and the PS3.
Even after Kevin and the above mentioned campaigns, Sony was still batting a thousand when they released the insanely popular “Michael” commercial. This half live action and half CGI-filled TV spot featured many of the PS3′s main attractions and stars at a bar where they pay tribute to a gamer named Michael. The commercial was all about showing a side of approval we never see: the video game character’s. While the characters retold stories of their feats and triumphs, they all offer credit to Michael. Michael was the symbol Sony used to represent all of their gamers. It was an amazing commercial that really got it right in terms of video game marketing.
A Gaming Phoenix
As we look back at everything Sony did with the PS3 to answer every question and every doubt, I believe it’s completely fair to call the system a Phoenix.
The legendary firebird is infamous for its ability to dish out death and for its power to bring about a rebirth. So how is the PS3 a Phoenix? Sony and the PlayStation brand created an empire in the gaming industry. The PS1 and the PS2 dominated their generations and after everything the PS2 accomplished, all eyes were on Sony. While some thought it would be interesting to see how Microsoft responded to the Xbox’s performance and how Nintendo would make the Wii work, all eyes were focused on what Sony would do with the PS3.
The PS3 stumbled and the empire crumbled. Things looked bleak and the brand took a massive hit. However, Sony never stopped trying to regain the throne. What rose from the ashes of the PS3′s beginning turned out to be the next step in the evolution of the PlayStation.
The king fell from his throne and over time learned to be humble. He had to learn to please his fans again and earn their trust. Over the years, the rebirth of both Sony and the PlayStation brand played out and as we roll towards E3 2013 and the continuing announcement of the PS4, we can look back and say that Sony succeeded this gen. “The Gaming Phoenix”, the PS3, truly did a 180° to avoid letting all of the doubts and crippling numbers creep into the next gen. Instead, the PS3 is sitting at a worldwide lifetime number of over 77 million consoles sold. That means, worldwide, the PS3 was able to overtake the Xbox 360 in total console sales. That is an amazing achievement in its own after the rough start the system had. Then, when you factor in the Wii’s decline in popularity and sudden stop in overwhelming sales and releases, that arguably means that the PS3 became the most popular console of this gen.
Sony may not have regained the throne but they came damn close. A sinking ship, a ruined empire, and a throne crumbled. All of these sayings apply to the PS3′s launch and start. However, through loyal fan support, insane exclusives, and the perseverance of Sony the PS3 rose through the flames to become one of the best consoles we’ve ever seen.
The proof of this can be found in how well the industry and the gamers have responded to the PS4 announcement. While most of the developers have pledged support and said some amazing things, the big thing here is how Sony has taken everything they have learned from the PS3 and put it into play for the next gen. With the Wii’s successor already having issues, this leaves Sony and their current momentum prime to retake the throne and have the PS4 mark another golden age for the gaming giant.