PSVR Can't Market VR Like Video Games

PSVR Can't Market VR Like Video Games
May 3, 2017

Back in October, Playstation launched its first major ad campaign around its new virtual reality platform PSVR with a spot that dropped one gamer into the cockpit of an X-Wing. Soon after, it was an immersive peek inside the Batcave.


By February, the company reported it was surprised by how well the PSVR was selling–more than 900,000 units in four months–and talked about the need to restock certain markets that were sold out.


Now, the brand is launching its third commercial in the “Two Worlds” PSVR campaign, this time around a new game called Farpoint. The strategy remains the same–educate and delight. For both Playstation’s senior vice-president of marketing Eric Lempel and agency BBH New York chief creative officer John Patroulis, the challenges in marketing something like PSVR are decidedly different than that of a traditional console game. Instead of just showing off the cool graphics, cool story, and engaging gameplay, a huge part of the job is to show just how different–and amazing–strapping on those giant gaming goggles can be.


“It’s a new technology. You say virtual reality, and that means different things to different people, so we need to help educate gamers and the audience on just how simple it is, and what that experience looks like when you’re in the middle of it,” says Patroulis. “You’ll notice, in each of the films, it starts with the gear and the gamer putting it on. It sounds like a really small thing, but it’s showing something new that many in our audience haven’t seen yet. It illustrates how simple it is. Put on the headset, grab a couple of controllers, and away you go. That becomes part of the story, a part you don’t need with traditional console gaming.”


Part of the challenge is the very definition of VR, and how people have so far experienced it in a variety of ways. Through an immersive Oculus or Samsung-type experience, or simply watching a cool 360-video from theNew York Times. It’s such a new technology, that it means different things to different people.

“Marketing VR is a challenge,” says Lempel. “This is something new that the majority of people out there don’t really know what it is, or they’ve experienced some form of it that isn’t quite Playstation VR. So going into this, there were a few things we wanted to make sure we did, which was trying to pass along some of the magic of the PSVR experience through a spot.”


Part of that was to show gamers what it would be like. All the spots start off in the real world, then it blends into the gaming world.


“We’ve been marketing games for years, but this is different,” says Lempel. “With VR it’s tough to convey, so our primary goal was to show just how immersive it was.”


Lempel says another key goal was to get the PSVR into the hands of as many people as possible. The brand put an extra effort behind retail activations, with more than a half a million trials to date. And since the technology and gameplay are so new, the brand purposely picked two very familiar environments for the first two ads–Batman and Star Wars. Even the new spot around Farpoint, drops the gamer into a familiar sci-fi shooter scene, even if the game is new.

“These are about an experience, and we’re using specific [game] titles to convey that experience,” says Patroulis. “Traditionally, when you’re marketing around a specific title you go into the narrative. What’s the story, who’s the character, and how do you bring that to life in an interesting way? Because this is so different, we didn’t spend a lot of time on narrative, in favor of look how easy this is, and look how physical it is. That’s what it became about.”


Shelves are being restocked around the world, so Playstation is hoping the next stage in its marketing campaign will inspire a similar bump in sales.

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