E3 and Lessons in Competitive Marketing

E3, the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, started this Monday in sunny Los Angeles. Even if you aren’t big into knowing the latest and greatest in the gaming industry, perhaps you’ve heard about the biggest rivalry going into the event: both Microsoft and Sony were there to show off their new consoles. While the actual products themselves have been amazing to get glimpses of, another thing on display this year is the level of competitive marketing the vendors have brought t his year. So what can you gain from examining this anti-wallflower mentality? Read on!

Creative Commons Licensephoto credit: Ariel Zambelich
As I mentioned above, all eyes have been on Microsoft and Sony and their respective new consoles. Microsoft revealed their Xbox One before E3, and it may have proven a dire mistake. Sony waited until E3 and was able to highlight their system by flaunting in a not so subtle manner the main differences between it and the Xbox One. For example, after the uproar that followed the announcement that the Xbox One would have costly requirements for playing used games, Playstation released this playful jab of a video demonstrating just how easy sharing used games on their console is. Waiting to unveil the Playstation 4, a move that was once criticized, gave  the marketing team the time to develop content that would be timely, relevant to the release, and successful in making in their console look like the superior choice.

Xbox One sounding a little too pricy? Well the Playstation 4 will be $100 less. If you think the Xbox One looks like an ugly VCR,  Sony will be quick to mention the slightly asymmetrical looks of the Playstation 4. For every complaint that has been lodged at the Xbox One, Sony has not so quietly offered a viable alternative. So far, it’s been tastefully funny mockery that has been fun to enjoy as a consumer. Sony has shown that it’s okay to be a fierce competitor, point out flaws, and offer your solutions without slipping into a mess of ugly marketing tactics. And it seems the gamble paid off, Fast Company mentioned that Sony seems to be “winning the event” at this point.

The mentaility at these expos seems to entail forgetting that the competition exists, never mentioned unless the word “exclusive” comes up. Sony has broken through these barriers by throwing convention to the wind. They played coy by waiting to show the world what the console would actually look like; teaching us that shouting “FIRST!” doesn’t necessarily mean your product will win the title of best. We now see that we can poke fun at a competitor without being rude. They’ve stayed on top of the news and the world’s reaction to the new consoles, releasing new content and details about the Playstation 4 to keep themselves in the spotlight as the expo has carried on. It’s a model that is easily applied to every day marketing where occasionally old rules can stifle new creativity; break free of your competitor’s or industry’s  mold

Now in case you’re thinking that Xbox and Playstation only reached these levels of competitive marketing is because Sony and Microsoft are willing to spend thousands in marketing, let me mention the Ouya console. Ouya is the little gaming console that could, and it raised $8.6 million in funding last summer. Not wanting to spend all that hard earned money of the staggeringly high fees of presenting at E3 and with the idea of attending “on its own terms“, they came up with a clever alternative. Ouya rented, will the necessary permits and permissions, parking spaces oppsite the Expo and invited people over to come check out the new console. The company behind E3 retaliated by renting parking spaces in the same lot and blocking Ouya’s stand with trucks. Ouya responded by simply renting more spots in front of the trucks and setting up banners. And that’s when the police were called. However since Ouya had obtained all the right permits, there was nothing amiss going on legally and Ouya still has their stand. The story has made cemented Ouya’s image as the scrapping-indie company to watch for, and given it a firm place amongst the console news coming from E3. The lesson here? Even if you’re considered the broke underdog use everything in your power to create an impression. It may require some extremely creative thinking but as we were all taught in school, “if there’s a will, there’s a way.”

What do you think of the friendly (and in Ouya’s case not so friendly) competition that surrounds product unveilings? Would you prefer to be the one who unveils first or sits back and waits?

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