In its May 6, 2004 edition, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece on Sony’s soon-to-be-released portable gaming machine, the PlayStation Portable (PSP). It will play videogames, movies and digital music. Could it be the “Walkman of the 21st Century” as some have called it?

Nintendo’s Gameboy is the market leader in the portable videogame field, with over 150 million units sold since its introduction in 1989. I see what Sony’s doing. They’re trying to grab headlines by introducing a first: The first portable unit that plays videogames, movies and digital music. However, after the initial pick-up from media outlets, what will consumers have to say about it? One wonders first whether or not consumers want all of this capability, particularly the ability to watch movies. And, if it has all of those capabilities, how’s it going to be priced? And for whom? Male teenagers? Men 18-34?

The big challenge, as with any new product introduction that’s trying to expand or redefine a category, is positioning. How well Sony does this will directly impact sales. If consumers are unclear about what the PSP is and who it’s aimed at, the popular reaction might be to simply ignore it. Proper communications is critical. In fact, because Sony hasn’t done a good job at communicating to one of its key constituencies—namely, game developers—some companies have been unable to really get started developing content. To be fair, big publishers such as Sega, Namco, Koei, and Electronic Arts are online to develop titles for the unit. But why risk consumer confusion and a delay in priming the content pump?

Truly successful companies make sure that everyone involved—from the headquarters to the consumer and everyone in between—sings from the same songbook, which ensures a consistent message. Currently, it seems that everyone’s reading different pages. Maybe it’s better to rehearse the choir a few more times before the public performance.


Posted by Rob Fields