Update: Since publishing this story it's emerged that the God of War: Ascension commercial will only be shown during the Super Bowl's online stream. Last year the show attracted more than 2 million viewers, which is a far cry from the numbers of the conventional broadcast. Obviously, that lessens the impact of the discussion within – but at least we now know how cash-strapped Sony could afford the spot, eh?
Original: Of the many criticisms directed at Sony this generation, its perceived marketing deficiencies rank high on the list. Kevin Butler was a stroke of genius for existing fans, there’s no doubt about that, but the platform holder’s inability to appeal on a mainstream scale is an issue that’s constantly acknowledged by analysts and armchair pundits alike. However, God of War: Ascension’s recently announced Super Bowl commercial shows that the company is eager to rectify that – but is it a case of too little, too late?
It’s a surprising move, we have to admit. A 30 second spot during this weekend’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens is thought to cost an eye-watering $4 million, which is an outrageous sum when observed in isolation. But it’s perhaps worth remembering that an estimated 166.8 million viewers tuned into last year’s match – a figure that represents more than half of the population of the United States. There are certainly worse ways of reaching a game’s target demographic.
It’s the right title to promote, too. God of War has blossomed into one of the most commercially viable brands in Sony’s stable. The series’ previous entry, God of War III, topped the NPD sales charts during its launch month in March 2010, selling a gigantic 1.1 million units in the process. The release wasn’t frontloaded, either, bloating to almost 3 million units in North America by June 2012. The franchise has a strong pedigree, and that will almost certainly enhance its impact when the commercial debuts on Sunday.
But the advertisement is an elegant move for reasons beyond simply raising the profile of the popular character action series. As the very definition of a system-seller, it also puts PlayStation back in the minds of consumers. Console prices are lower than ever – you can currently nab a PS3 Super Slim for less than $299.99 – and while the commercial may focus on God of War: Ascension, it’s almost certain to prop up PS3 sales too.
Some may argue that that’s a misstep with the next generation looming, but we happen to sit on the other side of the fence. As far as we’re concerned, there’s never a bad time for Sony to tempt players into its ecosystem, and with services like PlayStation Plus likely to have a bearing when the PlayStation 4 rolls around, winning consumers now is arguably just as important as when the new system eventually rolls out.
Of course, one commercial is not going to change the brand’s fortunes in North America, no matter how high-profile – but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Let’s just hope that the spot itself lives up to its namesake, and ascends above all of the other big budget promotions destined to debut on the same day.
Do you think that God of War: Ascension’s Super Bowl commercial is a positive move from Sony, or a waste of money? Would you have preferred the platform holder to promote a different game? Let us know in the comments section below.