The number four is unlucky in Japan. The figure is pronounced “shi” in the land of the rising sun, which is the same as the word for death. As a result, many hospitals prefer to ignore the digit, skipping the integer when naming room and floor numbers. Furthermore, there are no seats with the numeral on passenger planes of the All Nippon Airways, the nation’s largest airline. The question is: could superstition play a part in the naming of the next PlayStation?
Sticking with traditional title conventions makes sense. We’ve adopted the moniker PlayStation 4 pretty heavily over the past few weeks because it easily evokes a sense of progression. Since the original PlayStation’s inception, we’ve been conditioned into the theory that the highest number at the tail of the brand name represents the most recent iteration. PlayStation 2 was the natural successor to the PSone, and the same was true of the PlayStation 3. However, given the aforementioned trivia, is it possible that Sony could skip on the number four?
It’s already adapted its naming conventions with the PlayStation Vita. Prior to release, many expected the console to be named the PlayStation Portable 2, but clearly the manufacturer wanted a change. It’s unclear what the catalyst for the adjustment was, but it may have come down to the PSP brand’s mitigated commercial appeal in Western territories. While the portable sold extremely well – particularly in its native Japan – there was a stigma that the system was commercial flop in some parts of the world.
That’s speculation on our part, though, and it's more likely that the platform holder wanted to introduce something new. In which case, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the company may do the same with its next home console. PlayStation Orbis, for example, is one phrase that’s been paraded about a lot over the past twelve months. While the title is more likely a codename, it does have a marketable ring to it. Orbis generally means circle, which complements the Vita well. The latter is, of course, Latin for ‘life’, setting up a brand-wide ‘Circle of Life’ tagline. It certainly sounds like the kind of thing that a marketing team and focus group would concoct.
However, the technology industry seems to be shunning suffixes and numbers in general at the present. Apple has ceased uniquely identifying its iPad range, preferring to refer to its latest line of products as simply ‘iPad’. It’s not impossible to imagine Sony doing the same. Naming its next console ‘PlayStation’ could demonstrate a reboot for the brand, and a return to former glories. And seeing as it’s been almost seven years since the platform holder discontinued the system of the same name, we doubt that there’ll be any confusion in the marketplace.
But while such suggestions are plausible, it’s hard to look past the number four. PS4 rolls off the tongue, and looks right on the page. The name markets itself: it’s the next instalment of a popular product. Japan may have its reservations over the digit, but video games are much more trivial than hospitals and airlines. It seems unlikely that the company would ignore such strong branding at the expense of superstition. After all, no one batted their eyelids at Final Fantasy XIII.
Whether or not Sony will share the final name of its impending console during next week’s PlayStation Meeting press conference remains to be seen, but it’ll be interesting learn what moniker the platform eventually adopts. What do you think that that the next PlayStation should be called? Air your views in the comments section and poll below.
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