Sony announced a rather exciting PS Plus revamp this week, but it’s a reminder that it’s forgotten the art of consumer relations. The organisation, which was unrivalled in this area during the early days of the PlayStation 4 era, seems utterly unable to effectively connect with its core customers right now – and while it’s not an end-of-times issue by any stretch of the imagination, it is something we should be talking about and something the company should be actively working to improve upon.
We’ve touched on this topic a number of times over the past two or three years, criticising PlayStation for its lack of effective communication, but it’s a problem that doesn’t appear to be getting better. Sony has become clinical and corporate; its announcements are often met with scepticism, and it’s never nimble enough to clarify when criticism sweeps over social media. The firm, frankly, feels out of touch – and while it’s still selling PS5 consoles hand over fist, we want it to do better.
We write this article because we care, and we want to see the organisation implement changes that improve its relationship with enthusiasts. Take the aforementioned announcement of PS Plus’ new tiers, for example – an exciting reveal by any reasonable metric. It’s not necessarily Sony’s fault that many of the details leaked, but the official confirmation was poorly conceived and has shaped the narrative you see online, which is largely negative.
Obviously the introduction of these new tiers is a difficult thing to communicate, but it didn’t even bother to produce a simple graphic to demonstrate the differences between the options. In addition to a PS Blog post, bigwig Jim Ryan conducted a couple of interviews with broadsheet-style gaming publications like Games Industry.biz and Famitsu, but these barely added anything to the PS Blog post beyond the vague promise that PS1 games are “looking great”.
Of course, we’re using our imagination over here because Sony didn’t post any screenshots, and couldn’t even prepare a trailer. In fact, outside of the confirmation that titles like Returnal and Marvel’s Spider-Man – is that the PS5 version or the PS4 version? – will be available with PS Plus Extra and PS Plus Premium, we still don’t know what the remaining 99.9% of the catalogue will look like. That percentage hasn’t been pulled out of our ass, by the way: the company’s boasting about a library of up to 740 games here, but it announced six of them.
We didn’t expect it to reveal every single game outright, but its ineffective communication is raising more questions than it’s answering. How often will new games be added? Will the titles be permanent additions or will they be removed after a few months, like PS Now? Will the PS1 and other classic titles include Trophies? Will there be any other additional perks as part of the emulation, like the ability to create save states or even rewind the gameplay?
And this speaks to a larger problem within PlayStation: we just don’t know when we’ll get any answers. Presumably the company has a promotional roadmap in mind, but it could be weeks, potentially even months, before it actually clarifies anything. The firm doesn’t have any relatable spokespeople on social media, so there’s no one online who can elaborate or respond to questions. It ultimately creates a dynamic where the company feels completely disconnected from its customers, at a time when most brands have become more open and approachable than ever before.
Of course, the cogs will keep turning and PlayStation will be just fine. But we exist in an era where Sony’s consumer relations are perhaps worse than they’ve ever been; where every announcement is met with scepticism and criticism and the company seems reluctant get out there and control the message. The most frustrating thing of all is that this is a very recent phenomenon; a chunk of the PS4’s success could be directly attributed to the company understanding its customers so well. That’s a distant memory these days, we’re afraid.
Do you care about the way Sony is drip-feeding information and communicating with its core enthusiast consumers, or is this all a storm in a teacup? Were you bemused by the way the PS Plus revamp was revealed, or are you feeling comfortable the key information will be confirmed in due course? Answer the important questions in the comments section below.