Sony's former Entertainment President Chris Deering recently announced that they planned ‘Facebook' technology around the time of the first Playstation back in 1997 and video sharing technology a full four years before YouTube. So with the blogosphere excited about the imminent launch of Sony's new virtual world for PS3, ‘Home', we investigate the games console market within social media. How will Sony's exclusive approach compare with Nintendo's use of existing communities?
Sony's positioning at the vanguard of online development could certainly be believed when looking at their share of buzz amongst the leading games consoles; Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. Sony's PS3 holds 35% of the games console discussion, equaling the Wii and out performing Xbox, who currently hold 30% of the market buzz.
However, brand duplication is high within the online communities; the three leading consoles are being mentioned in the same discussions. The forums are largely responsible for this duplication, with large scale threads often referring to the spectrum of consoles in the same breath.
Within the large social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, there is a surprising lack of official presence from the console manufacturers, with the majority of buzz being driven through games manufacturers. Titles such as Guitar Hero and Tiger Woods Golf have created the majority of recent buzz. While this activity has driven online discussion, it doesn't offer any insights into the consumers console of choice; both titles are available across all three platforms.
Despite the duplication of brand mentions, it is possible to gain an understanding of the amount of online discussion that references one of the machines exclusively. This space offers a greater opportunity for the consoles to build brand salience in a cramped market.
The chart below gives us an insight into the amount of ‘exclusive' buzz held by each console.
Wii and PS3 hold the lion share of ‘their own' buzz, while Xbox's buzz is roughly divided into three equal shares. This allows us to further understand the nature of the debate surrounding games consoles; Xbox is more often than not mentioned in the same discussion as Wii and PS3, while the Nintendo and Sony machines hold a larger portion of discussion that mentions only the one brand.
Despite the close-cut nature of the console war, Nintendo continue to under supply their products. When investigating the brands levels of online activity outside the gaming forums, it is apparent that the brand is leveraging the popularity of existing communities to strengthen their own sense of community.
Nintendo have exploited large, established online communities (such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook) to drive discussion about the brand brilliantly. The infamous YouTube viral that saw an unsuspecting girlfriend hula-hooping on her Wii Fit is an example of this, providing a brilliant source of online buzz.
In addition to this, the recent Wario Land viral, where the video (and a fair amount of Flash development) causes the rest of the page to collapse further extends Nintendo's success within the channel.
The user generated content around the Nintendo brand also reiterates the essence of community, so prominent in the television spots for the Wii. Nintendo's hand held device, DS has been subject to a ‘homebrew' Twitter application, allowing the DS to become a portal to another community. In addition to this, a user generated Facebook application has been developed, allowing Wii players to publish and collate Friend Codes; a method of connecting with friends within Nintendo's online gaming community.
But with the Wii now a veteran of 2 years and the Xbox approaching middle age, who dominates the buzz when projecting forward to the next generation of consoles? The graph below reveals that the PS4 has the march on the competition already, can Home reinforce the Playstation brand or will Nintendo continue to grow in popularity within existing communities?
With the online communities awaiting the next Playstation, can Sony realize their social media plans or will they be left with only claims to yet another idea? The £285 PS3 required to join Home opposes the low threshold of entry that has allowed market leaders such as Facebook and YouTube to thrive. But with a sales target of 10 million PS3's to be reached before the end of the year, Sony could be ideally placed to create their own network.
The approach being adopted by these three brands in the social media space opens a wider debate; should brands aim to join in with existing online communities or try and create their own?
With the share of buzz so finely balanced and approaches so different, this sector could provide the greatest insight yet into the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches.