What happens when our society becomes engrossed with personalization, individuality, and creativity? Companies move to provide options that will make users feel special.
Before diving into the world of social gaming, let’s talk a little bit about our current consumer landscape.
Selling Consumers to Themselves
With the growing capabilities of technology, the world has changed significantly; as has the way consumers interact with products. In western culture, specifically, there is a desire to be up-to-date, sporting the newest pair of shoes or texting on the newest smartphone. There’s a status associated with the things we own, but just having the latest items isn’t enough anymore. It has to be uniquely ours.
The need to express ourselves runs so deep that we feel that need in the very products we buy. When we make a purchase, or in other words a monetary commitment to a brand, we make multiple decisions based on cost, emotion, and the envisioning of ourselves using that product. Advertisements for just about anything (cars, clothes, games, phones, you name it) often employ an appeal to pathos (emotion) so that consumers will think about what their lives will be like with that product. Consumers ask questions like:
- How will I look in this car?
- How will I look in these clothes?
There’s also an emphasis on the level of customization within these products, leading to details such as color, size, decal, and more — even bio-security measures.
That product also has to be an extension of the consumer. Companies who anticipate this desire are the companies that earn loyal consumers. These are the brands that compete.
Games have a unique ability to speak to this need of customization. RPG’s allow for character creation, skill specialization, and often the choice to influence the story’s outcome. Online multiplayer games allow players to customize weapons, character outfits, player cards, and more. Players, more often than not, want to enjoy a unique experience with the game they are playing, so the more options offered, the better.
Now that it’s known what consumers want, the question falls to how to give that to them. More specifically, how to give PlayStation users that same product satisfaction. And PlayStation Home has an answer for that.
Crafting a Personalized Community Experience
PlayStation Home had an idea for the best of both worlds. It gave users two things:
- The freedom to have their own space built from their own designs.
- The collective experience of the PlayStation community as a whole.
Creating avatars was one example of personalized freedom. While creating avatars in games isn’t anything special in and of itself, on Home, it was an inherently personal process. You weren’t building a warrior or a professional sports player: you were building yourself. And you wouldn’t be going out to slay dragons or carry a team to victory: you’d be using this avatar as an extension of yourself, quite literally.
Balancing Individualism and Collectivism
While Home gave players the capacity to be an individual, to be creative in the way they expressed themselves, and to personalize their experience, it also allowed them to participate in a large online community. One that was seen as a bold attempt to bring a huge player base together. Home was and could be a hub for PlayStation culture.
It was the brand committing to engaging with its community and showing concern for their desires to feel important, free, and unique. It was an act of faith in the community to be part of something great and innovative. Something that was a defining feature of that generation of PlayStation.
Incorporating PlayStation IP’s into themed areas and providing options to customize spaces with items from said IP’s brought PlayStation’s titles into this consumer framework. Games have a large impact on players, and letting players connect with their favorite games in personal ways via Home did even more work for crafting a personal experience.
Looking to Next-Gen to Improve Past Concepts
PlayStation Home was initially created to be a space for gamers to meet up and launch into other games. While this was an innovative feature of the application, the application became more popular than the feature. Players wanted to spend more time in it than the games it was meant to take them to. And now some players are working tirelessly to preserve Home and envision new realities for the platform.
What PlayStation ended up creating was a cultural hub in its infancy. It never got to blossom into what it could truly have been, but the opportunity is here to revive that possibility in ways we couldn’t imagine back in 2008. If PlayStation is to be an industry leader, the reinvention of their beloved “experiment” would be evidence of a company that prizes iterative process to deliver peak player satisfaction.
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