If you’re not sharing, you’re not part of the mas­ter plan


This year’s Gamescom pro­vided a four-pint stein’s worth of talk­ing points, not least thanks to Sony, which gen­er­ated news sto­ries even when it was re­vis­it­ing old ground in the shape of Share Play. This PlayS­ta­tion 4 fea­ture, dis­cussed orig­i­nally in 2013, will be­come avail­able via the v2.0 firmware sched­uled for the au­tumn. When it goes live, it will al­low you to in­vite oth­ers to play your games via PSN as if they’re sit­ting next to you on your sofa, mak­ing use of the Gaikai stream­ing tech Sony ac­quired as part of a $380m in­vest­ment in 2012. At Gamescom, the fea­ture was couched as be­ing “next-gen so­cial”, but along­side the clear con­sumer ben­e­fits it also rep­re­sents next-gen mar­ket­ing. In us­ing Share Play, PS4 own­ers will be help­ing to pro­mote new re­leases among fel­low play­ers. If you ac­cept an in­vi­ta­tion to help a friend tackle a par­tic­u­larly thorny sec­tion of Blood­borne and find the ex­pe­ri­ence enor­mously sat­is­fy­ing, the leap to pur­chas­ing the game your­self sud­denly be­comes a smaller one. TV and YouTube ads? Such pas­sive mar­ket­ing meth­ods feel old-fash­ioned and im­po­tent against the power of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing with a friend.

As a mar­ket­ing tool, Share Play falls into the cat­e­gory of word of mouth, the most effective method of get­ting con­sumers on board. We saw its strength in ac­tion as Nin­tendo en­joyed the mas­sive suc­cess of the orig­i­nal Wii: the sys­tem of­fered some­thing unique, and the peo­ple who owned it couldn’t wait to share it with their friends, who went on to buy their own. Launch­ing Wii U in 2012 was a more dif­fi­cult task be­cause by that point the con­sole’s most overt in­no­va­tion – its touch­screen in­ter­face – was al­ready es­tab­lished tech­nol­ogy. The re­sult? Fewer shares and fewer sales.

Its on­line ser­vices may not always show it, but Nin­tendo has never been more con­scious of how play­ers re­late to each other, and what that means for the com­pany’s suc­cess. From the be­gin­ning, its Wii U games have been made with the group ex­pe­ri­ence in mind, and in our cover story Shigeru Miyamoto ex­plains how it will de­fine the con­sole’s future.

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