The dark hand of hackers has cast a gloomy shadow over the Playstation Network (PSN) as last week saw a major security breach PSN’s security. This breach is poised to damage Playstation’s online gaming community and could result in brand preference directed toward XBOX’s Live network service.
The big problem for Playstation is the effect this hack will have on their brand image. With Nintendo’s Wii console as the clear selection for family-friendly gaming, Xbox and Playstation have had to compete primarily for the hardcore gamer market. This security issue effects that market directly as the hardcore gamer market is one that is heavily focused on profile rankings and achievements, precisely what the hack puts at risk.
The ability for a brand to create, build and keep preference depends on that brand’s ability to find meaning that resonates on the most intensive level for the consumer. It must align all aspects of the brand clearly to ensure messaging is always visible and consistent. Playstation has been off-point regarding their messaging as much of their focus has concentrated on product features like “free online network access”, when in fact the aspect of “free” is severely trumped by whether a network is secure and stable. The permission of Playstation to speak to the hardcore gamer market will be jeopardized if they cannot resolve their network security issues and begin new brand messaging that restores consumer identification with the brand.
Throughout the gaming community you will find a large number of XBOX users who have nothing but positive things to say about XBOX’s Live network; the stability of the network; dependable servers; the ease of use. These are all aspects that have meaning to a market that believes the “quality” of gaming to be a superior factor to “price”. On the flipside, when asking a Playstation user about the PSN, the only real response has to do with their network being free. Free, in this instance, has very little emotional intensity for a community which already willing to spend $60 for games.
A meaningful brand is created when brand identity is perceived as being self-reflective for the consumer. In this sense, purchase decisions are simple because when a message is the most intensive in the market, no competition is even considered. PSN users are getting a first hand lesson of how nothing is free. It will be up to Playstation to correct their security issues quickly or risk that consumer realization resulting in a preference shift in favor of the competition.