One of the most overlooked aspects of any product is its name. In a bubble, what does a name like Walkman, iPad or Netflix mean? Not a lot, especially when the given product and service was initially launched, yet over the years, each mentioned name has become synonymous with the product and even category that they represent. For Sony, this was no different in late 1994 when the original PlayStation launched. Sure the two words connected help convey what the product would be but today, PlayStation has become an iconic brand that not only means something to consumers, but can almost help define a person.
It’s been clear for some time that Sony would be following up the very successful PS4 with something new and in fact confirmed its existence in early summer. No, it wouldn’t be the PS5 but some form of iteration to tide us over till they were ready to bring to market a true successor. Since the launch of PlayStation over 20 years ago, there have always been slim models that were a culmination of improved design and components. But unlike the PS4 Pro, slim models for the most part were always revised takes of the original model and wouldn’t be more powerful or have additional capabilities.
For Sony, naming the next iteration of PS4 had to be simple and familiar, yet distinct enough that you’d automatically know what the product was without much explanation. The naming of the console also ensures that it sets itself apart from the normal PS4. And perhaps that last part is the most important requirement of their naming scheme – that consumers had to realize that this isn’t just a ‘slim version’ with new internals, but something entirely different – but not too different that they’d think it’s an entirely new console requiring separate games and accessories.
Mind you that this is no small feat, after all, it’s only been 5 years since Netflix tried to launch Qwikster, their would-be spin off DVD business and what a disaster that was. Referred to as PS4 Neo internally, gamers and journalists alike each had their own take on the name that would be bestowed upon the new console – PS4.5, PS4k, and PS4 4K which is what yours truly was leaning towards.
Luckily Sony had something different in mind – PS4 Pro – and it’s simply brilliant. From the start, it’s quite obvious what the product is – it’s a PlayStation 4. By now, most consumers get what a PlayStation is and certainly have heard about the PS4. But seeing how PS4 and PS4 Pro will live side by side, much in the way that the MacBook and MacBook Pro live side by side, without going over an extensive list of differences, they need to know that the two consoles do differ.
When the Pro naming scheme started, what it stood for was obvious: Professional. After all, it was the Pro market that wanted more powerful hardware and additional features but in the last 10 years in consumer electronics, something curious has happened. As the baseline for power has increased and the prices for professional hardware and software decreased, the two markets have begun to converge in the middle. You can now purchase Final Cut Pro X for $199 where it used to cost north of $2,000 and the same goes for professional computers and even cameras. Look no further than Sony’s extremely robust and powerful E6300 camera which costs only $1,000 for the body.
To that end, Pro less and less means a model that’s for the professional and instead denotes a model that’s more powerful and high-end. For Sony, that means that means that when consumers look at the PS4 and PS4 Pro in stores, they are immediately able to identify that they belong to the same product family but that one is the ‘better version’ of the other.
Now for many people, they might not need a Pro version of the PS4, let alone say an iPad Pro or a MacBook Pro, but the branding and what it stands for is quite clear. Had it been up to me, I would have lobbied for PS4 4K but as we’ve come to learn, PS4 Pro is much more than just 4K. Even those with an HDTV will get a definite set of enhancements like improved fidelity and framerate but PS4 4K branding may have alienated that person from ever even considering the console, seeing how they don’t have a 4K TV.
But PS4 Pro doesn’t scream 4K at you, it just indicates a better, more powerful model and that’s exactly what the console is. If you own a HDTV, PS4 Pro will make your games run better. If you own a 4K TV, PS4 Pro will drive 4K quality visuals and give you all the 4K streaming options you want. Interested in PS VR? Again, PS4 Pro can help with improved gameplay and framerate.
Had Sony opted for any other name, including putting an S or Plus at the end of the model, the impact of the new console may have been lost. But with Pro, and a marketing campaign behind it, Sony can brilliantly with just the name convey to us that it’s the same PS4 consumers have come to love, but just better or shall I say, more Pro.
Do you like the PS4 Pro name or would you have gone for something different?