Why is Sony Obsessed With “Secret” Exclusives?


PS3 Informer has an interesting article up today about Sony’s fondness for teasing gamers with the prospect of “top secret” exclusive games under development and what exactly this strategy might mean.

In the article, Kris Erickson points out that for the past few months, Sony has been discreetly leaking whispers to the gaming press – all the way up to the BBC – about “top secret” titles in the works. Those same journalists then go on to help build hype for these mystical titles that honestly, we don’t know the first damn thing about.

When Sony executive Shuhei Yoshida hinted that there were “more big titles that we have not even announced yet” on their way, Erickson finally had to ask:

What’s up with all of this secrecy, Sony? Surely if you have a big game in development there is no harm in telling us about it so we have something to look forward to.

The piece mentions two potential reasons why Sony keeps swearing everybody to secrecy: on the one hand, maybe the titles are simply so far from completion (what with modern development times being what they are) that the developers simply aren’t ready to talk about their game. This could be Sony’s way of promising its faithful that there are indeed goodies coming down the pipe, but they might not be in the coming year – gamers might need to wait until 2010 to taste this sacred fruit.

On the other hand (and the article acknowledges that this would be the fanboy-preferred reason), maybe these double-plus-secret projects are just that damn good. Perhaps these games are so brimming with innovation and brilliance that Sony can’t reveal them for fear that those dastardly dogs at Nintendo or Microsoft might steal the concept and beat it to the punch.

I would like to offer a third suggestion, if I may: it’s no secret that, any way you slice it, Sony and the PlayStation 3 are in last place this console generation despite blockbuster exclusives in 2008 like LittleBigPlanet and Metal Gear Solid 4. Sony needs something to jumpstart its flagging numbers and quickly – especially if SCEE President David Reeves’ mandate that turning a profit is the company’s number 1 priority in 2009 is any indication. As Erickson also points out, of the three participants in this round of console wars, Sony is the only one making such a big deal about secrecy.

Given that we’ve seen that Sony is no stranger to slightly ham-fisted marketing (see: All I Want for Christmas is a PSP) … well, perhaps I ought to be giving it more of the benefit of the doubt than I am, but this just comes off as a slightly desperate, potentially underhanded marketing ploy to me. Could Sony be banking on gamers picking up PS3s based on these top-secret-but-supposedly-mindblowing titles before they even know if the games are to their taste or not?

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