According to a settlement announced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Sony will be refunding consumers for deceiving PS Vita ads concerning its false “game changing” technological features.
As the Business of Consumer Protection blog reports, the FTC’s action against California-based Deutsch LA charges that the ad agency knew or should have known that certain cross platform and live, multiplayer gaming claims for the PS Vita were false. The allegation states that the agency used social media to deceptively advertise the PS Vita’s features without full disclosure of the nature of the posts — that they were made by employees from said agency.
To extrapolate, about a month before the Vita debuted, one of Deutsch’s assistant account executives sent this email to all Deutsch employees:
Fellow Deutschers –
The PlayStation Team has been working hard on a campaign to launch Sony’s all-new handheld gaming device, the PS Vita, and we want YOU to help us kick things off!
The PS Vita’s innovative features like 3G gaming, cross platform play and augmented reality will revolutionize the way people game. To generate buzz around the launch of the device, the PS Vita ad campaign will incorporate a #GAMECHANGER hashtag into nearly all creative executions. #GAMECHANGER will drive gamers to Twitter where they can learn more about the PS Vita and join in the conversation. The campaign starts on February 13th, and to get the conversation started, we’re asking YOU to Tweet about the PlayStation Vita using the #GAMECHANGER hashtag. Easy, right? . . .
In response, Deutsch employees used their personal Twitter accounts to hype the PS Vita through tweets like:
- “One thing can be said about PlayStation Vita . . . it’s a #gamechanger”
- “PS Vita [ruling] the world. Learn about it! us.playstation.com/psvita/#GAMECHANGER”
- “Thumbs UP #GAMECHANGER – check out the new PlayStation Vita”
- “This is sick . . . See the new PS Vita in action. The gaming #GameChanger”
- “Got the chance to get my hands on a PS Vita and I’m amazed how great the graphics are. It’s definitely a #gamechanger!”
The blog also states that:
“The FTC says Sony exaggerated the Vita’s capabilities. In fact, users can’t easily access their PS3 games on the PS Vita. Most PS3 games can’t be played remotely because Sony didn’t specifically design the remote play feature into the PS3 system. For example, the popular PS3 game Killzone 3 was featured in a Sony video about remote play, but was never playable remotely on the Vita – and very few, if any, games of a similar size and complexity worked with the remote play feature.
What about pausing on the console and picking the game up where you left off with the PS Vita? Good luck with that because according to the complaint, the heavily hyped cross platform feature was available for only a few PS3 games.
Here’s an example of how things actually worked – or didn’t work – for many users. Ads for MLB12: The Show promised gamers “NEVER STOP PLAYING” and touted “Cross Platform Game Save” that let users “Play on your PS3 system and then continue your game on the go with PS Vita.” But users could pause the game on their console and pick it up on their Vita only after they’d played the entire game – all nine innings. In addition, Sony didn’t tell gamers that to use this feature, in most cases they had to buy two versions of the same game – one for their PS3 and another for their Vita.
What about Sony’s claim that users could engage in live, multiplayer gaming through 3G? Actual game play delivered less than the company promised. According to the complaint, PS Vita users are restricted to ‘asynchronous’ multiplayer gaming – a fancy word for ‘My turn, then your turn’ – and can’t engage in games that feature live, simultaneous play.”
Venture Beat further explained the misleading claims made by the company:
“The FTC’s complaint against Sony charges the company with making false claims about the PS Vita’s “cross platform gaming” or “cross-save” feature. Sony claimed, for example, that PS Vita users could pause any PS3 game at any time and continue to play the game on their PS Vita from where they left off. This feature, however, was only available for a few PS3 games, and the pause-and-save capability described in the ads varied significantly from game to game. For example, with respect to MLB 12: The Show, consumers could only save the game to the PS Vita after finishing the entire nine-inning game on their PS3. In addition, Sony failed to inform consumers that to use this feature, purchasers had to buy two versions of the same game – one for their PS3 and one for the PS Vita.
The FTC’s complaint also alleges that Sony’s PS Vita ads falsely implied that consumers who owned the 3G version of the device (which cost an extra $50 plus monthly fees) could engage in live, multi-player gaming through a 3G network. In fact, consumers could not engage in live, multiplayer gaming.
The complaint further alleges that Sony also falsely claimed that with the ‘remote play’ feature, PS Vita users could easily access their PS3 games on their handheld consoles. In reality, most PS3 games were not remote playable on the PS Vita. Sony also misled consumers by falsely claiming that PS Vita users could remotely play the popular PS3 game, Killzone 3, on the PS Vita. In fact, Sony never enabled remote play on its Killzone 3 game title, and very few, if any, PS3 games of similar size and complexity were remote playable on the PS Vita.”
As part of the settlement agreement with the FTC, Sony is barred from making similarly misleading advertising claims in the future and will provide consumers who bought a PS Vita gaming console before June 1, 2012, either a $25 cash or credit refund, or a $50 merchandise voucher for select video games, and/or services. Sony will provide notice via email to consumers who are eligible for redress after the settlement is finalized by the Commission.
Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated:
As we enter the year’s biggest shopping period, companies need to be reminded that if they make product promises to consumers — as Sony did with the ‘game changing’ features of its PS Vita — they must deliver on those pledges. “The FTC will not hesitate to act on behalf of consumers when companies or advertisers make false product claims.