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Hard-core videogame players are impervious to hype, snazzy ads and flowery promises, says Jim Whims, exec VP for Sony PlayStation, the most successful videogame product of 1995.

So when Sony Computer Entertainment launched its first-ever videogame player last September, its mission was to demonstrate, rather than talk about, the benefits of its $299 advanced-technology unit versus less-expensive models from established competitors Sega of America and Nintendo of America.

"Tons of research" had convinced Sony that the hard-to-please, mostly male consumer in the brutally competitive $6 billion market was ready for new gaming tools. But despite Sony's reputation for reliability, there were no guarantees its product would succeed, with PCs looking like the next avenue for home electronics entertainment.

"There was a lot of [industry] skepticism, but we took an underground, viral approach," says Mr. Whims, 41.

Among these surreptitious methods: leaking game tips on the Internet and burying hints in print and TV ads from TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif.

By Christmas, the PlayStation was the hottest-selling unit at electronics boutiques, which had trouble keeping it in stock. By midyear, PlayStation claimed 20% of the total market, with 73% share of the advanced, 32-bit segment.

The key was hooking "the ringleaders," or those people who are first to adopt to new technology, and winning them over to the product, Mr. Whims says.

"We got in on the undercurrent with first, and from there PlayStation boomed."

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