Sony pulling a 1-2 punch

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The cradle-to-grave strategy of Sony Computer Entertainment for its PlayStation 1 and 2 may prove a potent formula in the video-game console contest with Nintendo Corp.'s GameCube and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox.

Sony has repositioned its hugely popular PS1 to appeal to casual gamers of all ages-including senior citizens. With a $99 price point, a compact design and LCD screen, Sony expects the PS1, which has already sold 85 million units globally since its 1995 launch, to attract a more diverse group of consumers. Another lure: A raft of new games including titles based on the movie "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," exclusive to PS1 console, and the Walt Disney Co./Pixar release of "Monsters, Inc."

"The PS1 is all about expanding markets," said Andrew House, VP-marketing, Sony Consumer Entertainment America. "Every convert to the PS1 is a stake in the ground for a long-term consumer relationship."

The plan is to hook kids as young as 5, grandparents and late adopters of technology, then bump them up to the more sophisticated PlayStation 2, which can also play DVD movies. PS2, launched only last year, faces a direct challenge from Xbox. With 5 million PS2 units sold in North America since last fall, Sony hopes to hit 10 million by the end of its fiscal year ending March 31, 2002.

"The PS2 was built on brand equity for the PlayStation," Mr. House said. He believes the fact that PS1 consumers can play their entire library of software titles on PS2 is a key point of loyalty.

"Our goal across both platforms is to put the PlayStation brand and its products into an unassailable position," Mr. House said.

Sony next month breaks the biggest print campaign in PlayStation history, cutting a broad swath of 30 titles including AARP's Modern Maturity and Meredith Publications' Better Homes & Gardens.

The print, TV, online and direct-mail campaign, part of a $250 million marketing effort encompassing both the PS1 and PS2, was created by Omnicom Group's TBWA Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif. "This is uncharted territory for us," Mr. House said.

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