Today I got to visit the PlayStation Vita Hill Social Club here in NYC. And I know it's just marketing, but I'm happy to see Sony doing things right. I'll admit... what they're doing is incredibly expensive. And risky. But... it was incredible. The device was nice. Getting to play the games early was cool. And the environment is exactly what every guy wants his man cave to look like.
There are eight Vita Hill Social Clubs around the United States: click here to check if there's one near you. It's basically a nice little set up with PS Vitas and PS3s set up all around the room. When you get there you register for a chance to win a Vita (I think they're giving away one per day), and then you go play. No sales pressure (though, of course, you can preorder one from them... it looked like Best Buy was handling the transaction). Stay until they close, and they offer you free drinks and snacks.
I was ony there for about an hour, but while I was there a few adults came and went, but most of the visitors were kids... I'm guessing early teens. But, here's where everything got a touch intense for me:
It was clear to me that the star of this particular Vita Hill wasn't the PS Vitas. Yes, the kids were playing the games. Yes, people were getting to experience the system's new features (still love the touchscreen on the back). The star here was an employee named Roy.
Roy knew the kids names, and they new him. Roy was the first stranger I've met that could instantly keep up with me in a conversation about gaming. Roy talked about the PlayStation brand not as a money-making business, but as a genuine way to build community - and communities.
We had to ride the subway to get to the locale (my first time on a NYC subway!). It's a full 3 miles from Times Square. I really have no idea where we were... so I asked why they chose this location. Roy told me that they could have been closer to Broadway, but that would have been too touristy, and that's not what they wanted. They genuinely wanted to create community, a place where people would come once and then come a second time and bring friends. And, because they had someone like Roy working there... even within one hour... I could see that it worked.
I know this sounds crazy, but somehow by creating an innovative and incredibly expensive marketing project of setting up social clubs across that country, Sony has managed to be a positive influence in this New York communities. I dont know a thing about the neighborhood, but I know I saw kids playing and enjoying life together in a non-destructive way. They weren't on the streets, they weren't getting into trouble. They were just hanging out.
I left that place not simply excited for the Vita that would be shipping soon to my house, but excited about the very idea and concept of a Vita Social Club. Excited that Sony wasn't just investing in creating a brand, but in building communities.
It does make me wonder what the world would look like if more giant corporations invested in creating and developing community for our kids. And it makes me wonder what it would be like if there were more people in the world like Roy, who clearly loved his job, loved his company, and loved being friendly and helping create community. We need more Vita Hills and more Roys in this world.
Sony, you've got the attention of an XBOX fanboy. Keep working it.
P.S. If anyone from Sony ever reads this, hire Roy full time in your marketing/social media department. He's making a difference for your brand that is unmeasurable.