Ford’s Virtual Showroom in PlayStation Home- A Missed Opportunity

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Recently, I visited PlayStation Home to check out the new Ford virtual showroom showcasing the Ford Fiesta and Edge. Last year, Audi developed a virtual race track for EU PlayStation Home users so I was anxious to see what cool stuff Ford had to offer. Being a owner of two Ford/Lincoln vehicles, I was hoping for something spectacular. This is Ford’s first introduction into the virtual space however what I initially saw wasn’t impressive one bit. For starters, the space was small with very little interaction with the virtual vehicles. In my opinion, Ford really missed out on an awesome opportunity to engage users with direct cues to to type of functionality and capabilities of each vehicle. I would have liked to be able to sit in the Ford Edge or Fiesta (virtually) look around and get tactile feedback from the Sony stereo system or hear the horn beep when I pressed the steering wheeI. The Ford Edge look unimpressive in size in comparison to the Fiesta. This is Ford’s cross-over vehicle but in-world it felt like I standing next to Focus. At first, I had mistaken it for the Ford Focus. The concept of NPC (non-player character) in virtual spaces is a really good idea if they’re sole purpose is to guide users. Ford’s NPC was difficult to find. In part it could have been an lighting issue or the fact the NPC was camouflage against the blue background. A good approach in a virtual space regardless if you have NPCs is to use way finding as means of instructing users the path they should take. A beacon over the NPC’s head would have indicated to many visitors to visit Ford’s NPC for directions on what to do here. Gamers want and need directions or else they’ll become bored and leave. There’s is much needed work in terms of the NPC. When you approached the NPC you were presented with menu selections about Ford products and an option to start the quest. Little information is provided about the quest. If they want to call it the quest, because after seeing the NPC I went to view the interior of the Ford Edge and directed to look around the vehicle. Then, the navigation hints you to teleport to the Virtual Mall without knowing what the next steps were. It just seems the entire Ford experience in PlayStation Home was lack luster as if Ford had little time nor investment in this project. First impressions are everything and when a company decides to market their brand in the virtual space for the first time they better come out with guns blazing.

This brings me to an important point I want to highlight. Virtual environments are not meant to be replicas of your organization’s website. You can’t expect to pull videos and content from your website and think it will suffice for a virtual world. What I as a consumer would have like to have seen was a more robust Ford virtual space showcasing all new Ford, Lincoln/Mercury vehicles, a lounge area with mini games where Ford owners can congregate and talk about how much they love their Fords (perfect spot to hold Ford events), a race track where users can go head to head, and lastly virtual offices where not only NPCs are available for questions but a few real sales reps at designated times to offer additional information or provide local contact information, if we’re interested in purchasing a Ford. Receiving free virtual Ford shirts was a nice gesture (where’s my Ford hat) but it would have not been much trouble to offer all visitors a virtual Fiesta & Edge pimp in-world. Driving is not an option of course but users would have loved to be able to place a vehicle in their virtual personal space (apartment or garage). Another opportunity I think Ford missed out on was the micro-transactions from branded virtual goods. A Ford store with virtual clothing, furniture or knickknacks. At the very least, offer the Ford Fiesta or Edge (virtual replicas) to purchase in-world. However, as a consumer I’ll would want than a 3D image for vehicle. I’ll expect something more dynamic sporting a music jukebox and/or video playback capabilities.

The success of Audi was largely attributed to the Audi race track and the rewards that all gamers love. If Ford wants to achieve the success Audi has gained in Europe then I highly recommend at the earliest date possible that they continue to invest in more Ford themed spaces PlayStation Home that rivals the Audi space. This is an excellent opportunity to connect with their target audience and win the hearts of PlayStation Home users. If they can watch, listen, and talk with users, I truly believe Ford will see an ROI on their investment in the coming year. So Ford, take it to the next level and show us how Ford vehicles are positioned as the next generation of automobiles.

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