Sony explains "Marcus Rivers" ad campaign

You’ve probably all seen the latest PSP commercials with 12-year-old actor Bobb’e J. Thompson, known as the character Marcus Rivers. The goal is apparently to attract much, much younger gamers than the PSP’s original late-20s demographic.

Sony’s portable PSP gaming device launched with a very strong start but it has since kind of faded into obsolescence. Since the PSP was released more than five years ago, only a couple PSP titles have ever landed on the monthly sales lists of top-selling video games in the US.

The device has actually managed to sell through pretty well despite never really having grade-A software available. That’s because it also functions as a portable entertainment gadget, providing a user-friendly interface for watching movies, listening to music, and viewing photos on the go.

But sales are beginning to fall off, and a lot of game designers aren’t even looking at the PSP these days. So Sony is now trying to gear PSP marketing away from its original target age of around 28…to gamers who are graduating from the educational Leapster handhelds. That is, gamers who aren’t even teenagers yet.

“We saw the [new] prime target as 12- to-14-year-olds who are graduating from devices like the DS and even the Leapster, but before they’re getting into console gaming or carrying smartphones,” said Sony director of hardware marketing John Koller in an interview with AdAge.

The ads featuring Marcus Rivers are designed to complement Sony’s highly successful series of ads with the fictional Sony executive Kevin Butler, who has become a resounding success for the PlayStation brand.

It is one of the strongest pushes to date for Sony to bring the PSP back into the forefront of the competition. It had sort of previously just relegated it to be something that could sell well but wouldn’t generate any buzz. By targeting a much different audience, it could be the start of new beginnings for the handheld.