When the PlayStation Showcase 2021 presentation recently opened with a chess-themed spot, quite some eyebrows were raised. Why did Sony Interactive Entertainment not feature new games the community has so eagerly been waiting for? Or the latest PlayStation 5 console that has been so difficult to get since its release in November 2020 due to hardware shortages? Why was a big budget spent to feature chess?
Eric Lempel, Vice President of Marketing for PlayStation, told GamesIndustry.biz: “We wanted to do something bigger, a little more epic, and it’s definitely not about saying ‘here’s a product, and here is what it does and here is why you should buy it’. This one is about pushing boundaries. We wanted to celebrate gaming in a really big way, and celebrate play at a whole new higher level.”
The spot, scripted by the London agency Adam&Eve DDB, will be played in full or in part on TV, streaming channels and in cinemas. The two-and-a-half minute spot follows a female hero in the role of a pawn that brings down the black king and celebrates victory in E-sport style. According to Lempel this resonates with the PlayStation message that “anyone from anywhere can be the hero.” The previous capture of the white queen can be seen as a reverence to the Queen’s Gambit series. While the white king is played by a black actor, the black king is played by a white actor. The spot includes small references to thirty console games, which certainly triggers repeat views by avid console players.
A female hero in the role of a pawn that brings down the black king resonates with the PlayStation message that “anyone from anywhere can be the hero.”
Viewers familiar with the Polish capital can detect some of Warsaw’s signature buildings in an otherwise futuristic megalopolis. Lempel said, “this is what chess might look like in the world of PlayStation. It takes it to a whole new place. This is elevated play.”
Chess is far from new on PlayStation and other consoles. Pure Chess and Ultra Chess have been around for years and enable play against an engine or against human opponents online. Chessaria is a role-play version. In 2019 the game Dota Chess started a whole genre of games that became known as Auto Chess: Up to eight players place pieces that move in different ways on a checkered field, and when all pieces are set watch their pieces battle it out. Of course this is well beyond what we know as chess.