Yesterday, to launch the PS5, PlayStation did a branded take-over of Oxford Circus. All of the tube station signs in the area are now in the shape of the iconic symbols you find on PlayStation controllers: square, circle, triangle and cross.
The promotion isn’t just limited to Oxford Circus: a number of stations across London have been renamed to reflect upcoming PS5 titles. Mile End becoming “Miles End” to promote Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales; Lancaster Gate has been renamed “Ratchet and Clankaster Gate” after Ratchet & Clank; West Ham was changed to “Horizon Forbidden West Ham” for Horizon Forbidden West; and Seven Sisters has been changed to “Gran Turismo 7 Sisters” – I guess they ran out of puns for that one.
Lots of people seem to love this rebrand – which is only ongoing for 48 hours – but it’s also caused a bit of a backlash. Some have argued that it represents a sinister intrusion of the corporate into public spaces. Although the signage is temporary, there are concerns that it could be the beginning of a slippery slope, and could lead to companies paying to sponsor street names and tube stops, either regularly or permanently.
Given that TfL is pretty strapped for cash at the moment, it’s not too hard to imagine this happening, nor is it without precedent. In Madrid, for example, the metro station of the city’s main square, Puerto del Sol, was renamed in 2006 to “Vodafone Sol”, a partnership that lasted a decade. Last year, in London, The Times temporarily transformed Westminster tube station into a “jungle”, to make a convoluted point about how “wild” politics has become.
In response to the PlayStation stunt, writer and The Quietus editor Luke Turner tweeted, “Dear me this is depressing - PlayStation have changed the signs of the tube at Oxford Circus to mark the launch of something or [other]. This awful corporatisation of public space and signage is a slippery slope.”
Writer and New Socialist editor Tom Gann, meanwhile, tweeted, “This is an appalling attack on civic decency, you shouldn’t be able to buy this change & commercialisation of the city.”