Japanese culture is rooted in superstitious beliefs. Some of these superstitions are so deep in the culture that they are meant to serve as lessons or practical advice. One of these superstitions has to do with the number 4 and will affect the name of Sony’s next console, the PlayStation 4.
The number 4 (FOUR) in Japanese culture is an unlucky number because the word for “FOUR” (shi) sounds like the word “Death.” (also shi) Numbers and objects which have names that are homophones for words such as “death” and “suffering” are typically considered unlucky. This presents Sony with a potential problem in Japan. Release the PlayStation 4 with an unlucky number that represents death in a superstitious culture and risk alienating a portion of your user base or dump the numbered branding altogether.
The rest of the world doesn’t have the same superstitious values or beliefs and will most likely continue to call Sony’s next console the PlayStation 4. Sony could also release the console with a different name in Japan. This could prompt some westerners to start calling Sony’s next console the “PlayStation Death.” That’s not as appealing or as funny as I thought it would be when I first started writing this article. Regardless, Sony won’t be calling their next console the PlayStation 3″U,” or “The Console Formerly Known as the PlayStation 3.”
Homophones: Words that have the same pronunciation but have a different meaning.
America has its superstitions as well. 13 is an unlucky number in the U.S. and it is considered bad luck if a black cat crosses your path in the U.S. and in Japan.