Managing director, Sony Computer Entertainment UK
You’re here at E3 to meet retailers as well as the media. How has their perception of you changed now that you’re in the lead?
They see a resurgent category, they see a resurgent PlayStation brand, and they know there’s great sales in it for them. They know we want to sell more consoles this year than we sold last year; it won’t be about one big bang, one huge launch moment, but hopefully great sales over many weeks. The UK market in particular: we were third in the home console market only three or four years ago, and now we’re leading the market. We’re very proud of that, and in no way complacent, but of course that brings with it more engagement. We’ve worked hard to be open and to create that engagement, and it’s very much reciprocated from our retail partners. And our publishing partners: all the partners we work with, really, have an extra level of determination and interest in working with us, which is great.
Last year you won E3 at a canter. This year it’s much closer, but do you feel like it’s your show again?
I won’t comment on the opposition. I understand it was a good showing. I think what we are proud of is that we did the right thing for year two: we showed there is a fantastic array of games coming, and coming into Christmas that’s hugely important to bring in the next wave of consumers. But what I also think we did very well was to show that the PlayStation ecosystem continues to push forward. I think the momentum we’ve got as a brand and a business was very visible on the night. We’ve not just got what you’d expect this year, which is great games; the story continues. PlayStation TV, PlayStation Now and Project Morpheus are the key examples of that. There’s much more to come.
Morpheus is a tough thing to market: you can’t demo it on stage. How will you approach that?
Thousands of headsets! One in each seat. We’re a fair way away from taking it to market, and we’re fairly open about that. As you know, it was revealed at GDC. That’s not an accident, it was a very deliberate strategy to say: “We’ve got this hardware, it’s maybe near final, it’s pretty sophisticated and in good shape. We’ve got a few bits of demo content here that show some of what’s possible, but we haven’t got a set of experiences that are go-to-market ready. But help us. Here’s the blank canvas, here are some ideas you might want to consider. Go forth and develop”. And when those experiences have been developed, and we can see them taking shape, we’ll know when the right day to go public is.
You must have a rough idea of when that will be.
There are thoughts, but I think it will be shaped by the experiences. It’s a bit like delaying a game until it’s at the right standard. There’s a right time to bring these things out and [in this case] it’s when there’s enough great content.
On that note, 2015 is going to be an amazing year for videogames, but is your 2014 slate good enough?
I think it is. But I also think 2015’s going to get off to a great start – whether that be Arkham Knight or
The Order: 1886 or other titles in the pipeline, we can have confidence that 2015 is going to be great as well. But to have the likes of Destiny coming, which launches the peak season, I think that is absolutely tremendous. And a couple of massive titles from last year coming across in GTAV and The Last
Of Us, plus much more besides. We’re pretty pleased. some points of difference [from] some of the key publishers and developers we’re working with. We’re doing both of those things. I’d pick out Destiny as a great example of where those points of difference will be truly meaningful, and will mean PlayStation 4 is the best place to play Destiny by some way.
That speaks to the extent to which things have turned around – 360 used to be the place to play shooters.
Absolutely. We’ve learnt a lot from the last generation: we had a list of things to fix – or to improve upon, I should say – and that’s one of them. We’re in far stronger shape now.
Why wasn’t Driveclub, one of the few firstparty titles due for PS4 this year, even mentioned on stage?
Just time and priority. I’d actually pick out three pretty significant things that were missing on Monday evening that certainly matter to me and my team and our plan for this year: Driveclub, Minecraft for PS4, and SingStar for PS4 and PS3. There’s only so much time, and Driveclub has been shown before. I think it could well have deserved another airing, especially as it’s now looking so, so much better. I’m sure Andy made the executive producer decision as to what made the final cut. It’s one of those things we didn’t cover again but I have no concerns about the plan: it’s another example of a slip but, again, it’s better for it and it’s definitely better to bring the game out right than bring it out early.
“We were third in the UK home console market only three or four years ago; now we’re leading it”
You have such a large network of firstparty studios, but it seems you’re incredibly reliant on thirdparty publishers, for the remainder of the year especially.
We’ve got a great set of partnerships there in 2014 and even in 2015:
Arkham Knight is one of the bestlooking next-gen titles I’ve seen so far. It’s way up there, I’m very excited about it – it’s a great title for us to be working with. I think we’re much better represented in the firstperson shooter area: Destiny, Battlefield:
Hardline looked great as well, and both of those are pre-Christmas. So the breadth and depth, I think, our representation across genres – right from Destiny to Disney Infinity – that covers a hell of a spectrum.
There was a focus on platform-exclusive content during your press conference. How important is that to the success of a console?
Well, you saw Andy [House] put up the words: play it best and play it first. Our vision is to create the best place to play; if it’s the best place to play, it’s got to have some unique experiences. That can be generated in two ways: either by our own firstparty studios, or
The annual E3 question: where’s
The Last Guardian? [Laughs] I have no idea. We didn’t see it, so there’s no news! Sorry, I have nothing to report.
What we knew as Vita TV is now PlayStation TV, which seems a pretty logical name change. How big a focus is that for the rest of the year, and what’s your target market?
In short, it is significant; we have a significant number in our plan for it. The name change works for me because although a lot of the architecture is technically a PlayStation Vita, we think the primary role we should communicate for this device is as a PS4 extender. And at the price point – which in the UK will be £85 – we think that’s reasonably affordable and the best, the simplest place to start in terms of communicating its benefits is to say that it gives you that practical home solution whereby you can continue to use the TV and decamp from the living room and continue to play in another room.
There’s more to it, whether that be as a client device for PlayStation Now or the ability to play Vita games; maybe it’s got a fantastic role as a ‘My First PlayStation’ to take away on a family holiday or an entry point to the PlayStation brand. There are multiple angles as to how we could take it to market but we’re pretty clear that the best, and easiest way to articulate the benefit is as the PS4 extender. That’s where we’re going to focus.
How’s Vita doing in the UK now? You’re experimenting with bundles, and the perception of the device has changed now that PS4 is on shelves.
It’s doing really well. It’s in growth; year to date, we’re up. We’re absolutely pleased with that, and see plenty more opportunity on the horizon. The PS4 agenda, as you rightly point out, is key, and it is having a positive effect. Bringing a full Minecraft to Vita is another milestone in the year to come. Vita’s not going to sell as well as PS4 this year, but it’ll sell very comparably to PS3 in the UK this year. It’s a good, solid performer, a key part of the family.
How about software? PlayStation Plus is so generous – has it had an adverse effect on game sales?
It’s fair to say PlayStation Plus is a very popular addition for Vita owners. They kind of feed off each other – it works both ways. People are consuming a significant proportion of digital games – they may be [bought] individually, they may be through their Plus subscription, but they’re still buying a good proportion of packaged games as well. It’s a real mix, but we’re seeing games being played and we’re seeing games being bought on top of the subscription.
Microsoft has played its hand on price; do you feel any pressure to cut the PS4 price in response?
We still haven’t caught up with launchday demand across Europe. We are very satisfied with the pricepoint we landed at; I see no reason to change that any time soon. It’s great value, gamers have clearly been happy with it, and it’s still selling. We still have availability problems – which we’ll hopefully catch very soon – but we haven’t even caught up with day-one demand in some countries so there’s clearly no need for a price cut.