EDGE - - KNOWLEDGE E3 2016 - Jim Ryan Global head, mar­ket­ing and sales, Sony In­ter­ac­tive En­ter­tain­ment

How do you think the PlaySta­tion con­fer­ence went over this year?

Very well. There are two as­pects to it. The first was the for­mat, which I think was rather dif­fer­ent to any­thing that’s been done be­fore. An orches­tra, for Christ’s sake, at E3. I wasn’t sure how it was go­ing to work out, but it re­ally made the whole thing. More im­por­tant, of course, were the games. We felt con­fi­dent that we had a good ros­ter, but you’re al­ways a bit ner­vous go­ing into these things. But the re­ac­tion in the room was great. I’ve hung out with jour­nal­ists and pub­lish­ers and re­tail­ers, and ev­ery­one’s say­ing good things. I feel re­ally good.

We were struck by how you kept chit-chat to a min­i­mum, too.

Yeah. One thing we con­cluded – and it’s taken us far too long to do this – is that hav­ing mid­dleaged man af­ter mid­dle-aged man on stage talk­ing is not nec­es­sar­ily the best recipe for suc­cess. If you’ve got strong con­tent, just let that do the talk­ing for you. That’s the ap­proach we took, and it seems to have worked.

Many of the games you showed had a rather ma­ture tone. Not in terms of blood and guts – they just felt a lit­tle more per­sonal, more about re­la­tion­ships.

This gen­er­a­tion’s tech­nol­ogy does fa­cil­i­tate nar­ra­tive. For us it re­ally started with The Last Of Us, which would al­most be a prim­i­tive level of nar­ra­tive and emo­tion com­pared to what’s now pos­si­ble on PS4. The stark­est il­lus­tra­tion of that, for me, was

God Of War: his­tor­i­cally it’s a very cred­i­ble, highly rated fran­chise, but there were di­men­sions in the demo that started our show of nar­ra­tive, of emo­tion, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween fa­ther and son. That bit at the end where they plunge the dag­ger in? I’ve spo­ken to peo­ple who were close to tears at that. That’s not an emo­tional re­ac­tion we’ve ever seen in a God Of War game be­fore. Not to dis­par­age what’s gone on in the se­ries pre­vi­ously – it’s just that we’re see­ing a com­pletely dif­fer­ent di­men­sion to these things on PS4, which is great.

With many big pub­lish­ers pulling out this year, some say E3 is on the wane. What’s your take on that?

His­tor­i­cally it’s been ex­tremely im­por­tant to us. There have been times when the in­dus­try has tried to walk away from, or di­min­ish E3, but it’s never hap­pened. To me, it’s in­ter­est­ing that many of the com­pa­nies who have ‘walked away’ from the show are still very present. E3 is clearly the most prom­i­nent event on the cal­en­dar, but there are events in the Far East, in Europe... it’s a big fix­ture in a kind of com­pli­cated global pic­ture.

Speak­ing of com­pli­cated: you’ve con­firmed the ex­is­tence of PlaySta­tion Neo, and Mi­crosoft an­nounced Project Scor­pio. What does this mean for the tra­di­tional no­tion of a con­sole gen­er­a­tion?

There are peo­ple mak­ing rather bold, sweep­ing state­ments, about how it’s all changed for­ever and it’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent in the fu­ture. Many of those are prob­a­bly the same peo­ple who pre­dicted the demise of the gaming con­sole four or five years ago. It’s very dan­ger­ous to be too cer­tain in any pre­dic­tions. It’s cer­tainly the case that tech­nol­ogy cy­cles are go­ing to be shorter. Smart­phone man­u­fac­tur­ers it­er­at­ing their hard­ware on an an­nual or semi-an­nual ba­sis is mak­ing con­sumers more re­cep­tive – in­deed ex­pec­tant – of mid-cy­cle im­prove­ments.

But I think our space is rather dif­fer­ent. Whether you’re a de­vel­oper spend­ing three or four years and a great deal of money mak­ing a game, or a con­sumer who bought into PlaySta­tion 4 back in 2013 or 2014, you have a rea­son­able ex­pec­ta­tion that this thing is go­ing to have a rea­son­able life­cy­cle in front of it. Moving to the smart­phone ap­proach is po­ten­tially very fraught. We have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that ex­pec­ta­tion of a sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment in which to de­velop or play games is met.

Find­ing a way to do that, but at the same time of­fer an en­hanced, dif­fer­en­ti­ated, rather pre­mium ex­pe­ri­ence, is the chal­lenge that lies ahead of us. It’s an area we’re ex­plor­ing with in­ter­est. We’re ex­cited by it. It def­i­nitely could be the fu­ture. Will it be? We’ll see.

In the more im­me­di­ate fu­ture is PlaySta­tion VR. Some devel­op­ers are call­ing it the first com­mer­cial wave of VR. How do you feel about that?

I don’t want to dis­par­age any­thing that any­body else is do­ing, but what I would say is that when we go to mar­ket in western Europe and the US on Oc­to­ber 13, it will be a proper PlaySta­tion launch. There will be sig­nif­i­cant quan­ti­ties of VR ma­chines in all the ma­jor mar­kets of the world; there will be sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence at re­tail. There will be proper mar­ket­ing, proper in-store pres­ence. It will be a proper PlaySta­tion launch.

“There are peo­ple mak­ing rather bold, sweep­ing state­ments, about how it’s all changed for­ever”

The Shrine Au­di­to­rium was once again Sony’s home af­ter five years at the cav­ernous, though rather soul­less, LA Me­mo­rial Sports Arena, which was de­mol­ished in June. It’s a grand old spot, and the ideal venue for a live orches­tra, which sound­tracked most of the show

Ryan didn’t take Sony’s stage; in­stead he was sec­onded to Ubisoft’s con­fer­ence, where he an­nounced Sony Pic­tures’ Watch Dogs film (above) and some PS4-ex­clu­sive Ubi DLC

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