EDGE - - KNOWLEDGE E3 2017 - Jim Ryan Global head, mar­ket­ing and sales, Sony In­ter­ac­tive En­ter­tain­ment

Your con­fer­ence felt oddly lowkey this year, lack­ing the usual show­man­ship we ex­pect from Sony.

There was a cer­tain amount of bom­bast and loud bangs. Do you think that’s a bad thing?

No, but in a year when you know Mi­crosoft and Nin­tendo have new hard­ware, it makes sense for you to pare things back and fo­cus on games. Was that the think­ing?

Yeah. Ob­vi­ously last year was our year of in­no­va­tion with PSVR and PS4 Pro. It was [a case of], ‘Let’s let the games do the talk­ing.’ It was re­ally no more and no less than that. It’s of­ten easy to sort of im­pute some grand strat­a­gem to some­thing that’s of­ten quite straight­for­ward.

How much do you think about the other con­fer­ences when plan­ning your own? Clearly it’s a com­pet­i­tive busi­ness, but you need to be proac­tive.

If you try and set out your own stall by ref­er­ence to what some­body else is do­ing, that way lies fail­ure and ru­ina­tion. If you have con­fi­dence and be­lief in your own plans, then just lay them out and let gamers de­cide. There are cer­tain ar­eas where we’ve gone one way and our var­i­ous com­peti­tors are go­ing in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, and I think that’s fine. It’s all good. If we try to mir­ror, or con­tra­dict, or diss what some­body else is do­ing, I don’t think that speaks well of us.

What does the slate of games you showed on stage tell us about Sony’s strat­egy for the next 12 or 18 months?

I think it talks quite a lot to breadth and di­ver­sity, and I want to in­clude in that com­ment some games that were not ac­tu­ally at the show.

Such as?

The Playlink se­ries, which may not be to the pal­ette of many of your read­ers. We need to talk to a to­tally dif­fer­ent au­di­ence, and one that is per­haps, in many cases, rather in­tim­i­dated by the in­ter­face of the Dual­shock 4. To bring in a suite of games that is more so­cial, that is eas­ier to in­ter­act with and that is kind of go­ing back to the style of games that we had great suc­cess with back in the PS2 gen­er­a­tion, with EyeToy, Singstar and Buzz – and Nin­tendo, ob­vi­ously, with the Wii – we’re very in­ter­ested in and ex­cited by that.

It’s that point in the gen­er­a­tion where you look to a wider au­di­ence, isn’t it?

Yeah. These ini­tia­tives, by their na­ture, are spec­u­la­tive, and not with­out risk. But I think if you have am­bi­tions to go from 50 to 100 mil­lion, you have to start to at least ex­per­i­ment with some of these things.

One thing that wasn’t clear last night is what PS4 own­ers are meant to spend the rest of the year look­ing for­ward to.

I un­der­stand that. We prob­a­bly haven’t been suf­fi­ciently vo­cal about a year in which we’ve had Hori­zon Zero Dawn, which has been a hugely suc­cess­ful new IP. And break­ing new IP – and you know this as well as I do – is fraught with peril. We’ve got that, we’ve got Un­charted and we’ve got

Gran Turismo Sport, all in the same year, all from our stu­dios, all ex­clu­sive to PlayS­ta­tion. I think that’s a pretty de­cent state­ment. I think that many of the games you saw last night that are com­ing in 2018 are look­ing very strong.

Plus, there’s been a re­al­i­sa­tion across the in­dus­try that it’s no longer solely about the fi­nal three months of the year.

I to­tally agree. It’s very in­ter­est­ing to spec­u­late about what might have hap­pened if we’d gone to mar­ket with

Hori­zon in Novem­ber. I think hav­ing that space in March, whether it’s space at re­tail, or­gan­i­sa­tional clut­ter in­ter­nally, the PR thing, mindspace with gamers... Re­ally it can only be a good thing if we’re start­ing to get more adult as an in­dus­try, spread­ing the re­leases across the year in a sen­si­ble man­ner.

In a few months you will no longer lay claim to hav­ing the most pow­er­ful con­sole on the mar­ket. We have a resur­gent Nin­tendo. How does all that im­pact on the way you run the PlayS­ta­tion busi­ness?

Ob­vi­ously, we watch what they’re do­ing very care­fully. I think a resur­gent Nin­tendo is just great for the in­dus­try on so many lev­els. And you and I hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion about Sony ver­sus Mi­crosoft, it cre­ates in­ter­est. They’ll be look­ing for more space in stores; hope­fully that means more space for the cat­e­gory over­all. I’m not at all un­happy about it. Specif­i­cally re­gard­ing Pro and X, by the time they launch we’ll have been in the mar­ket for a full year. Pro ac­counts for one in five of all PS4s sold since we launched; we’re re­ally pleased about that, it’s way ahead of the ex­pec­ta­tions that we set our­selves. They have their plans, we have ours, and we’ll see what hap­pens. Turn­ing the tem­per­a­ture up on the whole thing is no bad thing at all.

Is it time for a cheeky Pro price drop? We thought you might have snuck that in the press con­fer­ence to steal some thun­der.

(Laughs) Well, we said noth­ing about price. They’ve an­nounced their price, and we have ours. It’s not al­ways a guide to any­thing, but when they’re at a sig­nif­i­cant pre­mium to us, it can be a strug­gle for them. I don’t see any pres­sure aris­ing as a con­se­quence of any an­nounce­ments that have been made this week.

Does the suc­cess Nin­tendo has en­joyed with Switch give you pause for thought about porta­bles?

It’s still very early. Many things Nin­tendo does are so dis­rup­tive and dif­fer­ent that it takes quite a long time to un­der­stand them, and I don’t think we’re at that stage yet with Switch. Like I say, it’s great that they’re back, it’s great to see them do­ing so well.

Minecraft and Rocket League are of­fer­ing cross-plat­form mul­ti­player on ev­ery sys­tem ex­cept yours. How can a com­pany with the slo­gan For The Play­ers be the last one hold­ing up that wall?

We don’t have any pro­found philo­soph­i­cal stance against cross­play. We’ve done it be­fore and we’ll do it again. With Minecraft, it’s en­joyed by a hugely wide de­mo­graphic, many of whom are very young and have been trusted to go on­line within the con­fines of the PlayS­ta­tion Net­work by their par­ents. I think open­ing them up to pos­si­ble ex­pe­ri­ences that are beyond our abil­ity to man­age is some­thing we take quite se­ri­ously. So it’s very easy to trot out a slo­gan, but these is­sues are fairly deep, fairly pro­found. We don’t have any rule that we ap­ply, we just test these things against a va­ri­ety of cri­te­ria on a case-by-case ba­sis.

The last few years have been very busy in terms of hard­ware. We’ve had mid-gen power re­freshes, which we’re not used to. We’ve had VR head­sets and Switch. Do you think that’s go­ing to slow down now? Or does the ef­fect of the smart­phone mar­ket, where peo­ple ex­pect these reg­u­lar up­dates, mean this is the new nor­mal?

It’s a very in­ter­est­ing ques­tion. The cul­tural phe­nom­e­non of reg­u­lar up­dates to smart­phones and tablets is with­out ques­tion, per­haps sub­lim­i­nally, colour­ing mind­sets. And the days of a 13-year PS2 cy­cle will al­most cer­tainly never re­peat them­selves. But equally, a plat­form is a very del­i­cate ecosys­tem, and if that plat­form is to suc­ceed, you’ve got to give those who make con­tent for it the chance to re­coup on it. At the end of the day, like it or not, these are busi­nesses. We struck – and Mi­crosoft has as well – a good bal­ance of in­no­va­tion within the con­fines of the plat­form. Also, ser­vices which op­er­ate ag­nos­ti­cally of par­tic­u­lar hard­ware, like PlayS­ta­tion Now for ex­am­ple, are some­thing you’re go­ing to see more of. I think we’re only six months in to Pro, and it’s too early to tell. X hasn’t launched yet. I don’t know if this is the way for­ward or not.

“I think many of the games you saw last night that are com­ing in 2018 are look­ing very strong”

Knowl­edgeIsPower is part of the Playlink ini­tia­tive, which lets play­ers use smart­phones as PS4 con­trollers. The link to PS2 hit Buzz! is ob­vi­ous – and, you sus­pect, in­ten­tional

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