Andrew House, president, CEO and CFO of SCEE, seems very pleased with the momentum of PS3 since releasing the slimmer model, and feels the recently announced hardware SKUs will once again best company expectations.
Speaking with Patrick Garratt at gamescom, House’s main focus seems to be on consumer experience, and adding value to PS3 – whether for a current console owner or someone entirely new to consoles – leading one to surmise Sony hopes its focus on consumer offerings will pay off for it in the end.
Read on below as House and Pat chat about Move, the core, 3D, and whether motion will be included in everything going forward.
[Interview by Patrick Garratt]
VG247: From a hardware perspective, I suppose your biggest announcement was the new SKUs. Could you just talk us through injecting the different hardware levels – I mean, obviously you’ve got Move coming so you’ve got to bundle – but what about the hard drives?
House: Basically it’s two main points. One, is we’re sensing from the audience that as we are building a broader portfolio on the network with more opportunities to download content, there’s more value in a larger hard-drive. The second point – the part and parcel of that strategy – is to build additional l vale into the console as we move through the life-cycle.
This was a good opportunity to do this and to say it’s a more capable machine for the same price, and then timing wise with Move, well, it just felt like exactly the right moment in the year – approaching peak – to put this on the market. It helps us particularly when you look at the Move bundle as it’s a very good value proposition versus the competition. That’s another good solid part of the strategy.
VG247: Speaking of competition, is there an internal feeling of urgency there now, obviously you’re very close to moving past 360 on a global level. Is there a sense you have to maintain pressure across all the major territories to make sure that happens?
House: No, I don’t think that’s the right characterization because one of the territories, let’s face it, is just very different and just streets and streets ahead in the market [Japan]. I think it’s more driven by sensing that we’re building increased momentum partly off the price point but the principle of building the console over time seems to be one that the consumers embrace and particularity at a time most people are being careful about what they spend. And they’re seeing more value in that.
It’s a point I have been making to a lot of people – it’s value not just for new people coming into the console market, but added value over time for those who came in first. An example I like to give is that Blu-ray capability within the machine is of more valve in 2010 than in 2007. 3D is an example of that as well – making it available to anyone with a connected console free of charge. Again layers in – more functionality and another way to enjoy the console. I think that’s a principle for us, and I’m hoping it’s one that consumers understand and welcome.
From a core perspective, you seem to be building a strong portfolio – probably the strongest it’s been in the console’s life. Now you’re adding Move to that as well, and it’s a core product as well as causal one. You and I were talking about the release date for GT5 last year, and you must be pleased to finally have that coming out and you must be pleased from a business perspective that it’s coming out in time for Christmas this year.
We were downstairs earlier on today, and I thanked him (Kazunori Yamauchi) for finally giving the date. ‘I’ll do my best’, he said, so yeah, we’re absolutely delighted and you know it’s one of the crown jewels amongst our franchises and it really needs to be there and we’re just delighted it’s coming.
It probably felt good to announce Resistance 3 as well. They said very little about that though,obviously. When are we actually going to see that game?
I’m going to remain coy about that, and I’m going to let Ted Price (Insomniac CEO) talk about that when he’s in a position to do so. He very much wanted to position it as a tease and he did a great job of that with the video. But I’ll let him take his time and reveal more when he’s ready.
Yesterday you mentioned that you’d like to change the format of your press presentations. You wanted to make it a bit shorter and a bit more fun. Why?
Well, I think in my ad libbing I was probably – well what I was actually referring too was something more pragmatic, I mean everyone was standing, number one, and we set everything up to be more hands on than just this straight ‘Andy plus guests talk for an hour and a half and then leave’. That’s what I was referring to on that. We really wanted to put the emphasis this year on people getting their hand on the products.
How important is Move for the European business? You’ve kind of hit this sort of motion wall with Microsoft, as you’ve both sort of – I hate to use the word- but “similar” sort of product. Do you think it’s being forced upon you or are you glad you’re bringing Move to market at this point?
I wouldn’t characterize it as being forces upon us at all I think – one of the things that make me proud about Sony is the ability to bring technologies to market when they’re really additive to great experience. I think Move is superior to anything else out there, I think precision and ability to have it be equally enhancing to a core gamer’s experience as to welcoming a new audience via social and motion-based family gaming is great as well.
I think the price point is a very deliberate strategy saying in essence it’s not a platform launch, but certainly not a peripheral – it’s somewhere in between and I think we’ve gone with a fairly aggressive strategy on pricing that I think gives people a very good value proposition and it doesn’t make that a barrier to entry – and I say that’s probably in contrast to the competition.
I think whether it be Move or or 3D, the most encouraging thing for me is conversations with co-presenters is hearing genuine enthusiasms coming from the creative end of the organization around 3D and Move. We’re a creative driven organization at our best, and whether it be Herman and the guys at Guerrilla Games saying ‘We’ve been working with 3D and we think we’ve got something special’, or whether it’s the guys on MotorStorm – that bodes really well for the consumer experience for me.
So there’s no sense of it being forced – that simply doesn’t work. It has to be dependent on the guys who are building these experiences, getting excited about it, and seeing possibilities, and I think both on the 3D front and the Move front and certainly when you put the two together – that’s what’s driving it for us.
Do you see motion input being an integral part of Sony software going forward?
I think it’s to be, to a degree, game dependent. I always hesitate to a give blanket answer and ‘Yes, it’s going to be in absolutely everything’,
because if it’s going to be creatively driven, it has to be faithful to the essence of what the gaming experience is going to be. I think it’s one of those movements that will gather force over time as people start to see more and more possibilities.
One of the things we didn’t see at the show was The Last Guardian. When are we going to see that? It’s been a long time coming, obviously, and there were rumors regarding an HD remix of the Ico games that popped up earlier this year. Is this something we’re going to be seeing at the Tokyo Game Show then?
I really am not in a position to talk about when you’ll see it next.
You talked a lot about growth in your gamescom presentation. How much of an impact do you think PS3 Slim had? This is something you must have planned from the absolute outset for the whole PlayStation 3 console plan – you must have incorporated a new form factor at one point. Did the entire thing go according to plan – are you at the point now where you exactly expected yourselves to be?
I think we’re actually beyond it. I think we took up our projections last year when we began to see the initial impact on sales and I think the next interesting measurement point for us, is as we move now, post gamescom, into an almost like-for-like value proposition in terms of pricing with the hard drive enhancements and then seeing how the market is. My sense right now is we’re going to be ahead of plan, even beyond projections for this year.
I have such a strong sense of momentum, and thanks to the feedback I’m getting from my territory managers and from retail, I think what is really encouraging is my colleges in the US are really bullish for their numbers this year.
It is always a bit dangerous, perhaps, to talk about tipping points but I think we did reach a tipping point when we reached the 299 price point, and did I mention a Blu-ray player. That was just a significant event.
Will it be significant for you when you pass 360? Surely it must be on your mind. Is there a graph somewhere at Sony with the two lines on it. Or do I have that wrong?
If such a graph exists I haven’t seen it [chuckles].
At the risk of sounding parochial, I think my focus since coming on board is doing the best we can for European consumers, and we’re seeing significant advances here versus both of our competitors.
I guess that’s sort of the primary area of focus. But if I were to forced to say it, well, yes, it would be absolutely great for that to happen.