PS4: Remain calm – Sony has more to reveal in due course

Friday, 22 February 2013 19:34 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

PS4 is the news du jour, and while Sony’s deliberately holding back on revealing some of its main features, PlayStation UK managing director Fergal Gara assured VG247’s Stephany Nunneley more will be revealed when the moment is right.

So how did it feel to finally announce PlayStation 4?

Great. It’s been years of preparation, but particularly in the last few weeks with the planning, and it stayed a good secret up until the invite stage, and there were only two weeks of frantic speculation. But it was great to get it out there, and to illustrate things many of us have known about, and do it clearly – the feature sets what it’s all going to do, what it does for the gamer, what experience you get, what’s cool about this game that makes it different.

I was curious over the online aspect. It’s been made clear that users don’t have to be online to play games, however, during the event it was made abundantly clear that in order to take advantage of the social aspects and the Gaikai factor, users will want to be online. How will this affect someone who wants a PS4, but doesn’t have the best download speeds, or has issues with latency?

“It has been a goal, and remains a goal, to make sure PS4 is a great experience whether you are connected or not.”

Our brands and our machines sell across the whole world and infrastructure differs greatly in every country across the world, so one of the things we emphasized form the start is that it must be a compelling, stand-alone experience and a lot more has been added in in terms of the online services and technology and we expect that will be less effective if you’ve got a less than powerful broadband.

As we flesh it out more over the coming months, I think we’ll start to see how experiences might differ, but it has been a goal and remains a goal to make sure PS4 is a great experience whether you are connected or not. And if you’re connected half well, there will be some compromise, but you’ll get most of the experience. That’s my expectation.

When PS3 came out, Sony told consumers that it “does everything.” Here was a console which not only played games, but DVDs, Blu-ray, music discs. Now, you are launching a machine which does all this, plus connects the user to all their friends across social networks. What was so compelling about social and sharing for Sony to require such a heavy emphasis on it with PS4?

Being able to push a button and share is just one of the compelling social aspects of PS4, but for me, first of all, it’s just recognizing the lifestyle people live today and that puts PS3 in a little bubble of its own. It’s got its own special community and infrastructure and what we did during the event was show commonly used tools which we’ve embraced; how we can connect people with that; and how it will just weave into the daily fabric of their life. That is one of the big things that have changed since the PS3. During the PS4 event, Facebook was the main one we focused on, but my understanding is that we’ll be able to adapt to what the right networks are at the right time and satisfy the needs of the user.

People will start to understand this more over the coming months, but I think it’s all about relevancy and I also think – well, we’re the marketing and commercial team in the UK and one of the things we think about a lot are how do we get more miles on our games; how do we get people talking about them. I saw loads of features last night that enable ease of access to games, peer to peer promotion of games. If you are sharing clips of your race or battle or whatever it is you’re playing – you are effectively showcasing games to your friends.

But it also provides an even greater value to the consumer by enabling others to join you in a race, or to help you out. This way, the user is making another aware of the game, and providing them with great value because at that stage you don’t have to buy anything as it will be something for them to pay down the line. It’s creating flexibility for the gamer and fantastic word of mouth and awareness which I think is a win-win.

“We have redefined the top tier gaming experience for gamers. We have unleashed the creativity of the development industry by creating a machine that is easy to develop for and that five years’ worth of developer feedback.”

“It does everything” was also how you sold PS3 to general consumers. How will you sell the new system to the core gamer who already owns a PS3?What is going to make them buy a PS4?

The it only does everything strap-line has become hygiene factors. We touched on video services etcetera during the event, but what we deliberately focused in on was the reason we started in this business. We’ve kind of gone back to the start, how we got started down this road. How do we make that the centerpiece and make that centerpiece as compelling as possible and as powerful as it possibly can be? So we want to talk less about the everything – even though, rest assured there will be plenty more and we will flesh that out as go down the road.

We have redefined the top tier gaming experience for gamers. We have unleashed the creativity of the development industry by creating a machine that is easy to develop for and that incorporates their feedback – five years’ worth of feedback. I am incredibly reassured these guys will bring real talent back into this industry. I have seen bits of everything going along, but what really knocked my socks of the other night was the graphical quality of every game, really. I was expecting really good things, but I came away thinking: “wow was that awesome.”

Every single game, third-party, first-party, really looked like it had stepped big time. It was neat to see.

The event also gave Sony a strategic edge over Microsoft, being the first out of the gate as it were. It’s rumored that it will be announcing its next Xbox console soon – but now the entire buzz is about PS4, and Sony. Will this help you build comparable awareness when Xbox 720 or whatever they plan to call it is announced?

Well, yes it’s great, but we also chose to reveal PS4 when we did because that’s what fits in with the timeline. That’s the right time in terms of enough games being ready to show, being able to pull it all together and say:: “look, here’s the vision, here’s some of the experiences you’re going to see.” If it was much earlier, it wouldn’t have been in a polished state and if you go later, well you just don’t gain the traction or awareness you would otherwise.

If PS4 was shown earlier, it wouldn’t have been in a polished state. If you go later, you don’t gain the traction or awareness you would otherwise.”

Is there going to be an increase in development costs with PS4? EA has said it doesn’t expect development costs to rise too much with next-gen systems – in this case PS4 -but Activision, on the other hand feels differently. During its last call to investors, CEO Bobby Kotick said costs would definitely go up because development costs always go up with new consoles. So, with PS4, are we looking at your standard $60 games or will we be seeing $70 games or more – to help developers recoup costs?

PS4 is developed for developers by developers, and while you would need someone on the hardware end to answer that question for you, developers will have this feature set to use in order to create amazing games for the consumer, yet, the system will also be easy for them to get their hands around to develop with. And those are our two major priorities.

So, I couldn’t tell you how those two balance each other out in terms of your question. But in the end it will be a high-end experience that will be easy for developers to create. Now, what that means in terms of the costs of a big, meaty project, you’d have to have one of our studio leaders to give you more detail around that. [Jack Tretton cleared this up earlier today – ed.]

Have you decided how or if you plan to monetize Gaikai with the system? I know Sony has mentioned in the past that in the future it may charge for PSN instead of keeping online free.

It’s still too early for us to talk about that, along with how much the machines will cost. Of course, there is an economic model, or idea we have in place, or at least something to work with but we still aren’t close to the final stage in that and not able to provide any details. But we will, all in good time.

I was particularly interested in the Game-Pad on the DualShock 4 and what can be accomplished with it, along with the new camera peripheral. I am assuming we can expect to see those bundled together in a package.

Again, the packaged part is something we can’t go into detail on yet, but I can expand on DualShock.

The pad will bring all sorts of possibilities to life with flicks, and pinching and zooming in and out- stuff everyone has gotten used to with numerous devices. There is a fair bit of functionality there, and how it works with the camera, is it will associate the player with a specific controller and takes a leap on from where we have been. For example, say we’ve been playing something and I accidentally pick up your controller I can really mess up our stats so, the new controller recognizes the user.

“I think there’s this perception that we’re deliberately holding back tons, but there are some final decisions that haven’t been made or are not appropriate to be made just yet.”

When will you start really pushing the system, will it be after E3, closer to launch? What I am asking, is when will general consumers become aware of the system. Not the core consumers who reads gaming magazines and sites.

We have kept the information pretty tight even internally so, some of my team only found out about certain aspects today. Soon, we will start discussing details and planning and a build before release, but it will be a while yet before we really start to advertise it. We want to decide what’s the best launch, what’s the best plan – there are so many strands to that.

Have you decided what exactly of the console you will show at E3 – or if you will show it at all?

What exactly gets revealed and when I don’t know, other than that there is plenty more to tell and we’ll be telling the full story between now and launch as there are still a few things not pinned down. I think there’s this perception that we’re deliberately holding back tons, but there are some final decisions that haven’t been made or are not appropriate to be made just yet. There are still variables there to be grappled with, pinned down as it were. All of that is still being worked through.

I was delighted we were able to show as much as we did the other night. And rightly people are asking were the other bits are and all I can say is that we will continue to add flesh to the bones. The other night was just the start.

PS4 is slated for release during holiday 2013. You can catch up on everything that happened during the reveal here.

Stephany’s trip to NYC was 100% paid for by VG247. All her food costs and travel were also paid for by VG247, including the hotel she stayed in with the toilet that would flush on its own every so often during the night. Stephany attributed it to a faulty flush valve flapper, not due to the room being haunted.

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