Silent Hills? Until Dawn? Share Play? You’ve got a lot of questions for Sony. In the wake of PlayStation’s tremendous gamescom 2014 conference, we went to Michael Denny, vice president of Sony Worldwide Studios Europe, for answers.
There is one thing I do have to ask you: are we ever going to see The Last Guardian?
Sony held a barnstormer of a gamescom press conference in Tuesday, focussing solely on PlayStation 4 and showing of its first true wave of nexe-generation video games. We got Bloodborne, a genius teaser for a Kojima-developed Silent Hill game and a breathless confirmation that PS4 had passed 10 million sales, but also a bevy of announcements for smaller games such as Michel Ancel’s WiLD, Rime and Volume. It was a good deal.
Yesterday we caught up with Sony’s Michael Denny, vice president of Worldwide Studios Europe, to have a pick at the PS4 hive mind.
VG247: It must have been a big day for you personally yesterday. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many games in a press conference. There was a lot of new stuff in there.
Michael Denny: It was really exciting. As you say, a lot of new stuff. We kind of set out with that in mind. It’s always interesting with gamescom coming so soon after E3. We always want to talk about a lot of new content at E3, so usually it’s what’s left for gamescom. We deliberately didn’t wanted to repeat E3 and update on the big titles. The big titles are obviously massively important to us, and it was great to do the pre-show with The Order, Bloodborne, LittleBigPlanet and the new standalone InFamous content, First Light, but we wanted, and specifically in my section, to concentrate on fresh IPs. We think it’s exciting, and we think it shows PlayStation fans that there’s a lot of new stuff to come.
More specifically it shows PS4 fans what’s to come. You were really focused on PS4. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not sure you mentioned PlayStation 3 once during the entire presentation. Was that a statement of intent?
You only have so much time to hold people’s attention in these things, and you have to make you decisions on what you’re going to talk about in the press conference and maybe what you’re going to talk about in interviews afterwards. PlayStation 3 is still the second bestselling home console in our territory, yeah? There are still big games coming to it. There’s LBP3, Destiny, Watch Dogs, etcetera. There’s a massive catalogue of games for it and it’s at a great price point, so I think we all know where PlayStation 3 is. For the show, the conference, we wanted to talk about new stuff.
I want to talk about your network announcements, specifically about the ability to play games with friends who don’t own the game. Now, bluntly, is this actually going to work?
[Laughs.] We wouldn’t have announced it if it wasn’t going to work.
That is true. But, say, are you going to be able to do this with a friend in America if you live in Europe?
In terms of the exact specifications of Share Play, there’s more to follow with the announcement of Firmware 2.0. But, you know, conceptually everyone sees that and thinks, “Wow, fantastic.” And it is. Before we were all living in an online world, your mates used to come round and you’d pass them the controller. It’s that concept but taking it to the connected networked world. We’re very excited about it, and more to come on it.
The same with your internet features, then. The YouTube upload announcement is a big deal to a lot of people. Do you think gamers just expect this type of functionality now? Do you feel pressured to put this stuff in, or do you actually want to do it as part of the PlayStation remit?
That’s an interesting way of putting it. You’re right, people do expect it, but of course we want to do it as we know it’s what our fans want.
Do you think people expect to be able to share everything now while they’re playing games? This is a very new thing.
It is new, but the take-up of it has been phenomenal. We watch the way people play and we learn ourselves, and we want to support the things people want to do.
I want to talk specifically about some of the software you showed. Bloodborne’s visuals looked absolutely astonishing. That really did look amazing. Do you think the game’s going to be accessible enough to keep people playing after they’ve been wowed by the visuals?
I think you have to look at the track record of the developer, From Software, and the games they’ve made. Their fanbase have been really passionate. I think with Bloodborne, and with graphics as well, they’re taking their games to the next level. We’re hoping that will be a big, breakout title for us.
That looked next-generation to me.
I’m really interested in Until Dawn. You seem to be edging this out really quite slowly. I’m going to ask you you some straight questions about it and I have no idea if you’re going to be able to answer them or not. Is it supernatural? It wasn’t made clear, and we’ve only seen a couple of trailers.
Yeah, and you won’t be surprised to hear me say that I’m not going to do any spoilers. [Laughs.] Can I just answer it in that way?
That’s fine, yeah. It seems to be a cross between Evil Dead and Switchblade Romance. There’s a lot of nods to French Extremism in there: the head on the floor, the bumpy moments, the foot in the shot. Are you excited about it personally?
Yeah, we are excited about it. We wouldn’t have continued with it and put it into development if we weren’t. The concept we had for the game goes back a long way. As you know, we started on PlayStation 3 as a Move-controlled game, but the essence of the concept we’ve always liked. It’s our job in Worldwide Studios to look at these things and ask whether or not they’re going in the right way or if there’s a better platform for it, or could it take a different direction. We’ve always wanted to keep the essence of the concept alive and deliver it. We thought, “What about Until Dawn for PlayStation 4? Make it a bit darker. Make it more accessible to gamers on DualShock 4 as well, rather than limit it to Move.” We are excited about the project.
You appear to be very flexible with that game, and have a strong commitment to horror in general. Obviously, we saw the Silent Hills announcement, which has to be one of the sneakiest I’ve seen in a press conference. Is horror welcomed on PlayStation 4?
Absolutely. The only thing I’d say is that you talk about “horror” as if it’s a one set sort of game. I think the genre does lend itself well to video games, but when you look at Until Dawn versus Silent Hill, I think they’re going to be very different types of game. We actually have Until Dawn playable on the showfloor, so people can go along and see how we’re treating horror as more of an interactive drama.
Do you have any kind of exclusivity on Silent Hills?
It isn’t a first-party game, so it’s not a project I’m connected with. It was great to do the teaser and then for people discover what it’s all about and the excitement to come through. I think we’re all excited it’s coming to PlayStation 4.
I think that’s kind of it. There is one thing I do have to ask you: are we ever going to see The Last Guardian?
[Laughs.] Everybody asks that.
I only ask because at this point it’s an institution to do so.
[Proper laughs.] That’s right. The Last Guardian: there are no new announcements. It’s still in development. It’s something we’re very, very excited for, and I understand why people want to ask all the time, because it’s an exciting project from an exciting team.
One more, actually. There was no Grand Theft Auto in there, which was a bit of a surprise given it was one of your big splashes at E3. I think people expected an update. Should we take this to mean there’s a potential delay?
I don’t think you should read anything into it. GTA is coming to PlayStation 4. It’s going to be fantastic for everybody. We just had nothing new to update on last night.