TGS: Sony's Hirai Talks Motion Controller, PS3 Slim
At a Gamasutra-attended Tokyo Game Show keynote, Sony Computer Entertainment president and CEO Kaz Hirai examined the future of the PlayStation platform, discussing PS3 Slim sales and further showcasing the PS3 Motion Controller ahead of its Spring 2010 release.
Hirai started by discussing games as a "major entertainment industry", noting that it's the 15th anniversary of the PlayStation's introduction, and giving "heartfelt appreciation" to both game developers and users for supporting the various PlayStation systems over the past few years.
The Sony executive pointed to the major changes in the lifestyles of the users over the past few years, noting that Sony needs to be "flexible in thinking and in designing new games and business models". Hirai referenced the PlayStation Network in trying to address the "accelerated" growth of online play and social gaming that the game business is seeing.
He highlighted LittleBigPlanet as a key example of new trends such as user-generated content, revealing that there are now 1,280,000 levels made for the Media Molecule-developed PlayStation 3 game. Hirai also referenced Singstar as a product that, especially in Europe, has a lot of user-created videos shared and online-downloadable songs to access.
At Sony, "we have to open our eyes" and always be sensitive to what users want, Hirai said. He discussed the PlayStation 3, referencing the "renovated design" and reduced $299 price of the PlayStation 3. He showed a graph of a spike in sales and said that the PS3 Slim has sold 1 million units sold in its first 3 weeks.
Addressing the price cut of the PlayStation 3, Hirai said of the PS3 Slim: "We have managed to realize this price without making any changes to what is good at it." He particularly noted: "We think that prices should not be reduced automatically after a certain period of time", but there needs to be "strong game titles" to back it up after a price cut. He then showed a highlights reel for PlayStation 3, including Sega's Yakuza 4, a brief snippet of Last Guardian, and Western titles such as Heavy Rain and God Of War 3.
Hirai went on to discuss Sony's motion controller, showcasing the peripheral onstage for the first time in Japan. The setup is a combination of PlayStation Eye Camera and the custom wand-like controller, which includes multiple buttons and a trigger button.
He commented that "core gamers that have stringent requirements", he believes that they will respond well to the PS3 Motion controller, which includes a sphere at the tip of the controller to get recognized by the Eye. This is in addition to the gyrometer and other internal detectors within the motion controller. Hirai concluded by indicating the the controller is scheduled to be launched in Spring 2010, and is intended as a "second standard controller" for PlayStation 3.
Discussing PSP, Hirai showed a highlights reel which included known games such as LittleBigPlanet and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for the PlayStation Portable, plus a new Echochrome-style title from the creators of the original abstract puzzle title. He then discussed the launch of the PSP Go, focusing on the connection to PlayStation Network and its heavy online-centric attitude.
Finally, Hirai discussed the PlayStation 2. Nine and a half years after its launch, there are now 135.8 million units of PlayStation 2 in the market. This is split up into 21.5 million units in Japan, 56.8 million in North America, 51.9 million in Europe, and 8.7 million in Asia.
Returning to PlayStation Network, Hirai revealed that the service now has 29 million registered accounts, with 600 million sales and a total of 25 billion yen spent worldwide to date - and sales triple that of the previous year.
Hirai spent some time explaining the non-game parts of the PlayStation Network, making it clear that Sony's plans lie beyond simply games. These include the extensive movie and TV store available in the U.S. market, which is currently being rolled out to Europe - as well as the comics store coming to the PSP in the near future. The goal is to create "much wider choices for every user".
In the Q&A following Hirai's speech, a Nikkei BP questioner discussed a number of notable subjects. Responding to a question on what he was excited about in the Western media, Hirai mentioned The Beatles: Rock Band's launch in the U.S., and the "considerable media attention on this". He noted the build-up of excitement and the fact that not just the game media were discussing the game's launch -- and said that events like this "may well broaden the user base of games even more".
Responding to what technical elements in games may be primed for growth, Hirai referenced 3D glasses-based gaming experiences, saying that Sony as a whole was researching on this, and had "considerable attention focused" on it. Hirai added: "For PlayStation 3 as well, we would like to push forward 3D".
As for what the motion controller and other innovations can eventually do for gaming, Hirai commented that "when you are enjoying games, there may be a build up of excitement or sadness or joy." He noted: "You feel those emotions yourself", but the game cannot yet tell your reactions. He hopes in the further future that use of the camera -- perhaps alongside heartbeat, body temperature and even sweat sensors -- could make games much more reactive to the player's emotions.
Returning to networks, Hirai concluded that the key to entertainment expansion for Sony going forward is online connectivity. Drawing a comparison, he said that air conditioning used to be "a nice thing to have" in cars, but now it's pretty much standard. In the same way: "A little while ago, a network was a nice thing to have", but now "if you don't have network connectivity, you're not really there."