As part of Sony's plans for the launch of its next-gen PlayStation 3 console later this year, the company has started planning the PS3 E-Distribution Initiative, to help both first and third-party developers digitally distribute its games via download, directly to the PS3.
The service, which will clearly compete with Microsoft's successfully launched Xbox Live Arcade service for the Xbox 360, is currently in the pre-production stages, and Gamasutra got a chance to talk to the project's John Hight, Director of External Production at SCEA Santa Monica, about his role heading up the project.
Firstly, Hight discussed some of the advantages of PlayStation 3 E-Distribution from Sony's point of view, noting: "Certainly being able to sell globally on-line makes it easier to reach international and remote markets. On the business side, it also lowers our cost of sales and eliminates inventory risk. It should help curtail used
game sales and piracy."
He continued, echoing many of the thoughts about the advantages of digital distribution: "This new form of distribution will lower the barriers of entry for new developers. We can try out new ideas in a low risk, quick feedback environment."
When asked whether Sony is helping with development costs for PS3 E-Distributed titles, Hight explains: "We fund development for 1st party games and we are open to self-funded games." This answer makes it clear that, unlike Xbox Live Arcade, where the titles have been chiefly sourced from third-party sources, Sony is currently developing multiple E-Distribution games in its internal studios.
Most interestingly, when asked whether there is any concept of exclusivity, or can Xbox Live Arcade titles be ported to PS3 E-Distribution and vice versa, Hight comments pointedly: "We're looking for fresh, new ideas that fully exploit the power of PlayStation 3. Our 1st party projects are all unique to PS3. Some of our games, by virtue of their design and hardware demands, simply couldn't work on Xbox 360."
Finally, when asked what developers who would like to get their games E-Distributed do to come to the attention of Sony, Hight explained: "Create a high concept or, better yet, build a working prototype of
their game. Then register on our developer website www.playstation.com/beyond."
The PlayStation Beyond submission site has been online since GDC 2006, when Sony's Phil Harrison announced its presence, and explains further of the concept: "The E-Distribution Initiative (EDI) will provide an alternative publishing opportunity for the direct download of games and other content to the user. The EDI will be managed by Sony Computer Entertainment's development and studio organizations in North America, Europe, Japan and Asia (collectively known as SCE Worldwide Studios)."
Sony's submission website also notes: "Partnerships resulting from EDI will allow the developers' downloadable games to be published for individual purchase or subscription over SCE's direct distribution methods", indicating that the company may be considering subscription-based method of consuming content, as well as individual downloads. Gamasutra will continue to cover Sony's foray into digital distribution as more information comes to light.