I think one of the difficult things is that all of these companies are trying to have it all now, in a way.
And in terms of... if not tying up day-and-date titles, but in terms of studios that they've acquired and games that they've been commissioning, first party as well as third parties, speaks to that traditional, very involving, intrinsic gameplay, traditional genres. And Viva Piñata notwithstanding, they’re not going after eight to 12 year olds. And yeah, you can download movies, but that's more of -- from my perspective -- an extra value additive as opposed to a critical core part of why they entered the game business.
Microsoft and Rare's Viva Piñata
In the case of added value, do you feel that the Blu-ray player is an added value or it an intrinsic core component of the system? Recently I read a report about some folks who bought the PS3 as a Blu-ray player and didn't realize it played games.
JO: I've seen some coverage that cites people doing that. And unfortunately, having sort of fallen out of my prime gadgetry portion of my life and being in the industry, my reason for getting a PS3 was because I wanted a PS3 to play games. I can see why someone who was really interested in high def movies and the fact that the blue ray catalog is getting pretty deep pretty quickly... it beats buying a $900 player.
I'll assume the quality is equal in terms of the hardware at its center but I think that, back to your previous question in terms of... I don't think Sony's marketing has failed, but I think that the marketing didn't help sell their proposition at a point in time when they needed it and it still comes down to “software sells hardware”. Halo 2 sold a lot of Xboxes, right?
Sony's got to find something like that. They used to have it all sealed up. Actually the whole exclusive thing was practically a Sony invention, in a way. Well, no. Nintendo really started the whole exclusive thing I would say, but Sony really used to… with the PlayStation 1 and 2, have a lot of exclusives that wouldn't be on any other platforms. Now due to development costs and the advent of better, easier-to-use middleware, it's almost impossible for people to do that anymore, except for first party products. So I wonder what it’s going to take for Sony to take the lead in this thing.
JO: Well, you look at their... the Sony studio groups have a lot of talent there, they produced a lot of great games. I mean, looking at David [Jaffe]'s team and what Cory [Barlog] has put together in terms of delivering the God of War II experience on the PlayStation 2, I would put that game up against a fair amount of games that are for the current-gen systems in terms of both look and in terms of play mechanic and in terms of how it engages you as a player, and it isn't necessarily the technology that does that.
I think it’s exclusives. I think exclusives make a difference, I think that we've all seen marketing play an increasingly more dominant role in the decision-making process of a game player today, in terms of what they buy, and a lot of the research... and the Sony brand is so powerful; it has dominated the console gaming market for a really the last two generations of machinery. And I think it's hard for some people to perhaps let go of that. Or because they are still satisfied with their experience, or that they are still trying to hold out for a PS3 at almost any price.
So you mean maybe when it's cheaper?
JO: I think that price definitely played an impact. I don't think you have to be an economist to have figured out that a $600 system is a big hit [for consumers to take]. As we've seen, our consumers now know that technology prices fall, and sometimes fall very rapidly, and some are educated enough to wait. Others are basically at a point where if they spend $1000 on a game system, all-in, for the games and all, for the course of the holiday season -- they can’t afford that, or they've chosen to spend their money on going to the Caribbean for a holiday, which is also not a bad choice.
So I think that Sony's announcement as far as the price reduction is... I think those are all good things. But I don't know that they're good enough. Time will tell. We’ll see what the units are and I guess everyone... there's a rumor that Microsoft will make a price adjustment on the Xbox before the end of the year. That's a reasonable assumption; I think they'll do it when they believe it best suits them. [Note: after this interview took place, the price drop was made.]
Activision and Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Is that necessary for them?.
JO: Exactly, I think they have good hardware they have good software, the Xbox Live Arcade experience is obviously very strong. It's inspired Sony to, I think, do different things with Home as a point of difference and that's exciting. Nintendo is not totally unaware of the success that Microsoft has had with XBLA, and you can certainly understand where Home is coming from. There's more choices.
It comes down to what we want to play, whether we want to be playing with friends... if you're playing with friends, it's hard to beat the Wii, playing with friends in your house in front of the screen. If you really want core action adventure games... Call of Duty 4 looked rocking. I didn't want them to stop playing! I wanted to see them keep going, finish that level, that mission, because the play mechanic just looked very smooth and very intuitive as well is the fact that what they're rendering on-screen was very attractive.