It sounds like you’re having a direct influence on Sony. If you give them a way to evaluate development that isn’t based around the kind of games they’ve published since the PlayStation 1 was launched, you might be influencing them. I don’t know if you agree.
KS: Well, that would be really cool. I think one of the things a lot of developers seem to forget is that your financial partner is still your partner in development, and you don’t really just get to take money from them and then run away with it no matter what.
So we’ve really tried to stick true to that, and make it a true partnership in developing great products, which is certainly Sony’s goal as a company. So as long as we’re always aligned on that, then we’re able to find solutions that work for everyone. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t work, though. Yeah, it's work to find those solutions, but it’s worth it.
Well it’s worth it, I think, for the health of the ecosystem because we’re seeing a lot of triple-A games doubling down on the things that triple-A games do.
Budgets getting higher, games getting more focused on those narrow definitions, so as the middle sort of starts to bleed away, we’re going to have to see more things bubbling up on the network side that carry the industry creatively.
KS: I do hope, like Mark Cerny was talking about in his talk here, that there’s an opportunity to reevaluate our process of developing new triple-A titles. Because certainly... He kept comparing it to Hollywood blockbusters.
And I know from living in Los Angeles, and having a lot of friends in the entertainment industry, that part of the reason of those budgets are so huge is because they are also grounded in a very established process that’s hard to change, but one in which there are many, many inefficiencies. Those movies don’t have to cost as much as they cost, and it’d be nice if we could do better.
If we can do better on efficiency, then we don’t have to spend as much money. Then we can start to take more risks, right? Even with triple-A games?
KS: Yeah, exactly.
Do you look at the course of thatgamecompany and think, "Maybe someday we’ll develop something that costs 60 dollars and a stamp it onto a Blu-ray"?
KS: I don’t know. I mean, you never say never, because you never know where inspiration or technology is going to take us. But it seems like there’s so many new opportunities with alternative business models, in especially the free-to-play space being the most extreme of them. Well, there’s just a lot of possibilities out there, so I don’t know where it’s going to take us.
But you are establishing an audience on the PlayStation 3, too.
KS: Yeah, definitely. The PlayStation Network audience has been really great to us. I think, because as we were talking about earlier, they’re very, what I think of as "literate gamers." They play everything. They read about games. They talk about games in a very literate way, and are looking for that new experience.
That goes against the expectation the industry seems to have, that they’re actually looking for the same experience that they already had.
KS: Yeah. Yeah, it turns out gamers are not stupid, and I don’t think we should treat them like they are.
There’s obviously a certain comfort in that familiarity, but it can get a bit condescending when you go to E3 and you watch a press conference, and you see the same thing, after the same thing, after the same thing.
KS: Yeah, and certainly I think now, in the economic climate today, we’re even more, as gamers, considerate of the value for our dollar. So we want experiences that are going to be fresh and different, and there’s a lot of competition for those dollars right now, so the bar is higher.
One of the big differences between games and film, at least in the console space, that is kind of unfortunate, I guess, is that you can make an indie film that becomes a breakout hit and performs on the same level as a mainstream Hollywood film. But still, right now, there doesn’t seem to be a way to you know have parity and success between downloadable games and packaged titles. Do you agree?
KS: Well it kind of depends on the space that we’re talking about. Was it that Zynga has like 80 million players? Which is I think probably greater than a lot of console titles.
Yeah, if you talk about Facebook, if you talk about even Minecraft, you definitely get away from that. But in the console space, indie games don’t seem to get on the same level, even when they become successful. There still seems to be some sort of gulf.
KS: I think in the console space, there’s still a storefront. And I shouldn’t just say "console", because this applies to a lot of PC downloadable sites as well, and the App Store. There’s still that barrier to entry into finding and discovering content, because it’s so very feature-based. So you log in, and then you see the games that the platform holder has decided to select for you and so you still have some of that same problem with the shelf space as the disc titles do as well.
There’s still actually a surprisingly large proportion of people with Xbox 360s or PlayStation 3s that never log onto Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, and aren’t really cognizant of the fact that they are these alternative options for them.
KS: Yes, it’s a subset of a subset of people.
So in a weird way you’re targeting probably the most literate gamers, as you would put it.
People would anticipate them to probably be the least receptive to something different, but it turns out they’re very receptive to something different.
KS: Yeah, exactly. That was a suspicion that Jenova [Chen] and I had founding the company, and I’m glad to find out that it’s true.