The Vita Interview
February 21, 2012 Page 2 of 4
When you look back at the PSP, it had very high highs, very low lows. What did you learn personally, and as an organization, from the PSP's journey?
SR: Man, I could probably talk about that for three hours all by itself. But again, I think what was special about PSP in relation to Sony was it was the first time that Sony, as a company, was trying to support two platforms at once. So that, by its very nature, made that launch a little bit rocky. We still did okay. We got some good games out the door.
I think the point you're making is a lot of the better games came in the first two or three years of the lifecycle of that machine, but there weren't a lot of amazing killer games that launched. And this time around, we started planning for development of this machine about three years ago, in terms of developing for the software, and how we were going to be able to transition.
We still had some teams finishing up their PS2 lifecycle, a lot of teams building on PSP, the bulk of our resources on PS3. But we started creating a nice transition plan to get some of our top teams onto Vita.
And in addition to that, we had very distinctly different meetings with the hardware creators, so we were heavily involved in the design of the machine, the way it feels, the fact that we all stomped our feet and insisted that this thing have two analog sticks.
If we're going to create a hardcore machine, for hardcore gamers, it absolutely had to have those two sticks. That was square one, right? So we definitely learned a lot from the PSP, and I think we definitely resolved a lot of those problems, moving into this cycle.
Sony's been very, very open about the fact that piracy really hurt the PSP, so I was wondering if you could dive into a little bit about the efforts you've put into preventing that this time.
SR: That was front and center in the early specs of this machine. We needed to have something that would combat piracy from day one, and that's why the cards that you can purchase for the games are in their own proprietary format. And these days, so many people say the word "proprietary" is a bad word, but it's something that we felt was completely necessary to make sure that people could not pirate these games. I mean, it's a custom security solution on each one of these cartridges. That is something that we are confident will protect us from piracy for the long term.
It seemed like the strategy for the PSP was to bring franchises such as God of War and create roughly analogous experiences on the PSP. It seems like that's basically what you're aiming for again, and I'm not sure that strategy was a hundred percent effective.
SR: Well, I'm not sure that's our strategy. I think our strategy is broader than that. I think there's some different experiences that wouldn't necessarily play as well on the console, things like Escape Plan. We do a lot of research in this area, and there are a lot of folks out there that feel that there is a void for this big, deep experience available on a handheld, and so we think we hit that market pretty well with our launch lineup, with a lot of diverse experiences, like you talked about earlier.
But then again, the main difference here is talking about a lot of experiences that can transition across our different platforms. Games that can play directly against each other, games that share data. There's a lot of different ways to get more out of your Vita experience so you never have to leave that PlayStation family, whether you're at home or on the road.
When it comes to educating your developers about the different functions of the Vita, particularly in terms of social functions and maybe things that are new to the console space -- GPS-related functions like Near -- do you think they make a difference, and are you making sure developers are utilizing them in effective ways?
SR: Yes. So I'm going to rewind about a year and a half, or maybe a year ago, to start answering that question. So one of the tasks of first party development that's crucially important is getting the development community and the third party community really excited about developing on any new console. And so one of the things we did, and particularly with a game like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, is we had an early level of that game running, man, probably as long ago as 15, 16 months ago.
And I personally went on a tour to a lot of our publishing partners and was able to put that machine in their hands, and explain to them everything that the machine could do. Now I'm talking about the physical controls, the quality of the OLED screen, things like that. And that did wonders. I mean, essentially, that trip inspired almost every publisher to just dive in headfirst and say, "Wow, we can't wait to develop on this platform!"
And something similar started to happen a few months back, to talk about all the different social features you're referencing. We did the same thing, to make sure that people understand how these add to the value and stickiness of games, and we highly encouraged them to integrate those features into all their games, whether it be dropping gifts in Near or just utilizing the 3G functionality and the GPS functionality to enhance the way we do leaderboards, and asynchronous competition, and things along those lines.
People have a new way of looking at things than they did in the past. You could be pretty assured with the PSP that people really just thought about, "I stick a game in; I get my gameplay out of it." It's not like that anymore.
SR: I hear what you're saying. I think that the entire industry, across all platforms -- including the iOS phones and tablets -- I think that absolutely there's a lot of people out there kind of wondering what their gaming experience will be like.
And are they happy with the mobile experience? Are they missing that premium portable experience? Do they want a hybrid between the two? And that's something I think that the Vita is poised to offer, that other machines can't offer. You can get the more simple experiences even with some older downloads, or you can get these super-premium, connected, high-end experiences. And I think that that's a nice place to be in.
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