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The State of PlayStation Network: John Hight Interviewed
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The State of PlayStation Network: John Hight Interviewed

March 4, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 6 Next
 

A lot of ink has been given to the massive success and appeal of the Xbox Live Arcade as a platform for gamers, developers and publishers. Details about Sony's PlayStation Network, which has both first-party and third-party publishing options, have been harder to come by.

Here, in an interview conducted at GDC, we quizzed John Hight, SCEA's director of product development for its first-party published digital games based in its Santa Monica studio. The vast majority of the major 'indie'-style PSN titles such as Everyday Shooter and fl0w are hand-picked by Sony and first-party published - though Sony is also starting to further push its third-party publishing arm, based out of Foster City.

In the chat, however, first-party supremo Hight talks about the company's philosophy towards fostering 'signature' indie developers, why the platform is better-suited to indie development and publishing than the 360, and future plans for the service -- including support for Japanese PlayStation games.

I'm curious to know how the model for payment and UI for PSN has been evolving over the year-plus, and where it's going in the future in terms of simplification of interface and all of that to help digital games get distribution easier.

John Hight: You're talking about on the network platform itself, and the store?

Yeah.

JH: I'm not the best person to answer that. I'll answer what I know, but we actually have some folks who are specifically responsible for that.

We give them a lot of feedback based on how our customers are reacting to things, and I think you will see a pretty big change in the PlayStation Network in the early part of April, where we roll out some new interface stuff largely based on customer feedback.

Simplification, cutting down on the number of mouse clicks, making it easier to find stuff that you want to find... that's kind of an outgrowth of us having more content now, so we have to make sure that you can get at it easily.

There seems to me to be a kind of aggressive push now for more content from the Sony side. Is that accurate, would you say?

JH: No. I would say that we're always pretty careful about how much we put on the network.

We're very careful about how too much quantity could kill us, because it's more about having really well-selected, cool experiences. I guess we're aggressive in the sense that we're out there looking at a lot of things.

I'm looking at 20 proposals a month, and I only see the stuff that gets filtered through some of my producers. We're definitely trying to talk to everybody out there, and sometimes even if we're not into a particular game or it doesn't fit, we like to have the relationship, because we'd like to hear about what the next game is.

 


Article Start Page 1 of 6 Next

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Comments


Robert Schultz
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Sony sounds like the republican party in the United States.

Declare victory regardless of the actual reality.



XBox 360's online network is far and away the best of the three right now.

In fact Sony's whole approach is so different, I doubt that it will ever catch up.

This isn't a problem if you listen to Sony however, they kind of admit that and say 'Well our approach is better'.



XBox 360's indie game approach with the XNA toolkit and being able to develop a game on the PC and then just move it over to XBox is amazing power.

Sony's approach of 'well we have more power, so you have to do more work to develop on our platform' is just backwards thinking.



I find it amusing that Microsoft with it's Live Arcade and XNA toolkit is embracing the openness that has allowed Open Source and Linux to trounce Windows products.

It's like Microsoft has learned a lesson and is reaping the rewards on their XBox 360.



Sony meanwhile holds on to old concepts of control, control, control. Complexity is king.



Sigh. If I were a Sony investor, I would be VERY worried.



Ahhh well, at least Sony has Blu-Ray to keep it alive :)

Chad Thomas
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Robert, did you read the article?



Sony talks about how they work with independent developers instead of just throwing them an SDK and leaving them to fend for themselves. They are interested in growing products and careers; XNA Studio is interested in becoming the YouTube of games. So far, the XNA Studio games are incredibly underwhelming; they play like unfinished Flash-games. I can't see paying $5-$10 to actually buy one. Jelly Car is not the next Everyday Shooter.



Microsoft is not embracing openness on Arcade, which is why Epic has been unable to get permission to allow user-created content on UTIII. XNA Studio games still have to be peer-reviewed before they are allowed to be posted. You may see more bite-sized games as a result of XNA Studio, but I'm not sure you'll see more quality games.



The statement on page 1 kind of says it all: "We're very careful about how too much quantity could kill us, because it's more about having really well-selected, cool experiences." That's a different stance from their competitors. It is not necessarily wrong. There's so much I dislike about XBL that I welcome a different approach.



JET

Robert Schultz
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@Chad



I suppose your right. A lot of good indie games come out on the PC platform all the time. Being able to easily download XNA and develop games that can work on the XBox, with it being so easy for 'anyone' to do, I see a HUGE potential for some amazing games to surface on the X360.



YouTube may have hundreds of thousands of total junk videos, but there are a large number of very good videos that drive insane amounts of traffic and profit (through ads) to the site. I can easily see this sort of scenario surfacing on the X360 with indie games. Some awesome games are sure to arrise, games that will only exist on the X360. As the months and years roll by the number of great games on the X360 will continue to rise and the PS3 may look far less attractive to the gamer consumer.



I guess that's OK with Sony. They are going after the more 'grown up' market I suppose. They also have Blu-Ray and other 'features' to help sell units too.



The PC indie game movement is growing and growing. Very high quality games are being created by very small teams usually numbering in the single digits.



I suppose the huge, complex, massive budget, multi-year, mega games that Sony is going after will still exist, I just question whether or not it's wise for Sony to be betting so much on it.



Maybe I'm just looking at things wrong...

Joseph Hight
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I actually think the Nintendo Store on Wii is well positioned for digital downloads for the casual to med core gamer. You can currently purchase (via credit card or Wii card) retro games but I think the indie games and full scale games are close behind once the consumer gets educated. For the hard core gamer, I think X360 and Microsoft will be tough to beat. Sony has not even figured out how to get their licensed music and movies in a live on demand service. They had the opportunity to be one of the early adapters with a connect service to their PSP and failed miserably. I worked for Sony before and as great as they are, the last time they were truly innovative was the transistor.



And tell John Hight to quit using my name... :)

Anonymous
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I think that it's a really smart article, a lot different from Reggie's bluster or some other PR people(including Sony's) are, and it makes a lot of good points, and although they are beating a zombie horse to death again with acting like this is news, the fact is, the PS3 has vastly more potential than the 360, and Wii as a piece of hardware. I hope Sony continues with their strategy of sticking with their console until its had its run, because the PS3 could easily wind up in the lead again in the end if they can get some actual exclusive killer apps and super ambitious developers like Bioware to build titles specifically to take advantage of the Cell processor.

It's still funny to me how much shouldve been obvious by now, like having a comprehensive online service around launch, but its also kinda ironic to call Sony the republicans when all ms does is buy studios they like outright.


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