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The Sony Situation: SCEA's Rob Dyer Speaks
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The Sony Situation: SCEA's Rob Dyer Speaks

May 21, 2010 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

Sony Computer Entertainment America's senior vice president of publisher relations, Rob Dyer, is well aware of what he's up against these days. Competition is strong, and the company is in nowhere near the same dominant position it was during the PlayStation 2 days.

"Sony was pretty complacent coming out of PlayStation 2 because it was much more of a gatherer versus a hunter mentality... You know, they could pick and choose," says Dyer, explaining that he's well aware that the situation has changed these days.

With the PSP struggling to remain viable as a platform outside of Japan, and the PlayStation 3 neck-and-neck in hardware sales with the Xbox 360 on a month-to-month basis in the U.S., he has his work cut out for him.

And that's before you even consider the fall launch of the PlayStation Move motion controller and Microsoft's Project Natal.

In this extensive interview, Dyer discusses his thoughts on a wide range of topics -- including exclusive DLC deals, his relationships with publishers from the smallest PSN developer up to giants like EA and Activision, how he views the motion controller marketplace, and the state of the troublesome PSP.

When it comes to your job and you interface with third parties, is it primarily they come to you saying, "This is what we want do"? Or is there more back and forth?

Rob Dyer: [laughs] I wish it was... I used to joke that I was a Maytag repairman for a long time, because it was so hard to get people excited about PS3, given what we were doing. I use the phrase "self-inflicted wound"; it was. We weren't selling hardware. It was hard to get people pumped up.

But I think we've turned the tide, and it started with the announcements coming out of GDC and Destination PlayStation. You'll see some really good stuff at E3 -- where now we do have third parties contacting us. They are calling us up to say, "How about this?"

Batman: Arkham Asylum

It really started -- and I always go back to Batman: Arkham Asylum -- with Eidos. God bless them for being as insistent and bulldog-like tenacious in getting us to do that with them. Karl Stewart and Bob Lindsey were very emphatic, and they were right.

And I'm glad we jumped on it because it's proven to be one of the real bellwethers for PlayStation 3 third-party, and we've been able to take that model and move it across any number of publishers to be able to show that if you do this, not only will we support you.

It's not about just taking share away from Microsoft. It's about expanding the pie. It's about giving people a reason to want to buy this game. How many people bought Batman after they found out all this cool exclusive stuff, and otherwise weren't going to buy Batman no matter what platform it was on? [Rocksteady's Batman for PS3 included exclusive playable Joker content.]

If you ask Karl, if you ask Bob, they will tell you, "We've more than did our numbers on 360. We killed our numbers on PS3." And that to me speaks volumes for if you do this stuff correctly, you're going to really start advancing the industry. And that's what we're trying to do.

I'm not going to sit here and try and figure out who's got the bigger you-know-what between me and Seattle. They're going to win when it comes to money anyway, anytime, all day, all night. It doesn't matter. Let's figure out how to make the industry bigger. Let's grow this thing.

That's an interesting point in terms of back in the prior generations, particularly PS2, when you had such a dominant market share, it was very easy to get exclusive titles. And now, obviously...

RD: I was one of them. I sat on the other side of the table, coming to Sony. "Come on. What can I give you? Let's do it." You have 70 percent market share; of course, you command that.

And I think Sony was pretty complacent coming out of PlayStation 2 because it was much more of a gatherer versus a hunter mentality, where they were used to having people come to them and say, "Hey, we're going to do this for you?" or "What can we do in order to get your support?" You know, they could pick and choose. And now, you've got a very competitive marketplace. You've got some very strong first parties. It's changed. Dramatically.

Are you happy with where you are with your publishers right now?

RD: No. I think it's a work in progress. I think we've gotten better. I think that question is better posed to publishers. How do they feel about Sony now? Is it something that they have seen a noticeable difference? Do they benefit from that relationship? Is it better?

Do I think there's been an impact? Sure. I mean, if I didn't, I'm sure Jack [Tretton] would've fired my ass a long time ago, but I think we have at least changed the mentality that we're going to be aggressive. I think we gave Microsoft a very open field for a long time when it came to structuring [deals], particularly network deals. We weren't involved in those discussions.

Again, when it comes to throwing money, we'll lose that fight every time. But the good news is that because of where we are with our install base and because of the growth we're showing particularly worldwide -- not just in one territory -- it behooves publishers to be aggressive and active on our platform.

Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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Rev. Stuart Campbell
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Piracy is what's killing the PSP, is it? What a giant crock of bollocks.

Ujn Hunter
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Do you ever intend on allowing users who want to keep their "Other OS" Installation to purchase and download items from the Playstation Store again? I have DLC codes that I have paid for that I cannot redeem because you've locked me out of the Playstation Store. Seems kind of bad for business to not allow your customers to purchase your content, no?

Jeremy Reaban
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I don't like his dismissal of the Minis program. Sure, many of them are simply iPhone ports. But at the same time, maybe he should have noticed that the PSP gets almost no new software releases in the West these days? Western developers have dropped it almost completely, all you get from them is the occasional sports game (not even all of those, EA dropped NCAA football this year). Mostly though it's localizations of Japanese titles.

So Minis might often just be iphone rehashes, but they are at least something. Which is better nothing, which is what the PSP normally gets. Especially PSPGo owners, as many UMD releases are not on the store, or if they get added, it's weeks to months later.

Andrew Strozier
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The way that Sony has really missed the potential of the PSP is quite sad. I've had a PSP since day one in the U.S., and I've seen more impressive developments by hackers and homebrew programmers than I have from Sony. People who pirate PSP games have had the ability to play almost any one of them without UMD for several years now, whereas the official avenue for doing so only has a fraction of the PSP library available for download, and this only happened recently. Sony should be actively pushing and helping developers get their UMD-released games on the Playstation Network to download, and then advertising the then-large library of high quality games available for purchase online. Having such a system would make the rarity of the game irrelevant, giving those who are looking to purchase a new gaming system less likely to worry that they couldn't find enough reason to justify purchasing a PSP (when it comes to game selection).

I don't buy the whole piracy-is-killing-the-PSP argument either, although it's definitely a contributor. I would argue that the Nintendo DS is even more vulnerable to piracy, yet well made games still manage to sell very well.

Also, the fact that Sony hasn't and isn't pushing the online connectivity part of the PSP is mind boggling. Sony's system has a clear advantage over Nintendo's in terms of community and ease of friend connection, yet I've seen few PSP games to really take advantage of the feature. The console maker really has to set the example on the system for third parties to follow (big third party publishers excluded).

Paul Turbett
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Wrt Minis, i think it's to be expected that with a new initiative like that, developers will re-use existing IP to test the waters and see what kind of response they get. Now that the program has been around a while, it's more likely that original games will come out, assuming that the first generation of ports are profitable.

Robert Green
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I'm sure you could argue that piracy has had a decent effect on the PSP, and that Sony have missed a few opportunities to really push the system (especially the lack of an upgrade path to the PSPGo), but I think if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture there might be a different possibility. i.e. what if the PSP failed as a concept?

From the beginning the goal of the PSP seemed to be to bring the type of games people were playing at home to the portable market. But it didn't work, did it? Looking at the sales, the tie ratio for PSP is exceedingly low. Even with nearly 60 million units out there, the very best games struggle to sell a million, where games on other platforms reach that mark almost every month.

Looking at the games themselves, we see two things. Firstly, [on metacritic] there are only 22 games rated 85+, while the 360 has managed 88 in a shorter time period. Secondly, many of those 22 games (tekken, GTA, wipeout, burnout, MGS) are the same game types as the home console versions, with little to no effort made to customise them to the usage scenarios of a handheld. This seems to be what Sony wanted, and yet these games don't rate as highly or sell as well as the versions on other consoles.

The success of the iphone/itouch as a gaming platform and the fact that even a first-rate game like GTA: Chinatown Wars has trouble topping a million sales leads me to conclude that the market for what the PSP offers is actually much smaller than imagined, while the market for short, casual, mass market gaming on a handheld is still very large. Put simply: only a small subset of gamers really want that kind of experience. A lot more may have thought they did, but the quantity of games they've bought suggests they have realised their error. And as for the other things the PSP offers (music playing, video playing, internet browsing over Wi-fi), those things are clearly better served by other devices.

Blame failures in execution if you want, but I think the primary failure is the concept.

Anthony Charles
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there better be some real impressive move content at E3 if Sony hopes to turn back the tide of negativity. its almost like, the playstation has overcome the mistakes of its launch just in time for them to be made again w/ move.

Boto Gatas
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The way this guy expresses himself is so broken/difficult for a person like me who doesn’t have English as his native language to understand.