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.