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The Sony Situation: SCEA's Rob Dyer Speaks

May 21, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

Exclusive titles are kind of out of the window also because of the market share of the 360 and also because of development costs. Do you think things like the exclusive Batman content are the wave of the future?

RD: Totally. Since I got here two years ago, April 1st of '08, having sat on that side of the table and understood what the costs were, and having worked with an exclusive with Tomb Raider when I was at my Eidos days, and knowing what those costs were, exclusives are few and far between.

And God bless things like [Rockstar's] Agent. God bless things like Final Fantasy XIV. I think Microsoft is looking at Gears and stuff that happens with Valve and all the really cool things that they used to get from Bungie, and going, "Well, you know, what are we going to be able to do?"

The other side of it is we've had this amazing first-party line-up that is exclusive. You know, we're the biggest when it comes to being able to do that.

That being said, yes, it is all about exclusive features, exclusive content that is meaningful that I like to say makes a publisher not just be Switzerland. It makes them make a commitment to the gamer, the player, to say, "Here's why we want do to this," and "Let's take advantage of that hardware consoles that they have to offer."

Microsoft has been really aggressive with getting DLC exclusives. Is that a place that you're looking to compete?

RD: I think it's hysterical that they're aggressive about that because if you're a publisher and a developer, you have to make a decision as to how you're going to have that delivered as a DLC exclusive. They've got two different machines. Are you going to give it for the arcade user or the guy that actually has a hard drive. We don't have to worry about that.

So, from my perspective, we offer a few things that give a publisher an ease of development. They can be certain a 100 percent of the user population in our world can do their DLC.

If you want to go and have a conversation with Rockstar -- and talk about how many people were actually able to download their exclusive content they did for Microsoft -- it would be a very different story. That's a part of it. But we also have the ability to put a lot more than 9 gigs on a Blu-ray disc, and in fact, I want to do more than that because it really shows off the difference between our machine and their machine.

You mean you want to put more content on the disc, rather than encourage DLC?

RD: Yeah, because that way, 100 percent of the users are going to get it. 100 percent. What are we, north of 70 percent on the network now? 73, I think. Microsoft probably the same... [That's] still a significant number of people that aren't able to get, whether they don't have broadband, whether they just flat out can't get on the network. Whether or not you do it, they're not using it. I want it on the disc, that way when they buy it, they get it. So, if I can do that, that's great.

Now, you can talk about why DLC is important to help limit the used game business and to keep people holding onto [the game]. I'm all about that, too. I love that. But I want it on the disc so that 100 percent out there that can play this thing.

It also has to do with the way that developers structure their production cycle, too.

RD: Correct. Great point. Great point. What has now happened is that you go to a publisher or developer and say, "Look, guys. You got to start planning things in like pre-sale. What's your pre-sale DLC? What are you going to do for the Amazons, the GameStops, or whoever has that presale?" That's one.

Two, "Are you going to have something that has a day one release special code or something?" Then you have, "Okay, are we going to do something for a first-party with regards to DLC or on-disc?"

So, you have to literally plan this in your pre-pro in order to make sure you have the time, the assets, the resources because it's not just about used games; it's about, "How do I get more pre-sale business, which absolutely determines my day one initial orders. Am I going to get support from a first-party? How am I going to do that?"

You can't come in there with six months... I can guarantee you I've had multiple conversations, more than you would even believe, from people that you would not expect it from, coming in six months before street date going, "Well, what can we do?" And I'm looking... Ship's sailed, babe. Dead and gone. We did the Batman deal 15 months before street date.

It actually turned into 17 because they slipped it two months, which turned out to be two really good months they moved it. Happenstance was the game was going to ship in June. If you go back, all the street dates were June, June, and June. "Can't make it." Alright, we didn't tell them when the price cut was coming, but I said, "If you don't make it, you have to be out before September 1st, at the end of August. Deal's off."

So, we made it happen. And sure enough, we came out close enough to day and date for us when we announced our price cut. Obviously, that had a huge impact. But we started that deal 15 months before that June date in order to obviously get everything lined up.

How does that relate to the requirements of how much time development takes? Could you move faster if you had to?

RD: Well, it depends on the size of the team, how involved they want to be... Look, hold that thought. Come find me after our press event at E3. There's going to be some announcements. You're going to look at me and go, "Okay. When did you start these? How far..." and we'll talk about when these things started and how far out we started this stuff because we've gotten into the next level. Batman was the first step. We're just going onto the next level.

What do you do with online play? What do you do with some of this other stuff? How do you sort out rights? It takes times, legally, deal-wise... And then, just getting the damn thing into the game. It takes a lot of time. So, can you do them shorter?

Well, I'll give you a good example. You can do stuff with the Move in a very, very short period of time because the Move is pretty easy. It's not a hard thing to grok. It's fairly simple. If you've done anything with the EyeToy, it's pretty straightforward stuff. It's an easy codebase. We've got great dev support. We can get stuff done in Move in six months. Okay.

But if you're going to put stuff on disc, and a good example of the Move being able to do that, and I would encourage you to talk to the guys at Warner Bros. that are doing Aragorn's Quest for the Move, literally six to eight month window they'd be able to do this thing and make it happen. Disney with the Toy Story announcement, very short window with what they're able to do on that.

If you want to get stuff on disc or have some really involved DLC that will be day and date with the release, you really then need to have more than a year. Because it's going to be three hours of gameplay, right? And you know the math.

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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.