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Tretton: Platforms Must Have 'Cutting Edge' Tech At Launch To Stay Relevant
Tretton: Platforms Must Have 'Cutting Edge' Tech At Launch To Stay Relevant
April 8, 2011 | By Kris Graft

Nintendo found big success in recent years by releasing hardware that revolved around new kinds of interfaces instead of pushing technical boundaries. Microsoft's Xbox 360 is on the upswing partly thanks to the new Kinect and a gradual addition of new features to its console over the years.

But Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Jack Tretton told Fortune in a new interview that a game console must launch with the best technology available at the time in order to stay relevant for a long period. And that's been PlayStation's philosophy.

"If you're really going to sustain technology for a decade, you have to be cutting edge when you launch a platform," he said.

"Here we are four years into the PlayStation 3, and it's just hitting its stride," he said, echoing another recent interview. "We'll enjoy a long downhill roll behind it because the technology that was so cutting edge in 2006 is extremely relevant today and is conspicuously absent in our competition."

The PS3 launched in 2006, sporting a complex Cell processor, an advanced RSX GPU co-developed by Sony and Nvidia, a standard hard drive, Blu-ray playback, Bluetooth connectivity, built-in wi-fi and HDMI support.

The build costs were high -- estimates found that Sony was selling at a loss of over $300 for the 20GB launch model, which sold for $499. The 60GB model sold for $600 at a reported loss of around $240 at launch.

Since then, Sony has used its expertise in electronics manufacturing to gradually cut costs, and only last year did reports emerge that the company is no longer taking a hit on every console sold. To Tretton, that investment is paying off in the long run.

"[Microsoft and Nintendo] are starting to run out of steam now in terms of continuing to be relevant in 2011 and beyond," Tretton said. "I mean, you've gotta be kidding me. Why would I buy a gaming system without a hard drive in it? How does this thing scale? Motion gaming is cute, but if I can only wave my arms six inches, how does this really feel like I'm doing true accurate motion gaming?"

Sony appears to be once again following its cutting-edge tech philosophy with the PSP successor, the codenamed Next Generation Portable. The NGP will have high-end features, including 3G and wi-fi support, a five-inch multi-touch OLED display, a multi-touch pad on the back, dual analog sticks, flash card support for software, motion sensors, built-in GPS and a four-core CPU, among other features.

At least one analyst expects the NGP to cost "at least" $299 in the U.S. When it launches later this year, it will go head-to-head against Nintendo's $250 3DS. Tretton previously said that price doesn't "make or kill a platform" -- the challenge is providing value for consumers.

Tretton also called Nintendo's market-leading handheld consoles a "great babysitting tool," adding that "no self-respecting 20-something is going to be sitting on an airplane with one of those. He's too old for that."

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Eric Kwan
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Cutting-edge is nice, but it's also important to not price yourself out of the market.

E Zachary Knight
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Being cutting edge is nice and all, but what Tretton is forgetting is "What's cutting edge yesterday is not always what's cutting edge tomorrow."

Evan Bell
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Well the PS3 GPU is not exactly cutting edge. Being able to pack a huge game on single blu-ray is nice.

Kamruz Moslemi
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Despite launching a year earlier and being based on more mundane technologies the 360 is keeping nice pace ever a few steps ahead of its main competitor. SONY should not forget that the PS2 was the market leader while also being technologically the weakest system last generation. Going overkill cost them their lead this generation and has offered no advantages that has resulted in them leaving the competition behind in their dust.

Sure, Blu-ray is nice, but developers have been managing nicely without it on other systems, the CELL was a huge misstep in hindsight as ease of development is the order of the day, and the RSX's lack of AA and other shortcomings have meant that the PS3 is on the receiving end of the short stick when it comes to multiplatform titles. As for the platform exclusives, well, there is no paradigm shift there to sway the masses one way or the other.

It is strange to see SONY attempting to repeat all of their mistakes with the NPG, especially when looking at how that system and its much higher development costs might affect their own home market which has largely gone portable and is likely to be where it will stand the strongest.

I don't think something like the NPG is a good fit at all for the Japanese market, and I just do not see them making the NPG a success in the west where the PSP failed by essentially being a device with a similar philosophy.

Eric Kwan
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Perhaps with all the investment into Cell and Blu-ray, they can expedite the R&D process for PS4, assuming they don't reinvent the wheel again for that.

Kamruz Moslemi
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At this point the PS4 doesn't even make any sense, what technical advantages it might provide are negated and then some by market realities of today. Nobody wants game development to become even more expensive than they are today. If SONY is not thinking about perhaps making the PS3 last a very, very, very long time then, well, I don't see the industry heading into a very bright future, let us leave it at that.

Bryan Pope
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It's great to see somebody who is less biased and really knows what they're talking about. I still don't think the PS3 will ever fully utilize the Cell's capabilities and Blu-ray is only now seeing an advantage. If there ever is a PS4 I'd be surprised if it didn't have a completely different cpu solution. I too see the parallel in the NPG, which I think a Tegra2 would have been perfect for.

Christopher Enderle
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Oh man, I feel so uncool for playing my DS on the plane a few months back. Jack's right, maybe if I get the NGP I can get laid! Please Jack, what else can you sell me to help boost my cool factor? That's what's really important to me. I'm glad the person in charge of SCE understands his customers.

Ardney Carter
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Heh, my thoughts exactly

Chris Skuller
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I was just thinking "Wow, jokes on him. I play my DS everywhere and I'm 31." It's not about what's "cool" it's about what has the best games and I personally feel the DS beats the PSP in that regard. Don't get me wrong, the PSP has good games too, but too many of their games are very similar to console games and I already own a 360 and PS3.

Ian Uniacke
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Yeah the same comments when the PSP was being launched didn't help it so much...but oh well, it will be interesting to watch them faceplant again. :)

Lyon Medina
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I personally think if it takes you "four" years to hit your stirde with a product then technically that product should have came out four years later. Then it no longer becomes 'Cutting Edge' Just the best of what is available today.

One things Sony doesn't realize still too today or at least is trying to push is that price is no object as long as the technonlogy is there ready for the "future". If it doesnt help us here in the present Sony then don't brag about the fact that you have it. Blu-ray is amazing but neccesary? Not in my world when I have HD programming via digital programming. ( Cable, Download, Streaming) There is no need to justify buying a product that doesn't help that much.

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Look at all the cool things I can do with my PS3. Rent High priced SD and HD movies. Sign up for meaningless PSN+ and get access to content I may no use of or have time for. Go to my SonyHome space and watch Sony advertisements. Play Blu Ray movies with intrusive advertisements and DL content I might not want stuck on them. Play exclusive games that are half done with the promise of letting you download over priced content later. Surf the web on a spotty browser. Not only is the PS3 packed with the latest in cool technology standards that will last 15+ years, but when we feel that that cool stuff may hurt our bottom line we reserve the right to take it away and make you agree to another end user agreement, like we did with the "other OS feature". When ever you turn on you PS3 you may have to wait before you wait before you are allowed to play your games, surf the web, or play a movie, but its all cool because they are making it cooler for me as their customer.

Look I have a few breaks with the PS3 being the best thing evar, but it's OK for games and movies. Maybe it was best for it to just be a better PS2, and not some awesome box of the future that Sony wants it to be.

Leon T
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This guy is just silly. Someone needs to tell him that the PS1 and PS2 were not cutting edge. He needs to take a history lesson on what happened to the 3DO as well. He could even take a deeper lesson to see the more advanced systems the NES was taking on when it hit the market. Of course all game consoles take on more cutting edge gaming machines when they launch. There is no gaming machine more cutting than the PC in fact.

Prash Nelson-Smythe
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PS3 overshot the market and still does to some extent. It mistakenly conflated technology with gaming. Tretton appears to be still doing that, or just saving face or self-deluding to justify past decisions as humans frequently do.

Robert Lee
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I just hope they put at least a gig of memory in the next consoles. What good is having the latest and greatest tech, if you don't have enough RAM to load your high res textures into? SSD would be nice too. I'll probably pop an SSD into my PS3 when they drop in price. I wish I could install my games onto the hard drive more often. PSN and Xbox Live need to switch to a more Steam-style system for games -> Disc optional.

Yiannis Koumoutzelis
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pretty much everything he says is not accurate. PS3 has nothing to do with the PS3 that was launched. It is a dumbed down cheaper version. PSP started selling only after DS had taken over the world although admittedly better than PS3. PS3 the same, and only after they provided something like wii did 5 years ago... AND thankfully awesome games like uncharted and gears of war came out to draw people's attention (these were the big sellers in US and EU for sony on PS3 and PSP) and their HW price was cut about 60% for this to happen on both consoles. so yeah "price is irrelevant."

DS and Wii came out with less hardware power than anyone's offer. but offered something radical. something new. and at the right price. so they sold like crazy. now what developers did with them is a different story.

as for the last comment... well... i think sony shows their confidence by this last price slash in europe and comments like these.

Daniel Boy
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Tretton uses too many words, he means: Sony does what nintendon't. Go figure.