During a panel discussion on the topic of new opportunities in console technology at the Online Game Developers Conference in Seattle, SCEA’s director of third-party developer relations took the opportunity to explain to an audience of developers — as well as detail the PlayStation Network with many fresh specifics.
“So what is the PlayStation Network?” asked Sony’s Michael Shorrock. He proceeded to state that it was a ‘loyalty catalyst for PlayStation platforms.’ “It’s designed to be a profitable eco-system for both developers and publishers. And it’s a marketing platform for games and content.”
What Shorrock hopes the Network enables is “creativity in development, and flexibility in business models for both the development community, and the publishers.” He then showed a slide outlining Sony’s ‘Wheel of Services.’
“You’re probably most familiar with the PlayStation Store, and what we can do with online games,” he told the audience. But this, he said of the graph, is “our entire scope of services that we’ll be developing and releasing in the coming months ahead.”
There are six key components. Shorrock began with ‘Services/VOD’ which delivers full-length movies, television programs, or music direct to users. “Obviously we want to take huge advantage of our member’s capabilities, and of the storage capacity.”
‘PlayStation Store’ is where Sony has its commerce for downloading digital content. ‘Home’ which was announced at GDC in April, is the 3D avatar based world which will facilitate communication amongst consumers. ‘Online Games’ adds the human element to traditional gameplay.
‘In-game/Network Advertising’ is part of “our core group of services, and we’ll be announcing more about it shortly,” Shorrock said. “We’re working on this.” ‘Wireless’ deals with the wireless capabilities of the platform, “which will allow gaming via PSP and mobile devices, keeping users connected at all times.”
“We’re exceedingly excited about Home,” Shorrock stated. “It’s a 3D realization of the PlayStation Network on the SP3. That’s what really sets this apart from the other products that are on the market: the ability to customize your avatar, walk around, communicate with people is – we believe – a very compelling and we’re excited to offer it in the marketplace.” He revealed that Home could also be launched from within PS3 games themselves.
Shorrock also sees the ability to have user-created content, which appeals to Sony’s consumers. “It’s what they’ve asked for, and it’s what they want.” Shorrock went on to say that he didn’t think there is much of difference between core gamers and casual gamers. What the platform needs, he believes, is simply a “wide variety of games from a wide variety of publishers.”
Shorrock noted that Sony is looking for “lots of content,” particularly when it “shows the power of the PS3,” in other words, high-definition games, use of the Sixaxis controller, as well as new IPs. “I’m happy to announce that we’re open for business, here with the development teams and the publisher community,” Shorrock told the audience of online developers. It’s free for consumers, he said, “and it’s a place for developers to self-publish and explore a variety of business models.”
It’s a business environment to foster activity and flexibility, Shorrock said. He referred to set areas of Home as ‘pavilions’ that might be set apart for a myriad of reasons. “It’s an open system, so publishers may have, [for example,] an Activision pavilion. They may have a variety of games in there...”
The moderator inquired if pavilions must be purchased or leased by publishers. “What we’re creating is a very flexible model for developers and publishers,” Shorrock responded. “We’re open to proposals, how you might like to proceed.” Some publishers, he said, might want their pavilions to be free. “Some people might want to charge. Our business model is flexible enough to allow for either way.”
Developers can create any sort of pavilion they wish. Shorrock used the example of a casino, with mini-games, admitting he didn’t know how developers would choose to monetize it. But building outposts in Home will also lead to new gameplay, he believes. “That’s the innovation that we’d like to see, and it’s going to come from the creativity of the developers in this room. I can’t predict where it’s going to go.”