At the E3 Media & Business Summit, Gamasutra had the chance to speak at length with Sony's Peter Dille, senior vice president of marketing for PlayStation. We discussed a host of issues, from Sony's difficulties with viral marketing, the PS3 price cut, the PSP redesign, and whether Nintendo platforms are still for kids. The conversation got a little heated at times, but no limbs were lost in the process, and the end result was forty minutes of discussion from the company that hopes to be the once and future brand leader of videogames.
I heard the Sony keynote was very humble this time, in terms of how it was presenting itself. Why is that?
Peter Dille: First and foremost, it's a reflection of Jack (Tretton). We've got a new president and CEO, and Jack's got a different personality than some of the folks in the past. I think it fits him well. He talked about the need to earn our consumers' business every day, and I think it's something that we've always taken very seriously, but maybe we haven't said it enough. I think people really responded to it, and were happy to hear us express those points of view.
What has been learned from the reaction to "All I Want for Christmas is a PSP" and so on?
PD: What was learned was that was never intended to be passed off as viral. Our promotions people and this agency we were working with came up with this notion of having a program where you could ask for a PSP. Unfortunately, the way we executed it gave the impression that we weren't behind it. The lesson there is that there was a violent reaction to Sony being a poseur and not standing behind its message. It wasn't our intent, we recognized it immediately as something that needed to be fixed, and we took it down. Lesson learned, and hopefully we'll avoid that type of thing going forward.
It seems like it wouldn't have been as much of an issue in the past. I wonder if you think that blogs are changing the face of marketing and PR in this way?
PD: Absolutely. There's no doubt about it. News travels so fast, and the community is so passionate about products like PlayStation that they're going to let you know about it, and now they have a voice where they can really make themselves heard. Getting back to what we're doing differently and what we've learned, we've launched our own blog. We've recognized that we need to be more relevant in the digital age in how we communicate with our consumer.
It's relatively recent, but we've had a really strong reaction to the blog, and our consumer loves the fact that we're talking directly to them. I think that quite frankly, many of them were very skeptical. "Is Sony really going to be serious about this? Will we really hear from them?" So far they've been very pleased that executives are on the blog, we're responding to posts, and we're paying attention to it. We take it very seriously.
That's different from Three Speech, right? What is the drive behind Three Speech?
PD: I'm the wrong person to ask, because it's the product of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. Obviously the Internet shows up all over the world, but it's not an SCEA initiative, so I'd steer you to our colleagues at SCEE to give you more background on Three Speech.
In this age where everything is traveling so fast, information-wise, how can you stay ahead of the curve in terms of marketing to people? It seems hard to figure out what people are going to grab hold of now more than ever.
PD: Yes, and no. I think there's still things where you do your homework and you know via some tried and true methods of consumer research. Games take a while to develop, and while they're being developed, you get reaction to them. Hopefully by the time Heavenly Sword comes out, we've got a good idea that Heavenly Sword is a lot of fun to play. With Killzone, you get a reaction from people here at E3 who know a lot about games.
At the same time, there are things that can come out of left field and take the world by storm. Not all of those are as accidental as others. I think that when Little Big Planet springs out on the scene, it may appear to a lot of people that it came out of left field. But it's a product that we've been really excited about for awhile, and hopefully if you nurture it and launch it that way to get that type of response. And then there are things that really do catch you by surprise. Those are pleasant surprises, mostly.
Sometimes the surprise is something that you thought was going to be great doesn't turn out to be great. This is an entertainment business, and like the movie business, we'll make a new release every couple of weeks with a new game launch, and you hope that it finds its audience. Not every game delivers on its promise, though.
Can you give an example of good surprise and bad surprise?
PD: I'd rather not. I only recently rejoined Sony after some time away. I'm trying to think of a good example of both, but I'm coming up [blank].