Birthday Memories: Sony PlayStation Turns 15
September 9, 2010 Page 4 of 4
On that note, what was your favorite game from the early days of the PlayStation 1?
PD: I think all those games I just mentioned, you know, have a special place in my heart, again partially because I was part of the team that suffered through some of the salad days with those guys. But if I had to pick one, it probably would be NFL GameDay. I was a big GameDay fan. I spent a lot of time playing it, and we had a great rivalry with EA and Madden.
I'm particularly proud of the fact that -- I think it was 1997 -- GameDay actually outsold Madden. And, you know, that's the last time that's ever been done, but, you know, we had a real great product on our hands, and it was a lot of fun working... I'm a big sports fan, and a big NFL fan, so it was a lot of fun to work on, but it's also fun to work on something that you can make into such a big success.
I remember what a stalwart GameDay was at the time. It's another sort of thing that people probably don't think about much anymore, but it was really a big deal.
PD: [Another] Wayback Machine -- the initial GT just blew people away. I think it's still doing that to this day. We'll see it again in just a couple months, but you know, Kazunori [Yamauchi]-san hasn't lost his penchant for being a visionary, a guy who pushes boundaries.
Each successive GT, I think we've had the same reaction. It was like, "Oh my God", and then quickly followed by, "It can't look any better than this." I remember people saying that when the first one came out on PS1.
Every time it's come out, I can remember being at sales meetings or press presentations, and everyone's jaw drops. You know, I think you've probably got a sense of what GT5 looks like, and, you know, here we go again. It's hard to imagine it looking any better, but I wouldn't bet against Kazunori.
I was curious about working with Japan and also with Europe to coordinate with the launches. How did that process go? At that point, it was a new process. I mean, obviously, Sony, is a Japanese company with a long-standing American division, but working with this software side...
PD: Yeah. It went remarkably well, I think. People probably assume that there was all sorts of late night phone calls or the need to get things approved and whatnot. And I'm not saying that they weren't paying careful attention, but I think, again, back to sort of the secrets to the success, what Sony did was really smart...
Let me back up a step. Like I said, we had recently purchased Columbia Pictures and CBS Records, and those were standalone software divisions. And leading up to the launch of PlayStation, again, I think people within the company knew this was an exciting product, and they wanted to be part of it. I mean that in a political sense.
So, you have an existing electronics operation within Sony, and then you had other companies that were making a claim that they could sell a product into our channel of distribution. There was a home video division, and people drew comparisons to the gaming category and the home video category. There was a music company. There was a motion picture company. And, like I said, there was an electronics company.
And rather than just saying, "Well, we're going to have the electronics guys sell the hardware, and you guys over here will do the software..." As you and I well know, that's not the way our business model works.
And rather than do that, Sony for the first time created a standalone division that housed both hardware and software under one roof. So, they knew that was key to success in this category, and had they not done that, if they had just relied on, "Um, those guys will talk to each other; they'll make this work", we probably would have sold hardware at high margins rather than sell it at a loss and make money on software. It never would have worked.
So by creating Sony Computer Entertainment, we had a standalone division, and the guy that created it was a guy named Kutaragi, who I don't need to tell you... was a maverick, and did a very good job keeping Sony Corp. off his back so that he could pursue his vision.
I think, again, had he not done that, who knows what decisions might not have been made or what different decisions would have been made. I think that because of that style, we got to do things differently, and that led to our success.
And if you come forward to today, in a very big way, PlayStation is setting the tone for the organization, particularly with Kaz [Hirai] now over the Network Products and Services division as well, overseeing that end, as well as overseeing SCE.
PD: Yeah, absolutely. I think the spirit is still there, the visionary focus is still there, whether it's, again, launching Blu-ray at a point and time when people were saying, "Blu-ray? I didn't ask for this. What a mistake Sony made. That's going to be their Achilles' heel here." Actually, it's the secret sauce that's making PlayStation so successful.
Sony, again, didn't do things the way people expected them to; they did things in a visionary way. But I think what's changed since 1995 is we are now much more integrated into the rest of Sony Corp. Kaz has a different approach than Kutaragi-san, and by extension, he's now been asked to lead that charge for a bigger part of the company wearing his Network Products and Services hat. He's responsible for a lot more than PlayStation.
But, again, the spirit of PlayStation, creating products that are changing Sony and changing the world, I think still exists today.
What were you most proud of about the original launch and the original system when you look back at it?
PD: I think I answer that question by saying, whether it's 1995 or 2010, the thing I'm most proud of is having a small role in helping establish a brand that's world-famous, being part of the growth of a company that didn't exist. We were probably 40 people here in Foster City, and, you know, several hundred, of course, around the world, but that's now grown to 1800.
And a brand that is... We launched an advertisement today on Kevin Butler's Twitter account, and people look forward to us marketing our product to them. Name a product in the world that you can think of where consumers actually get excited where they market to them. It doesn't happen very often, and we have the privilege of working for one here, and it's a product that people love. That's a great honor to have been part of it.
To take it down a notch, I guess, but is there anything you look back at how things went at the time that you wish you could have done differently?
PD: Boy. Nothing comes to mind. I'm not trying to duck the question, but obviously, things went pretty well. We sold more than 102 million PS1s, went on to sell more than 146 million PS2s, put Sega out of the hardware business, established us as a household brand, [and] created a huge profit center for Sony Corporation.
Were their missteps along the way or things you could do differently? You know, absolutely. But I'd be hard-pressed to look back at 15 years ago and say, "You know that PS1 launch? I think we could have done this and that differently." It all went extremely well, as I sit here 15 years later.
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