In 2008, Sony veteran and U.S. studio head Shuhei Yoshida took over Phil Harrison's job as president of Sony's Worldwide Studios. The company had been on top for a number of years, but Yoshida inherited three major uphill battles -- keeping the aging PlayStation 2 afloat, bringing the lagging PlayStation Portable back to life, and injecting the PlayStation 3 with the exclusive games to drive its sales with the crucial core gamer audience flocking to Microsoft's Xbox 360.
As Sony moves to change how hardware and software development is undertaken at the company, Yoshida sits astride both efforts -- particularly as regards the development of its own motion control technology, which finally debuted with playable demos at September's Tokyo Game Show.
This interview covers his strategies for the motion controller, relationships with third parties, the ways in which Sony is changing its attitude towards hardware development and its own platforms, and more -- in a wide-ranging talk conducted at Sony's Tokyo headquarters.
You didn't show the motion controller at Tokyo Game Show. There was a bit of reworked Resident Evil 5 and LittleBigPlanet shown for the Japanese press, but that was it. We expected more. Are games not yet in an advanced enough state to be shown to the public?
Shuhei Yoshida: We showed demos of a few games -- so at least we kept our promise of showing live demos of games supporting the motion controller. But we decided not to have them on show floor. For one thing, it takes a lot of space to set up these kinds of things, you need more schooled staff, proper lighting and such things.
We are also still working on the motion controller; it's not complete. We are making changes to the hardware, so we really want to wait until we feel confident enough about giving the audience a chance to try it out. We are making progress, though, and we wanted to show at least snippets of games in that are in development.
Are third parties actively developing games taking advantage of the motion controller?
SY: We are not comfortable talking about third parties at this moment, but as you saw with Capcom they already have games supporting the controller, so we are excited about that.
Gran Turismo 5
How disappointed are you that Gran Turismo 5 is not out this Christmas?
SY: (Laughs) I'm not really disappointed. March is a great date, and my job is to let the developer make the best game possible. Of course we want to bring the game out as early as we can, but we also want it to be the best it can be.
You have been in charge of the Sony Worldwide Studios for over a year now. Have you changed the studio working methods and tried to create a more collaborative atmosphere with the hardware development groups? You've mentioned that the development of the motion controller originated from the software teams.
SY: Talking specifically about the motion controller, it was developed by the Worldwide Studios. We came up with ideas -- we want this and we want that -- and we didn't really know what technologies were available to make it happen. So the R&D group, the Dr. Richard Marks-led group, continued researching vision technology like the PlayStation Eye. They have been working on a variety of things and doing lot of research on different kinds of UIs. So we asked if he wanted to join us in doing R&D for a controller that can make our requirements for new games to reality.
When we tried different solutions we went back to vision technology in combination with the actual motion sensors inside the controller. There are innovations in how the camera recognizes the controller's sphere and how it combines the data coming form the internal sensors.
So we've had the software group, Richard Marks' group, and hardware development group involved, but out of these three groups actually the hardware group was the last group to join the development. Of course, they are a very reliable hardware engineering team so we are very happy to work with the guys here [in Japan].
So compared to other prior hardware development this way of working was totally new to all of us, that took some experimentation, but this is something we want to continue onto future technologies as well.