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TGS: Interview - Sony's Yoshida 'Very Happy' With Move, Less So With Delays

TGS: Interview - Sony's Yoshida 'Very Happy' With Move, Less So With Delays

September 17, 2010 | By Christian Nutt

September 17, 2010 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC

At Tokyo Game Show, Gamasutra spoke to Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony's Worldwide Studios organization, about the freshly-launched Move, its approach to Japanese-developed content, and why The Last Guardian is taking so long.

The Sony booth at TGS is highly catered to Japanese consumers -- not surprising given the show's two public days, which start from tomorrow. The company is showcasing its PlayStation Move (which launches in this territory in October) and its 3D technology, as well as "a lot of games, mostly to appeal to the Japanese market," as Yoshida says.

"This is the first major event [for the Move] in Japan, so a lot of Japanese people have not played PlayStation Move before...You have to try it before you can understand the difference."

He also says that the software side of the company has been "working closely" with the TV group to support Sony's 3D screens. The booth is crammed with 3D demos.

These demos have generated "a lot of buzz" in Japan, he says. "Our PR guys say we're getting a way more high coverage from general Japanese media." Whether that translates to sales remains to be seen. The PS3 usually lags behind the DS and PSP in this territory, though often leads the Wii and always beats out the Xbox 360.

So... The Move?

What does he think of the Move package now that it's time for launch? "I'm very happy. We know we have a lot more work to do, but I'd give ourselves a nod. We didn't just make games, if you realize. We are an integral part of making the Move system itself," says Yoshida, who says he's satisfied with not just the device, but also the launch title lineup.

"We are so excited to read lots of articles from people who praise the potential of Move and what it does. We are as happy to see the reactions to the Move system itself as when we get a great review on our games, so it's a kind of new experience that we're going through as a studio," says Yoshida.

"We take a lot of our hardware guys and [Move, EyeToy R&D leader] Rick Marks' time by breaking their systems all the time, using our prototype games, and we demanded a lot that we needed as game developers. So I'm very happy that the PlayStation Move is very robust, that we can use it for many years," says Yoshida.

Microsoft's Japanese Content Explosion

Microsoft's keynote was packed with game announcements, all from Japanese studios, and many were Microsoft Game Studios first-party titles. What did Yoshida think of Microsoft's gambit?

"I saw many familiar faces, so I was smiling. But you realize some of those presentations were very, very early," he says. "Microsoft seems to be restarted investing in development in Japan, so I think that's good. The money coming in, and more opportunity for Japanese developers."

However, Yoshida seems Japanese development resources as -- for Sony, at least -- more often better utilized to develop content with local appeal, as it's a "sad fact" that "the best and best-selling U.S. And European-made games do a pretty insignificant number of sales in Japan."

Says Yoshida, "There are very particular cultural sensibilities that people outside of Japan do not understand. And the same way -- many games are strange and bizarre, especially the characters, coming from Japanese developers, [when seen] outside Japan."

Though Yoshida finds it "amazing" that Sega can continue to develop its PS3-based Yakuza series with sales almost exclusively coming from its domestic Japanese audience, he says it's "almost like the exception" in today's industry -- current-gen games with high production values, have to be global hits.

Japan's Game Development Problems... At Sony Too

It's been widely publicized that Japan's development studios have struggled with current-generation technology. Those that started development on the PS3 instead of the Xbox 360 were also a year late in getting started.

Yesterday, The Last Guardian director Fumito Ueda >talked openly about how the team had changed its development structure. The game will have been in development for six years by the time it releases in late 2011.

"Team Ico spends four years to make one game, and I was calling them 'Olympic', but this time they need six years, so they shifted from Summer Olympics to Winter Olympics," joked Yoshida. But he was clearly a bit disappointed to talk about the delays that important first-party game, and the Polyphony Digital-developed Gran Turismo 5 have both seen.

The situation is improving, however. "Most of [Japanese development] companies' themes is to take in some of the methods used outside Japan to make development more organized and a bit more predictable... Teams are learning," and adopting techniques like Agile development, says Yoshida.

He said the experiences of these two teams are not unusual "in relative terms" to other studios, though he cited the independent Insomniac (which has developed many important games for Sony) and owned studio Naughty Dog as major exceptions, hitting PS3 launch (Resistance) and year two (Uncharted) respectively.

"We encourage these studios to have inter-studio conversations across our teams... Japan Studio management invited our teams from Europe Studio and America Studio teams -- [for the Japanese] to learn things that are happening in the West and taking in seriously those methodologies," says Yoshida.

He also says that Sony's Japanese teams have, this generation, been much more willing to take advantage of the company's Western-developed central technology group's offerings.

"I feel lots of sympathy for what [Capcom R&D head] Inafune-san has been saying and I respect the effort that they have been making," says Yoshida, pointing to Capcom as a globally-targeted company, and a rare example of a Japanese developer that worked early and effectively on development tech for the current generation, in the form of its multiplatform MT Framework engine.

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