Sony's gamescom media briefing was different. Low key and relaxed (although not for those forced to stand), it saw SCEE president Andrew House give the gaming world an update on just how well the PlayStation 3 is now doing following, by his own admission, a slow burn at the start.
He then announced two new PS3 models with larger HDDs, a couple of Move bundles, and spoke at length about 3D gaming and PlayStation Move.
Following his presentation to press, we sat down with House in a plush Cologne hotel for a chat on all the above and more.
Eurogamer: You began your press conference by saying the PlayStation 3 has sold 38 million units globally since launch. How does that figure compare with the figure Sony hoped for at this stage in the life cycle?
Andrew House: We're really pleased. I'd characterise it as right on track. The important thing we always frame the discussion with is our view that the full length of the life cycle is likely to be significantly longer than anything we've seen before.
We offered some fairly good reasons for that: the fact you have a network device, the value of the network that grows over time, a portfolio of services that grows over time.
Within the context of assuming this will be a different and much longer life cycle than previously, we're right on track where I would hope we would be at this point in the life cycle.
Something of a slow burn, obviously, at the start. Everyone should be frank and admit that. But really starting to reach what we feel is a tipping point where momentum shifting in your favour to become what I would hope to be the de facto purchase you would make if you're considering an investment into videogames.
The addition of Move helps us to do that. It gives us another way of reaching out to consumers who are in a different consideration set right now. But overall, the numbers are very good.
What's most significant for me was what we talked about in terms of year on year momentum. It's very interesting to note this fact that - no surprises really in the economic environment we're dealing with right now, that the market for our industry overall is somewhat down year on year, against which in contrast, we are significantly up.
Not just in terms of hardware where the price point is a critical factor, but also on software as well, to the tune of 38 per cent. That's perhaps the most significant story right now.
Clearly it's going to be most interesting once we get into the period where we're year on year like for like price points. But my prediction right now, and in polling my territory managers, is if anything we're seeing our numbers and our projections for the year go up, even with the year on year price value proposition to the consumer being the same.
So it's all trending very positively right now. The first quarter of our fiscal year, April through June, was so significantly above our expectations in terms of game sales and software sales across the board from Sony games right through third party. That bodes extremely well for the year.
Software performance on a tie ratio basis, is better on PS3 than it was at the same point on PS2. That's very good. We have sold all of these consoles at price points that are way significantly higher than those comparably at the same point in the life cycle on PS2.
What that says to me is the consumer is seeing intrinsic value in the offering we're putting out there.
Eurogamer: You admit the PS3 got off to a slow start. What was the chief factor in it's resurgence?
Andrew House: I don't think there's a single factor. But if I'm pushed to say the most significant, I'd say it's the entry level hardware price point and the launch of the PS3 Slim.
Beyond that though, a consistent theme for us is we are in essence building more value into a PS3 as time goes on, not just for the new consumers that come in, but also to a degree for existing consumers as well. At a time when people are financially challenged, they're sensitive and receptive to a console that in essence gets better over time.
What do I mean by that? Even something like Blu-ray, which if you compare the value of Blu-ray as a functionality in the machine at launch in 2007 in the midst of a format war, to established standard for Blu-ray, massive library of movies now available from all studios, I could make a good argument that Blu-ray is at more value now to a consumer than it was then.
Similarly with PSN. Now with being able to connect and be part of a community that's tens of millions of people strong globally, and that has a range of network services including Catch up TV, or small examples like Mubi, which we're launching all of these things I would hope are sending a message.
We've just made 3D functionality available to everyone who has a connected console free of charge. We're layering on some good areas of value that hopefully validates for people. That in turn generates word of mouth for the next set of consumers to say, 'This is a good deal to get into and now is the time.'
Eurogamer: Let's talk about value. How does the PS3 Move starter pack bundle you announced yesterday compare to Microsoft's confirmed pricing for Kinect and the 360 Kinect bundle in terms of value?
Andrew House: We're in a very strong position with Move. Most notably with the bundle we announced yesterday. The competition is looking for consumers to pay 150 Euros in addition to the console investment, which is significant.
In our case, for the 'I've decided Move is the way to go' new consumer, to have an enhanced harddrive over and above the one that's been previously available, which was the larger harddrive size, the full package of Move including the Starter kit and everything you need in there, for 349 Euros, that's a pretty easy comparison for most consumers to make.
And it comes out in our favour.
Oh and by the way did I mention there's a Blu-ray player in there? What do they say in the infomercials? 'But wait! There's more.'
Eurogamer: Move comes in different parts, though. Won't people add up the cost of the lot when comparing how much Move costs compared with Kinect?
Andrew House: The Starter Pack is the core SKU for most consumers and that's going to be where they assign the price, is my prediction. We'd have to see that validated by consumers and at retail.
Having said that, it's a little bit more complex because we've got a significant installed base of PlayStation Eye cameras out there. For those people, it's an even easier upgrade scenario to move into Move.
Eurogamer: Is that a new slogan?
Andrew House: Let's call somebody in marketing.
Eurogamer: Kinect's launch line-up of games is getting a bit of stick from core gamers. Does Move's launch line-up appeal to core gamers?
Andrew House: Clearly, the two names that loom large are Killzone 3 and SOCOM.
But you've hit on a good point we are conscious of within the Move strategy, which effects the content support, but also the communication strategy around the launch.
We are actively balancing a whole range of family friendly social casual call it what you will games, that are easy to get into, and showcasing that on the Starter Pack even, which has got a fairly robust content offering for something that is essentially packed in there.
But balancing that with strong well known franchises that are validating Move's enhancements for that core gamer audience. And that's critical. Your audience are the people who are going to be incredibly influential in validating Move for the other audience that is not so knowledgeable and is seeking advice and looking for recommendations.
So, the better job we do in two things: rewarding the loyalty of people who've been with us right from the start so they get a meaningful relevant benefit out of Move for their gaming needs, while at the same time, they'll become the people who are helping to help us drive sales to a new audience that just makes good sense for us and it's a really important part of the strategy.
Again though, whether it be 3D or Move, the most encouraging thing from my point of view is a lot of this interest in either of those technologies and the adoption has come studio side. It's come creatively from the studio saying, 'Wow, once we got our hands on final tools and realised just how easy this is to implement, all sorts of ideas are sparking.'
A lot of this is coming from the creative people in our organisation saying, 'Gosh, look what this does for my existing franchise.' That's true of 3D and Move. That's the best validation you can have, when the folks creating the games are seeing value there. That's going to translate into great consumer experiences.
Eurogamer: You mention 3D. Some aren't thrilled by having to wear glasses. Is that a real issue for Sony?
Andrew House: I think that's fair. We've been I hope careful and judicious in the way we've positioned 3D for games.
At no point are we saying, 'Right, that's it, all games are going to 3D and people will play 3D all the time.' I don't think that's the way this will find its way into people's gaming consciousness.
To be frank, I've been encouraged but also somewhat surprised at how quickly our developers have moved full scale into full games in 3D. The critical thing is that it's an option. It's not a mandate. It's not something we're trying to force people to have.
It's something we're making available and at the right time for the right game the consumer will embrace.
Playing games with a headset is the closest thing I can equate to the same idea as having to wear glasses. Similar pattern, I think. For those people who see enough enhancement in that and - whether it's my son on Skype with his friend in California.
It's an enhancement and consumers will see the benefit or not.
Eurogamer: How much of a coup is having Mass Effect 2 finally on PS3? You talked during your conference about PS3 exclusives ranking higher on Metacritic than exclusives on Xbox 360 and Wii, so I know exclusives matter to you.
Andrew House: That was first party that we were talking about, specifically on that. You get into grey areas if... We based the calculation around our games. Fair is fair.
Eurogamer: But what does Mass Effect 2 coming to PS3 mean for Sony?
Andrew House: It's hugely impactful. It's got to be near the top of any solid gaming consideration list. We're delighted to be able to have it as part of the offering.
The wider point I'd make on exclusives is on PS2 we had more emphasis on third party exclusives.
What has happened on PS3 and I give great credit to Shuhei Yoshida on this is we have done a tremendous job with our own global development resources within Sony to make sure there's a strong stream of exclusive content that is Sony owned and Sony provided.
That has been a counterbalance to the move away from third party publishers going exclusive with one platform.
Eurogamer: Are exclusives as important for core gamers now as they were at the beginning of the PS3's life cycle?
Andrew House: I don't know. I'm not sure how you go about evaluating it and how it migrates over time.
It's important not so much for me in the sense of exclusive, must have that console because I must have that particular game, it's not elsewhere - clearly there's a calculation that goes on in that area but we're in an entertainment business and people are seeking experiences. The most important thing is innovation.
Innovation has to be to a degree pioneered by first party and by the platform holder, to take the risks, to undertake the creative challenges, and deliver experiences that are differentiated from the competition as well as de facto exclusive to the platform.
It's a fine distinction. That's what motivates people more at the end of the day.
A good example was when we demonstrated Sorcery for the first time at E3. You could feel around you that light bulb moment go on for everybody, particularly a core gamer audience that went, 'I want to do that.'
That's the primary motivation that's perhaps more important than, is it only on that platform?
More on PlayStation Move
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Eurogamer: Heavy Rain sold 1.5 million globally. Are more creative risks being taken by designers on PS3?
Andrew House: I'd like to think a higher appetite for creative risk has been core to the PlayStation philosophy from the start.
From my history that looms large is PaRappa the Rapper, which I don't think any other platform holder at that time would have considered or supported.
The other thing to point to, which sometimes gets a little lost or perhaps we don't get as much credit for, is one of the reasons you see such diversity in the first party offering from Sony is because of the diversity of the development teams and resources that we have, and the fact they are so evenly dispersed into different cultures and different geographies around the world.
We are unique in being as strong as a development powerhouse in Japan as we are on the West Coast in the US, or in Europe.
Heavy Rain has a particularly European sensibility about it. You can achieve that only if you've got significant development resources and expertise in those geographies and informed by those cultures.
Andrew House is president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. There will be a 320GB machine bundled with a PlayStation Move motion controller kit for £284.99 / 349. A 160GB machine will be sold for £249.99 / 299 and "gradually replace" stock of the current 120GB model, which costs the same.