At Gamescom this year Sony focused squarely on Vita, its PlayStation Portable successor, and the games you'll be able to play on it when it launches early next year in Europe. But it also found the time to showcase the stunning Uncharted 3, and announce a nifty PlayStation 3 price cut.
After the dust settled on all the fun and games at Sony's press conference, Eurogamer sat down with worldwide studios boss Shuhei Yoshida to unpack the Japanese company's announcements. Read on for thoughts on Vita, PS3, and, whisper it, the PS4.
Eurogamer: What impact do you hope Vita will have on the current landscape of consoles?
Shuhei Yoshida: Our goal is to recreate the excitement around portable gaming. It's been six years since the launch of PSP. We cannot deny the lack of new content compared to the early days of the PSP. With the advancement of technologies, we're able to put in a lot of new features and technologies into PS Vita. So hopefully we're able to show to consumers with PS Vita they will be able to enjoy something they have never tried before. That's our goal with bringing PS Vita to the market.
Our goal from worldwide studios is to show through the games on PS Vita are games that, when you try them, you agree that, wow, I've never tried something like this. That's what we're trying to do.
Eurogamer: You mentioned that one of the problems with the PSP was a lack of content. What steps are you taking to ensure that same mistake won't be repeated?
Shuhei Yoshida: As far as we're concerned from a worldwide studios standpoint, right after the launch of PSP we had to shift lots of resources to prepare for the launch of the PS3. That followed closely after the launch of PSP. In retrospect we did it too extreme. We were happy with the launch of PSP. We had lots of games to launch with, but because of the demand of creating games on the new consoles, we shifted resources too much and the coverage for the PSP became weak.
The same thing was happening with third parties as well. The next generation of hardware was launching. Because us and third parties had to shift resources out of the portables, that created the huge issues in terms of the supply of the content.
We learnt the lessons of that experience. We're going to make sure we will have a good, continuous supply of software on PS Vita as we continue to support the PS3 and PS Move.
Eurogamer: How do you respond to those who say in this smartphone heavy market there isn't a desire for a high-end portable gaming device? What do you say to those who are worried about Vita?
Shuhei Yoshida: I'm not sure who is worrying. If our publishing partners or our developer partners are worrying, I understand. If their business is in the console space, they are in the same venue as us, so we should create a market with them so we can continue our business. So I totally understand that.
But when consumers are saying it, I really don't understand. It really depends on the types of consumers. If you are a very, very casual person who might just want to kill time as you're waiting for your train or something, you might not need a dedicated, big game experience. But if you like games, if you really love games, you would want to play the kind of games you like, even on the portable.
I totally believe there are millions and millions of people like that. As long as there are great portable gaming experiences you cannot get on smartphones, there will be a market.
Eurogamer: When the price was announced it surprised many because it was a bit lower than we were expecting. Now Nintendo has announced a price cut for the 3DS, does that put pressure on Sony to reduce the price of Vita?
Shuhei Yoshida: We are totally happy with the price we put out. Personally, I was expecting Nintendo might move their price, but I wasn't expecting them to move at this time. We didn't price Vita relative to 3DS or those other devices. We plan the value we want to put in to the Vita and the price people would perceive the value would be. Nothing changed since the announcement. We are totally happy.
Eurogamer: You can have a connected experience with games you play on your PS3. Is it feasible to play a game on PS3, leave home and continue it on Vita, and return to it on PS3 when I get back?
Shuhei Yoshida: That's totally feasible and it's going to be happening. One of the games we're making, called Ruin, we are developing both the Vita version and the PS3 version of that title. Both games will be packaged together. You can play the game at home on PS3, save your data on our PSN server on the cloud, and you can continue playing the game on PS Vita by downloading the save from the PSN. And you can do vice versa. It's a continuous experience, playing the same game on PS Vita and PS3.
There is lots of interest from publishers and developers to do that. At Konami, Kojima-san announced the concept of Transfarring. The initial product will be between PSP and PS3, but he is also talking about between PS3 and Vita. Actually, it's easier to create the experience on PS Vita and PS3 because the performance is much similar, and the amount of RAM is pretty similar.
More games like Ruin will be released. But that said, PS Vita has lots of unique functionality you cannot replicate on PS3. The larger focus we have from worldwide studios standpoint is to create games on PS Vita you cannot really experience anywhere else, like the use of touch or camera. We showed a video of how LittleBigPlanet on Vita can use the camera to capture textures and use attach to edit your level. That's great. You cannot do that on the console. That's a larger focus.
Eurogamer: It's possible to use Vita as a controller for PS3.
Shuhei Yoshida: Technically, yes. PS Vita and PS3 can be connected. Actually, PSP and PS3 can be connected as well. They function when you have video on PS3 you can browse using PSP Remote Play function. Again, because PS Vita and PS3 performance is similar, because the PSN feature set is complete on PS Vita, it's going to be much easier to use PS3 and PS Vita in the connected function.
Eurogamer: To use Vita as a PS3 controller, the feature has to be built into the game itself?
Shuhei Yoshida: Yeah. It has to be built into the game. We've been working on the technical side, on how to make it easy for developers to be able to do that. It's still under development, but we should be able to demonstrate that functionally later.
Eurogamer: You've announced a PS3 price cut. Why do that now?
Shuhei Yoshida: We have great momentum on PS3. The last year was our biggest year for the PS3. We'd like to continue this momentum. We are now broadening our reach with PS3, with the introduction of PS Move. So we think it's about the time to slightly reduce the price so PS3 can be more accessible to those people who might be waiting for that right chance to jump onto PS3.
We have the right content - casual content, PS Move content - and we have the more accessible price with PS3 hardware, and a big title coming out like Uncharted 3. So it's the perfect time for us to do the move.
Eurogamer: We're not used to this length of console life cycle without the introduction of new hardware. How long can it last?
Shuhei Yoshida: It's a reflection of the fact that the technical leap was greater from the last generation to this generation. PS2 to PS3 was a bigger leap. That created the very high cost of goods at the launch of PS3 - that was very painful. At the same time the game developers had to shift from the single core architecture to multi-core architecture. There was lots of learning.
So from both the hardware standpoint and the game development standpoint, the learning curve was much steeper. So the penetration rate, even combined with 360, was slower this time around. But after a couple of years of time, the hardware costs have come down and developers have developed their engines and pipelines. Now, it's the primetime for this generation of hardware and games. That was the reason it took more time and after four years we are still seeing better and bigger titles coming out.
As far as for how many more years, it really depends on how long the industry continues to support the platform. As long as we continue to support the platform, there is huge value with PS3. It's not just a game product. There are network services available. It's great value for money for millions of people.
Eurogamer: From Sony's point of view is there any desire to launch a new home console?
Shuhei Yoshida: As far as we are concerned, we have no desire now to do that. Looking at the platform cycle, when the platform becomes something game developers are not able to improve their creations with, that's the time we have to really seriously consider shifting to the next generation. Gamers always need something new and more exciting. If they're seeing just similar types of games coming year after year, they will quickly lose their interest.
Looking like that, when you see games coming out on PS3, both the traditional type of games as well as new kind of games using PS Move, there is a lot more we can do from the game development standpoint. So as long as we and our developers can create new experiences that are more exciting to consumers, I see no need to transition into newer generation.
Eurogamer: PS Move formed an important part of your press conference. Now it's been out for nearly a year, has it been as successful as Sony had hoped?
Shuhei Yoshida: Going into the launch of PS Move last year we had certain goals for the initial year in terms of unit sales. We have overachieved our initial goal. We are extremely happy. The kind of experiences the system has been designed for are very intuitive and responsive and precise. That has been well communicated to consumers. Media people helped us a lot to talk about how PS Move is different from other types of experiences.
There is a certain amount of scepticism, especially from those types of developers who work on traditional types of games, because they make games for people who have played games for many, many years. They are totally comfortable continuing to use the DualShock controllers. But once they try PS Move they are surprised to see how they can incorporate it just as a game controller.
PS Move is designed as a game controller. It has the same responsiveness and precision gamers need. As more developers find that out and more content is created using PS Move for that type of experience, people's understanding of the potential for PS Move will go deeper. So I'm very happy where we are with the adoption of PS Move. We are working on more new experiences using PS Move for the future.
Eurogamer: Should all first-party Sony games incorporate Move in your opinion?
Shuhei Yoshida: No. We never have that limit. We ask every team to evaluate. Because we involved lots of teams in our development of PS Move, we already had a good understanding of what type of games can take advantage of PS Move well. Like FPS, we knew it worked. It's like a pointing device and very precise and responsive. But there are certain types of genre of games we were not able to try before the launch of PS Move. So we're still evaluating and discovering.
In terms of what could be lacking… so FPS games are good because PS Move in combination with the Navigation Controller, we designed it so when you have both, the amount of input available compared to DualShock 3 is equal, meaning right analogue stick on DualShock is replaced by the actual movement of PS Move. Because FPS has the camera movement and the character's movement very connected, that works with that design.
But what we discovered after the fact was with the third-person action adventure type of game, the camera movement and your actions are totally separate. It has to be controlled independently.
Move is motion control. The desire is to allow people to do the movement to do the character action; So not just pressing buttons but really use the motion control for the character action. That creates the problem of how to replace the camera movement. Now, right analogue stick is gone and the replacement was the motion control, which is used for the character action. What to do? It's a new challenge we are looking at. Because of the robustness of the technologies, this should be able to be done. But the question is, the game has to be architected for a certain way. If the use of motion control requires radically different architecture for the game, the game has to be specifically made for either DualShock or PS Move. That's a challenge we are looking at. Other than that genre, almost all kinds of experiences can be created on PS Move.
Eurogamer: You recently bought infamous developer Sucker Punch. Sony owns a lot of development studios, which seems unique in the current market. Why do you continue to invest in this huge family of Sony-owned developers?
Shuhei Yoshida: If you're an analyst you might be asking, while other companies are divesting, why are you investing? We see the situation totally differently. We do not go out and acquire developers to acquire business. Many third party publishers and independent companies do that. What we do, usually, is develop the relationship with the developer. Once we have certain years of experience working together and creating some successful IPs, we shift into a new stage of relationship, after the fact we had that achievement.
So, it always comes organically. Sucker Punch has been making games for us for the last 10 years. Before the acquisition, after the acquisition, they continue to make games for us going forward. Will it change the output in any way? I doubt it. But it will remove them from certain types of things that they have to worry about, being an independent developer. That's the positive aspect of having this new relationship. They can focus on the creative aspect of making games without worrying about, if this game doesn't sell, they might have to find new partners or create a new concept while they are still working on the current project. It's a lot of stress.
For them, they can totally focus on the creative aspect as well as being a part of our family. We can invite them a bit deeper into the activity we do now.
Eurogamer: All the cool parties?
Shuhei Yoshida: Yeah! Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc., especially the hardware group. That's totally exciting. I'm looking forward to embracing them into that group.