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Uncharted, VR and what was absent from Sony's show: The Jim Ryan interview

Dissecting PlayStation's Paris Games Week conference.

Sony mixed things up a little this year, electing to skip a Gamescom that have moved uncomfortably close to E3 and choosing to have its own show at Paris Games Week in the dying embers of October. Its conference on Tuesday evening brought everything you'd expect from a big show: new announcements about existing upcoming games, and big reveals such as Gran Turismo Sport and Quantic Dream's new game Detroit.

For some time Jim Ryan, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's president and CEO, has fronted PlayStation's big European shows. Given his rugged appearance - which I probably dwell too much upon in our live reports - I half expect to find him chopping wood when I meet him for an interview the morning after the show. But instead he's at a table surrounded by special edition PlayStations, and where he tells me he was reading our live report in his moments off-stage during the show itself (including some of your comparisons between Ryan and a kipper).

1

How did you think it went last night?

Jim Ryan: I was really pleased - it's nice to come to a new place and do different things. It's a nice location, I liked the room - there was a cosy vibe to it - and I was pleased with what we had to say. It's always tough when you have E3, you've got Tokyo Game Show and you want to do something in Europe. I think we had a decent roster of announcements.

Have you had a chance to gauge the reaction online? It's been a little bit flat - I don't know if that's a hangover from the E3 show.

Jim Ryan: I haven't had a chance to go online - I'll do that this afternoon. There were nine new announces. That's okay. That's good.

For me, the big one was Gran Turismo.

Jim Ryan: He's an interesting character! He likes Europe, and we do very well with his games. He likes coming over here, he likes spending time here, and it was good to get him on-stage.

As he alluded to, this is the home of motorsport. It's a good place to do it. One point of clarity it'd be good to get - is this Gran Turismo 7? Is this a Prologue kind of thing?

Jim Ryan: We're not announcing Gran Turismo 7 at this stage. Fair to say he's been making these games for some considerable time now. I think it's reasonable to assume that something else might come down the road. Is it a Prologue? No, I think it'll be more than that. The old days, when the games were offline, the experience was defined by what's on the disc. You had a distinction between a Prologue and a full GT, it was very stark. When the game becomes more of an online connected experience, that distinction blurs. This will be much more than a Prologue type experience.

You got him to make some interesting commitments.

Jim Ryan: Well, when you've got a chance to sign him up in front of the world why not take it?

Are you confident? He has got a history of saying things he can't quite hold to.

Jim Ryan: Those are your words, first of all! Yeah, we're confident. There's nothing at this stage to suggest that he won't deliver on what was said. He's obviously been working on this for a while now, it's been a while since GT6 released, so we're confident.

Well, I'm looking forward to finding out more. I guess you have to save some stuff for PlayStation Experience - there was quite a lot of stuff there yesterday, and it's almost got me wondering what's left.

Jim Ryan: Well, I'm sure there'll be a few surprises for PlayStation Experience. Moving from a global calendar of three events to a calendar of four events, it keeps the heat on the developers to churn out new stuff, which is good.

2

We had David Cage's new game, Detroit. It was great to see him go back to Kara. After Beyond, has he reigned in some of his excesses?

Jim Ryan:[laughs] Again, that's your expression!

He's got a team of writers with him now, right? So he's not flying solo so much.

Jim Ryan: It's nice to have different sorts of stuff on the platform, and David brings that. I loved Heavy Rain - that's my kind of game - and I think, as an industry, as development risk becomes greater, there's a risk that we're recycling low risk annual iterations. People like David bring a fresh and different approach. That's great, and it's important that stuff continues to happen and prosper.

Beyond had big Hollywood talent, and that seemed to be absent from Detroit - which I think is a good thing. Does that mean he's working on a slightly smaller budget this time?

Jim Ryan:[laughs] Well.... His budget is a matter between Sony and him. The fact there weren't any disclosures last night, it was just nice to reveal the game. It was very nice to meet Ellen Page and Willem Defoe, and I think the game will be strong enough to survive without that kind of talent. I don't think anyone's ruling anything in or out at the moment.

We had a cool announcement with DriveClub's motorbikes. It's great that it's out now, but I've left my PS4 at home so I'm a bit peeved.

Jim Ryan:[Laughs] Yeah, I saw that.

That's not much good to me. How have you gauged how DriveClub's gone? It obviously had a troubled start.

Jim Ryan: It almost definitely didn't go well. There's no hiding from that. The game now is much played - we see the server data and things like that - and it did deliver on the promises it made initially. And people love it. I don't want to ruin this with grubby commercials, but it sold very well!

How's it going to work with it co-existing with Gran Turismo? The racing genre obviously isn't what it once was.

Jim Ryan: All we're announcing right now is DriveClub Bikes, and it'll be interesting to see how that goes. Get yourself back home and get going on the PS4. Yes, it's a space that's lost some of its lustre from 10 or 15 years ago, but I think there's plenty of room for quality experiences. And DriveClub occupies its own space, which is kind of unique.

One game we didn't see last night, which I was expecting because it's another big game coming from Europe, was Rime. It's gone quite for a while.

Jim Ryan: Yeah, it has. It's a good question. The show was quite long last night, and there's only so much you can squeeze into these things. Our focus is always going to be on new unveils, the larger franchises. Just providing another update to a game that's been seen on more than one occasion at European events, it didn't strike us as the best use of a very finite commodity, which is time. Don't read anything into it, in one way or another.

Do you want to keep it separate from the Last Guardian? It's almost more Ico than Ico.

Jim Ryan:[Laughs] Well, it couldn't have been inspired by, because we hadn't shown the PS4 Last Guardian when we last showed Rime.

Well, it's very much indebted to the work of Fumito Ueda.

Jim Ryan: You know, that link hadn't really struck me at all. Now you say it, I could surmise that...

Well hopefully we'll get more on The Last Guardian at the PlayStation Experience. I appreciate there'll be nothing now.

Jim Ryan: The reaction that thing got at E3 - it was very nicely delivered. I love those games - the first two - they're really the sort of games that inspired genuine emotion in me as I played them. It's quite special.

Apologies for rattling through games - No Man's Sky had a release date. Part of me presumed - I'm good at making assumptions that end up being wrong...

Jim Ryan: As long as you attribute those assumptions to yourself!

That struck me as something that would sit alongside PlayStation VR, and it'd be a launch game.

Jim Ryan: Well, your assumption is an interesting one.

Is it something that'd make a good fit for VR?

Jim Ryan:[Laughs] You're not going to get anywhere with that one I'm afraid.

Uncharted! That was there!

Jim Ryan: It's getting closer too.

Naughty Dog's made quite a few assertions that this is their last one. Is there a future for Uncharted beyond Naughty Dog?

Jim Ryan: It's an IP that's very closely tied to that developer. That's all I'll say. It's something that's very special to us, and I think much of that specialness relates to the association between the franchise and the developer. It'd be a difficult step to break that association.

[we're told it's the last question] Ah! I've got so many more. Backwards compatibility. I know you've got PS Now, but there's a growing body of evidence that something like emulation could come with PS1 and PS2 Classics.

Jim Ryan: I know a big thing was made about this at E3. It's a feature - we go through this when we launch a new console - it's a feature that gets much talked about. But it's a feature that's not used that much. People move on very quickly. It was very interesting to look at that montage of the various Tekkens, and seeing how those things have evolved over the years. The first one, which I loved, looks prehistoric. The next generation comes along, and people just jump at it. It gets talked about, and it's always high on the list of what people want, but it's not a feature that gets used that much. Our focus is on the new games.

One last question! Download speeds. It's something that's hard to get quantifiable evidence of, but there have been complaints. Is it something you're looking to address in the future?

Jim Ryan: I'd be very interested, if you have a body of evidence, if you could share that. There's obviously local network environments.

Yeah, there are a lot of variables that come into it.

Jim Ryan: I look after a big patch, Scandinavia is very different to Naples. A lot of that's environmental.

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