GC: Sony's David Reeves

On PS3, Sky video rentals, greater focus on PSP games, and more.

On Wednesday night Sony unveiled a new video on demand service for PlayStation 3 for the UK and Ireland, which also extends to PSP, a range of "Go!" branded services for the PSP, new versions of the Slim and Lite and a release date for the revised PSP hardware. We sat down with David Reeves, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, to pick through the aftermath.

Eurogamer: You said last night that PS3 is primarily a games machine, but you didn't announce any new games last night. Are you just focusing on 2007 or holding things back for TGS?

David Reeves: Well, we did announce GT5 Prologue.

Eurogamer: That's true, but we did know about that didn't we?

David Reeves: We announced the launch date. I think what we want to do is just to make sure that people are focused on five or six games that we're bringing out, and showcasing also things like Metal Gear Solid and FIFA as we did yesterday.

I think it's going to be Phil's job then, when he's sure that all the other games are absolutely polished, he's going to bring them out on the high-definition screen [laughs] and everyone's going to say 'wow'. We've learnt that from the way that Konami has done it with the slow build of Metal Gear Solid and to some extent the way Take-Two have done it with the GTA series.

So we're not going to try and overload - I'm not trying to escape the question, I'm just saying we're not going to overload the consumer with too many new ones. Because if you think about it, Uncharted - which you knew about - is a new IP, and that takes a lot of marketing. Eye of Judgement as well - a good game, but quite a complicated one to explain, especially with the cards and things like that that we're doing with Hasbro.

We've found in the past maybe sometimes we've tried to do too much for Christmas. We're now finding - maybe you find this too - that sometimes if you get a good window in February or March, that's actually just as good as putting it out at Christmas.

It's important to get a window so that someone's played a game and they're ready for the next one, because they don't have huge wallets and they can't go out and buy five games at 59 Euros all the time. So we're trying to do pillar titles every month. It's rather like the way that the movie companies do it now. If they're competing, they might have Shrek 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 out at the same time, but they're very good at making sure that there's time between, and that is what we're trying to do now, rather than just putting them all out like a boys' school soccer match.

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Eurogamer: You told us at E3 that you expected people to want something more for October, so why not announce a PS3 price cut during Leipzig? It seems like the perfect time and place.

David Reeves: Well, we only announced the start of the Starter Pack three weeks ago - August 1st. We're actually very happy with the way that's gone. Ray [Maguire] in the UK went a bit earlier, because he did soft bundles, and as you know what he's doing is he's not just using Resistance: Fall of Man and MotorStorm - he's allowing people in GAME and some of the other stores to be able to do more of a pick-and-mix, for want of a better word, whereas in Europe they kept the date - August 1st - they did the hard bundle, the Starter Pack.

What we're going to allow, and it doesn't need an announcement, is simply that we'll probably put out more hard bundles than the Starter Pack. But you've got to realise that you've got to try and balance an 18-plus against another game - you can't put 18-pluses out to everyone, you've got to wait until we've got more software there so that we can balance these Starter Packs, and we're going to refresh.

We're not making any pricing announcements at Games Convention at all. There's none. And we don't have any plans in that regard. We're really happy with the way that things are going for the PAL business. We really are. It's on track. If you ask all the MDs right through the industry, they will say exactly the same.

Eurogamer: Why wait until now to do PVR? Why not build it in at launch, because it must have been the plan for a while?

David Reeves: The PVR - it looks simple, but within it there's a lot of licences that you have to obtain. Sometimes you're just not sure if you're going to get that licence. There's also things that are very complex - you're Eurogamer, you know what Europe is like - we have to get safety compliance on a thing like a black box from, I don't know, fifteen or sixteen independent bodies, and this has then to go to Sony in Tokyo and it has to be tested for heat and breakage and all sorts of things, so it doesn't have sharp edges.

We were not confident when we launched PlayStation 3 that we would be able to pull it off. We are now, and we decided that rather than launch it with all the software in peak going into November-December, we'd build up the installed base to Christmas, and then we'd put it out in January-February, which is what we're going to do, and people would then be able to buy it.

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Eurogamer: What sort of Digital Rights Management are you and Sky going to exert over the content distributed via PVR?

David Reeves: Initially we will be using a proprietary Sony DRM solution, and then we're probably moving to another proprietary Sony DRM solution. At the moment, I could tell you - I can't give you the names, but initially it would be Device DRM, and moving to Domain DRM.

Eurogamer: Sorry - I was thinking more in terms of the practical limitations on content for the users.

David Reeves: Well of course it's a rental. It's rental. So that it will be restricted currently as we have on the DRM [on PSN], which is a local DRM solution to PS3, so at the moment we allow five users with the IDs, and that's exactly how it will be. But it will be time-based, being a rental - we might be as short as six hours, we might be as long as four weeks. It's not a sell-through model. You understand EST? Electronic sell-through model. It's not that. It's - for the moment - just a rental model on PSP.

And it's only UK and Ireland at the moment, Sky might do Italy because they have a foothold there, and to pre-empt your next question, yes, we are working with at least four other countries including Australia. We are working with them.

You will appreciate that the key to this is content aggregation. This is not our skill-set. We are Sony, yes, and we have Sony Pictures and BMG, but Sky are the past-masters at content aggregation and they're very good on customer service, and these are the two skills really that we're going to use with them. If we had to do it ourselves, people would want minimum guarantees and all sorts of things and it'd bankrupt us. Sky are a perfect partner for this, so we're very happy about that.

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