Phil Harrison talks PS3

E3: Sony exec speaks out.

In recent years, Phil Harrison has not only been promoted within Sony to the point where he runs the firm's worldwide network of development studios, he has also become the de facto face of the company at industry events around the globe.

Despite his new-found high profile, however, Harrison remains a software man - so when we sat down with him for a brief chat at E3 this week in the wake of the firm's announcements, the company's hardware and software strategies were definitely top of the agenda, but its hugely controversial pricing announcement was not.

We hope to bring you more coverage of Sony's plans - and the reaction to them - in the coming days - in the meanwhile, we hope you enjoy these insights from the man in charge of what may be the most crucial component of all in the firm's bid to retain its market leadership in the next generation; the software.

Eurogamer: All three companies laid their cards on the table earlier this week - from your perspective, what do you make of the three conferences and the reaction to them so far?

Phil Harrison: Sadly, I haven't actually had a chance to watch the other two conferences, but I've heard enough reports. I think that if we think the industry or the future of the business is defined by this week of press conferences... Then, we're very much mistaken. I think it's going to be defined by what the consumer thinks and what the industry thinks, and what the game developers think. It's not just about the press conferences.

I think the pieces of the PlayStation 3 puzzle are now fully revealed. Obviously we did the hardware last year, this year it's confirming or re-asserting certain elements of it - obviously, people know about Blu-Ray, but confirming that every machine has a hard disc drive in it, I think, was an important step. Confirming that we've got a new controller strategy was an important step, and showing lots of games was an important step. So, those were the main take-outs, and I think that as far as that was concerned, we achieved our objectives.

Eurogamer: Your strategy and Microsoft's strategy are very divergent, in that Microsoft is offering consumers a choice - whether to have HD-DVD or not, whether to have a hard drive or not - while you're putting everything into a very expensive box and saying that they take all or nothing. Why that direction? Why not have a system where people who don't want to pay that premium for Blu-Ray don't have to?

Phil Harrison: Leaving aside the movie debate about Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, purely from a game design point of view and a game production point of view, we have to have Blu-Ray. DVD is just not big enough; DVD9 is nowhere near big enough for the kind of games, the richness that we're going to be putting in the games, the variety, the detail, you name it.

So, we had to adopt Blu-Ray primarily as a game format. The second benefit of it is that it becomes a video format as well. Putting it all in one box, as you say, is also down to the fact that a hard disc drive is necessary to create a totally integrated network platform. We want every consumer to be able to download and install content on their hard disc drive. If you want to put all your music on your hard disc drive, you'll probably go for the 60GB version. If you're a complete music fan and video fan, and you want to have huge amounts of digital content, then you can upgrade to whatever size of drive you like. You can put any in that you like - it is a computer, after all.

Eurogamer: So that hard drive is a standard PC drive?

Phil Harrison: ATA, bog standard, yeah.

Eurogamer: You're not going to be selling Sony drive upgrades?

Phil Harrison: We've got no plan to. We may offer something, but we have no plan to at the moment.

Eurogamer: Talking about software - how many titles do you actually have on the show floor this week? I think we counted a dozen...

Phil Harrison: I think it's fifteen playable games. At the conference, we had three titles from Japan - GT HD, Eye of Judgement and Genji 2, we had three from Europe - Singstar, Heavenly Sword and F1, and two from the US - Warhawk and Resistance. That was pretty evenly split.

Eurogamer: The controller. You showed off the boomerang, then said it was a prototype, and now you've come back and done the Dual Shock but with a twist - no pun intended. How long have you known that this was the plan?

Phil Harrison: [The motion sensing controller] has been thought about since about 1994, but in reality, you can't make some of the ideas that we have because the technology is not available in sufficient quantity or at a low enough price, and you kind of have to wait for certain things to converge. We had the concept of PlayStation Portable for many years before we could actually deliver it at a price and at a standard that was acceptable.

The controller is obviously a surprise to the industry. We've been thinking about it for a while, but it's a relatively recent addition to the format. We didn't show it last year, because we weren't ready to. The boomerang, as you call it, was very clearly designed as a design concept, and was never intended to be the final controller, despite what everybody said about it.

I think we certainly saw the strength of feeling that existed about the boomerang - even though nobody in the world ever held it in their hand. I thought that was very interesting, that people were criticising it for what it looked like, not how it felt.

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