Yesterday marked the end of an era for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe as company president David Reeves retired. He hasn't "done a Phil", either - he's literally retired. Over the years, we've spoken to David countless times (you can read some of the highlights in yesterday's roundup), but we weren't about to let him swan off into the sunset without a last goodbye.
In this, his final ever interview in the job, conducted yesterday morning, we discuss what a president does on his last day, his recollections of the early years at PlayStation, and his favourite games, including a couple of which you will heartily approve, and we pose a couple of questions from the forum. Goodbye David, and good luck.
Eurogamer: I was quite pleased that this ended up being last-minute, because it gives me the opportunity to ask what the president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe does on his last day?
David Reeves: Ah! I'm sending an email out to thank everyone for their support, and [to say] that they can still contact me if necessary - if they've got any flat tyres and things like that! We've also got two projects which we're winding down today. I'm also cleaning out the desk and the cupboards, and I think we're going to have some shooters tonight. I think that's the plan - in the canteen. I'm also doing a handover to the new president [Andrew House], which I've been doing this week.
Eurogamer: What do you do tomorrow though? And the day after that? Are you going to another job, or is it actual, complete and utter retirement?
David Reeves: I have no other job. The only job I will tell you I've been offered is the local taxi company, the head of the local taxi company, thinks I've been in their taxis so many times I've actually really bought the company. And also I told the drivers to find several places or go to the shortcuts, so he feels he could employ me as a driver or on the control. That is a true story! You can print that if you like.
I am not doing... As I told you when we were down in Monte Carlo, this story about whose name I can't even remember [Realtime Worlds] - never even heard of them. And I had to ask several people and they didn't know either. There's no truth to that.
Tomorrow, what I've got to do is, my daughter is coming up to GCSEs, and I'm helping her with the maths, physics and chemistry, and that is a true story as well.
Eurogamer: I did okay in maths, but I didn't do very well in the others, which is probably why I'm a games journalist.
David Reeves: I'm not very good at English, which is why I'm not a journalist.
Eurogamer: Did you get a nice going-away present? Are you stealing anything from the office?
David Reeves: What I took was one of these sticky-tape dispensers, but I think it was mine originally in the previous office. But I'm not taking anything else with me. We're having a farewell I think in May outside the company, so I don't think they're going to buy me any presents. I might buy them some or give them some surprises.
Eurogamer: I'm sure they'll put something together for you. Going all the way back, do you remember when you saw the original PlayStation for the first time and what you thought?
David Reeves: Yes. I saw it in July 1995 and I was actually blown away by it. I was the managing director of the company in Germany, and I saw the - it was the square, very grey prototype. I'm sure you remember it, Tom. I know you're a bit young, but you probably do remember it. It was the prototype with nothing inside, it was a non-working model. That was the first European one I saw, but of course the Japanese one had already been on the market. When I went to the Japan offices, which was February 1995 for an interview, they didn't actually show me a PlayStation, but they did show me some ads. So the first time I really saw a prototype was in Germany.
Eurogamer: People were telling you that it wouldn't work - the disc-based element of it, for instance. It obviously did work. What do you think was the key to taking PlayStation from a standing start to number one in Europe?
David Reeves: I think that the groundwork that was done in the latter half of '93 and most of '94 of convincing most of the Japanese third parties, and some of the European and American third parties, to produce games, the good games. So for example, Toshinden, Formula 1 from Psygnosis, WipEout, Kileak The Blood, Tekken was a killer. I think once people saw that they were coming out on the PlayStation, that... I think that's the thing that really moved it. I know that's what moved it in Germany.
Eurogamer: How about PlayStation 2? This generation, looking at Nintendo in particular, has shown you can't take market position for granted. So how did you approach the launch of PS2 and building on what you'd done up to that point?
David Reeves: I think it was much the same - to make sure that we had a good portfolio. I think, apart from Fantavision which was an internal title, we had briefed sufficiently most of the third-party publishers and they were able to come up with a good line-up over the first six months. It was also a real step change technically from PlayStation 1 to PlayStation 2 graphically. It was simply outstanding. And I think the timing, also, was quite good, coming in just before Christmas at least in the PAL territories anyway.
Eurogamer: A lot of people would probably identify the launch of Metal Gear Solid 2, but also EA's decision not to go with the Dreamcast, as two of the more decisive things about that period. How do you remember it all?
David Reeves: Come to think of it I think Metal Gear Solid 2 was a definer. Whether or not the EA decision was really consequential, I'm not so sure, because I don't think Dreamcast had that fantastic line-up anyway. They had a line-up, but I don't think it was that good.
I think the other thing that contributed, strangely enough, was some of the brand campaigns - you know, the wacky brand campaigns that came out for PlayStation 2. They kind of caught the youth of the time. They might not now, but they did then.
Eurogamer: Over the 14 years running Sony Europe, do you have a favourite game?
David Reeves: I'll give you two answers. PaRappa The Rapper has been my favourite game of all time, I have to say - maybe not the favourite game of everyone. But my second favourite game was one called Kingdom Hearts. I was quite involved in... because this was a Disney title done together with Square at the time, we marketed it here, and we had quite a lot of input in Tokyo. And I think that was absolutely brilliant. And there's another Japanese title I played a lot which was called ICO.
Eurogamer: Oh god yes, ICO. Well, it's one of our readers' favourite games of all time.
David Reeves: Is it? OK. It didn't sell that much, but it was actually, absolutely fantastic.
But over the years, which one have I played the most? Actually, because there's been so many versions, it's probably been Ridge Racer, which was also one on the PlayStation 1. I forgot - Namco actually helped us enormously in the early years.
Eurogamer: Yes, it was almost synonymous with the console actually, especially when it was on import from Japan.
David Reeves: I thought you were going to ask me what was the first game I ever played, but I will tell you anyway. It was called Horace Goes Skiing. I think it was on the Sinclair and you had to load it on cassette. Normally the cassettes broke.
Eurogamer: Last night I posted a topic on our forum asking our readers if they had any questions for you. One of the most prominent ones was about regional discrepancies in content on PlayStation Network. Now you and I have discussed this in the past and a lot of it is licensing and localising and things like that. But do you think Sony is any closer to, say, bringing the number of PSone games on the European store closer to the number on the Japanese store?
David Reeves: I'm not sure the number on the Japanese - it's the number on the US store that sometimes comes up in the blogs. The three things that stand out are, one, that a third-party publisher would naturally go in the US, but that they then have to go through a lot of localisation and get it out on a lot of stores. We've got 28 stores, Tom. And it does take a long time to get all of these localised. The one time we put it up in English, then the Poles and the Czechs have come back and said, 'Why did you put it up English?' That does take a lot of time.
The licensing issues are really genuine ones - the ones that, you know, you can have a licence for disc-based, but it hasn't been in the contract for digital, you need to go back and renegotiate all the music rights, which are totally independent from the publishing of the original game content as well. There have been problems with age ratings as well. We have to get specific age ratings here and they're not the same as the US.
Will it be resolved? Yes, I think we're getting much, much closer, and I would say it will take a year or 18 months to get it fully resolved.
Eurogamer: Also on the forum thread, there was quite a lot of goodwill for you personally, which I didn't necessarily expect - not because you're not lovely, you understand, but because gamers are often hostile to console executives. How will you look back on your relationship with the gamers themselves?
David Reeves: Well I've always, you know, whether we've been in Leipzig or E3 where there have been quite a lot of gamers or gamer days and things like that, I've always identified with them, and I will always try to put myself in their position because it's their passion. The Japanese call them 'otaku', and my wife's nephews are both otaku and they often give me the questions before I get them from the gamers - so I can empathise with those people.
Eurogamer: Do you think at this stage people are giving PlayStation 3 enough credit for its achievements?
David Reeves: In the PAL markets, yes, because we are doing well. I think they have. I think the analysts know very very well what's held it back a bit, which is simply the pricing is still an issue.
Eurogamer: Presumably you have one though. I imagine it's got pride of place in your living room next to an enormous Sony television. What's in the disc drive these days?
David Reeves: I've been playing all the Pro Evolution Soccer games with my neighbours.
Eurogamer: Not FIFA then? You haven't switched?
David Reeves: I have to say - and I shouldn't really say it, because someone from EA's going to read this - but I guess I played Pro Evo from a way back and I'm stuck to it. The neighbours like it as well!
Eurogamer: I had the same thing, although I was converted by the last one. The latest FIFA I would recommend giving a go.
David Reeves: I would have to say, for the FIFA Interactive World Cup, it actually worked very, very well, and thank you to EA for bringing that out.
Eurogamer: Don't worry, I think Peter Moore will let you off that one. So are you the sort of person who plays PSP games on the train? Do you actually get trains, or is it all helicopters and luxury yachts and things like that these days?
David Reeves: I come in on South West Trains. I get the 7.31 from Oxshott station. Well, I have done - I've taken it for the last time, I guess. You do see a lot of PSP users on the train, and sometimes if they're having a problem or they look puzzled I'm tempted to go and sit next to them sometimes and see if I can sort it out for them!
Eurogamer: [Is nudged about making this the final question] I guess the last thing is, what's your favourite memory from your time at Sony?
David Reeves: I'll tell you a very funny story, and it was when I was the managing director in Germany, and it's a funny memory, and it was one of the earliest memories. I was in the sixteenth floor, it was my first day, and I actually hadn't even really properly started. I came in in jeans and a T-shirt and I'd been just moving boxes in and out, and I suppose I looked like the caretaker, and I didn't know her, but [one of my future colleagues], a German lady, she said the ladies' toilets were dirty and could I clean the toilets out for her? I said I'd get round to it.
The next day, we had the first management meeting, and there was I sitting behind the desk, the same face but in a suit, and she was sitting in front of me and saying, 'Mmm, did you clean the toilets?' And then she said, 'Oh by the way David, we need to change to winter tyres, could you help me with that as well?' I knew from that time we'd hired the right people.
There are many other funny stories as well, but that is a funny one. The lasting memory I think is the people, and that we've always managed to have great, great people here, and that I think they've all interacted very, very well with you guys. I think that's been very important. You guys are part of our success.
David Reeves is no longer president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe! All the best, David. We'll miss you.