What a busy year it's been for Andrew House. Less than three months as boss of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and he's already been thrust into the spotlight - taking centre stage at the company's gamescom press conference in Cologne.
The artist formerly known as David Reeves took the opportunity to show off PS3 Slim, announce a price cut, unveil PSP Minis and point at some graphs. Afterwards, Eurogamer sat down with House to find out more. We met up with him in a shiny meeting room in a shiny hotel, where a not-so-shiny PS3 Slim sat proudly on the table. Read on to find out what he had to say.
Eurogamer: So here it is, the PS3 Slim. Why did you decide to go matte with this one? Do you think shiny is a bit Y2K6?
Andrew House: I'm not sure. I don't want to speak for the designers, but it was very much an aesthetic decision. I'd like to think the practicality of finger smudges and so on occurred to them, so maybe that was a factor - but that's supposition on my part.
Eurogamer: Some people compared the original PS3 to the George Foreman Grill. Is this a leaner, meaner fat-reducing machine?
Andrew House: Haha! I'd completely forgotten about that comment. I'm sure there will be a whole set of other analogies that will come out around PS3 Slim.
Eurogamer: Is it so good you'd put your name on it?
Andrew House: It's so good we've put a different logo on it...
Eurogamer: Does the Slim have any special functionality that's still to be announced?
Andrew House: No, not really. All the capability is pretty much the same. If you dig deep there are some minor things. Linux is not available on this one. But that, to my knowledge, is the only thing that was there in the original which has been taken away.
I don't think we currently have any plans to build additional functionality in there. The critical thing is to treat your existing userbase and your loyal fans very well. It's always risky to build a new form factor then add new capabilities; it doesn't send the right message to the millions of people who have bought into the system.
There are two points which leave us feeling very excited and quietly confident about the business right now. One is the Slim, but at the same time we spend a lot of time talking about the network business. We are fully in the network services business now. That requires a new approach, a mode of thinking that is about constant improvement, adding new functionality, improving functionality.
That puts you in a much better space. You're able to add value for the existing userbase and create a new value proposition for consumers coming in. With those two pieces of the puzzle together, I think that we're in good shape for a long-term strategy.
Eurogamer: But some would argue Sony's been lagging behind Microsoft in terms of its network offering. PS3 owners are still waiting for movie downloads, for example, while they've been available via Xbox Live for ages now. Are you still playing catch-up or do you think you're on the same level now?
Andrew House: We're doing more than playing catch-up. We're seeing user data coming back that's rating our online experience as better than that of the competition. Over and above that, if you look at the video delivery service, we're unique amongst the console manufacturers to have the support of all the Hollywood movie studios.
Eurogamer: When you say "user data", do you mean people writing "PS3 is teh w1n, M$ sux" on the internet?
Andrew House: No. I'm talking about bona fide consumer surveys where we're tracking how people's opinions towards our network offering are evolving over time. We've seen some really significant changes there.
What we want to do in Europe with video delivery is ensure we don't stop with Hollywood studio content - we're working very hard to have local studio content and television content as well. We've built a very successful business historically in this market by understanding local needs and trying to meet those wherever possible. That's critical for video delivery.
Eurogamer: Is there any chance you could do a Ben Fogle TV channel?
Andrew House: You're going to have to educate me on the cultural reference...
Eurogamer: Ben Fogle was in Castaway and now he makes programmes about climbing the North Pole and stuff. He's the thinking woman's bit of crumpet. Sort of posh, rural totty.
Andrew House: So should we give him a space in PlayStation Home?
Eurogamer: YES! Ben Fogle should have an apartment where you can visit him and watch telly with him and make his tea before he goes up the North Pole.
Andrew House: I'll make a few calls after this.