With E3 just days away, you'd think Sony would be busy finishing all those conference trailers and working out how many HD tellies you can fit in a suitcase without exceeding BA's baggage limit. However, the platform holder still found time to hold a special event in London today to show off its new 3D technology.
There wasn't much in the way of games to be seen - the event was more about movies and music, and Sony Computer Entertainment is most likely saving its surprises for next week. But SCE UK managing director Ray Maguire was in attendance, and he sat down with Eurogamer for a chat about why 3D is the future.
Eurogamer: Why have all the various bits of the Sony business come together today? What message are you trying to get across?
Ray Maguire: That basically, the world's gone 3D. From a gaming perspective, you start off with the fact that a healthy individual has got two eyes and sees in 3D. Yet since the TV was invented we've been looking in 2D, which is actually an unnatural state. So games have been created in an unnatural state, because the medium could only display that.
The reason 3D can now happen is that the processing power of PS3 is sufficient to do a good job. We have to start doing twice the amount of work because we're basically replicating the eyes, looking at the scene from left and right, and all of that's got to be calculated for the screen. But we can do it. We were really waiting for 3D TVs to be able to display the product we've been able to make since we first launched PlayStation 3.
It's a very encouraging time for us because there are issues around bringing film to life - you have to do some quite technical stuff to make it look and feel right. But we create everything from scratch and build 3D models. We can decide the camera angles reasonably easily. So for us, there's more potential from the gaming side, in terms of getting the depth and quantity of product out there, than there is for people who have to start authoring again with 3D cameras.
It's probably an easier route for the gaming side of Sony than some of the other divisions. But the intent within Sony is that all divisions work as a truly united Sony, and that we are the leaders in 3D.
Eurogamer: But I noticed that during the press conference this morning, a chap from Sony Pictures gave a presentation, as did someone from the music division and the electronics division... But no one from the games division spoke. Why was that?
Ray Maguire: Simply because it's this kind of interview which goes into depth. If I'd stood up there and gone through how people's vision works and things like that, people would probably have lost the will to live...
The gaming market will understand exactly what potential this gives us. If you're in a free world, walking around people in 3D, exploring stuff in 3D... Can you imagine Final Fantasy in 3D? The potential is just enormous. We've started with some simple 3D renditions of 2D games, but start with 3D in mind and the world is completely open in terms of possibilities.
Eurogamer: Is Final Fantasy 3D something which is being worked on at the moment?
Ray Maguire: I wouldn't know, that's something you'd have to ask [Square Enix]...
Eurogamer: But presumably, as one of the people in charge of Sony's business, that's the kind of thing you'd like to see?
Ray Maguire: Yes. That's why Gran Turismo, one of our biggest franchises ever, has got a 3D element.
Eurogamer: Is the time it's taken to include the 3D element to blame for the game's delayed release?
Ray Maguire: No. The delay - if there is a delay, because I think Kazunori would say it's ready when it's ready - is down to the fact he's a perfectionist. He wants the very best for it. There needs to be a step-change and there is a step-change. But, you know, more of that at E3.
Eurogamer: Have you played Gran Turismo in 3D?
Ray Maguire: No. I've seen a very short demo of it and there's a really strange thing that happens... When you're driving a real car, half of your experience is actually the peripheral vision; you know when something's going to jump out from the side, whether it's a dog or a kid or an ice cream van. I always found it much more difficult to drive in the [virtual] car than to be looking from behind the car. Because it was in 2D you required a little more draw distance, if you like, to get a real handle on what you were doing.
That's not true when you play in 3D. Suddenly you've got this perspective, and it just makes the whole thing a lot more like the real experience of driving in your car.
Eurogamer: So is GT5 worth more than 7/10?
Ray Maguire: Oh God, yeah. You try it, because once you've tried it you'll say, 'Yep, OK, I understand this now.' That's what people will have to do, get their hands on the product and make the decision that there's definitely life in 3D.
Eurogamer: Will I get to try it at E3?
Ray Maguire: You'll have to go to E3 and find out.
Eurogamer: OK then. Are you insisting that all the games coming out of your internal studios have 3D functionality?
Ray Maguire: No. Will there be a lot of 3D development? Yes, but I don't think we'll ever mandate anything. Creativity is about creativity, and you can be creative in whatever format you like, for whatever genre you like. Putting handcuffs on people is never the way Sony's been - we're all about innovation and trying new things.
Having said that, because we are about innovation, there will probably be a disproportionate amount of 3D development within our own studios.
Eurogamer: Going back to E3, do you think people are going to be surprised by what you have to show next week?
Ray Maguire: I firmly believe that by the end of the show, we will see where we're going as an industry. There is major innovation, without a doubt, and that innovation has got to come through as good product. The tech platforms are getting better and better, we've got a vibrant future and it's all about creativity.
Eurogamer: Have you seen much of the Nintendo 3DS?
Ray Maguire: No.
Eurogamer: How concerned are you about the 3DS as a rival 3D technology?
Ray Maguire: You might think this is just a stock answer, but I firmly believe the PS3 was way over-specced when it came out at launch, as people thought then. We're now finding the vision of putting all that into the box in the first place is coming to fruition. The ability to do decent 3D, for instance, is only because of the processing power within it.
You've seen the device transition from being games-focused into something broader, with the firmware updates and the additions to the cross-media bar. It's transitioned massively over the last three years and you can see why we put the tech in there in the first place.
Obviously, the Slim has helped us get the price down a bit, and that's helped to get it into more of a mass market. But fundamentally, you are getting a lot of stuff in the PS3 for the money - and we haven't seen all of it yet.
Eurogamer: But do people want over-specced technology? The Wii and the DS have been winning the sales war hands-down, and they're the least high-tech of all the machines on the market.
Ray Maguire: When you do the analysis, yes, some of our competitors have been really successful. Appealing to a potentially smaller market at a lower price is a great strategy, and it's worked particularly well for one of our competitors.
However, when you then look at two years of massive decline, you wonder whether saturation in one part of the marketplace is as good as having a slower burn to enable a device to appeal to everyone in a mass market. That's the position we took with PSone and PS2 and the strategy worked with those two. We've already sold way over three-and-a-half million PS3 units now and we have yet to reach a mass-market price point.
So I think our strategy is correct. It gives developers the ability to create without being limited. And now we can switch on 3D without having to create a new machine.
Eurogamer: But is there a market for 3D? I don't know anyone who's got a 3D telly. I know plenty of people who are quite happy with their HD flat-screens and don't have any plans to upgrade, let alone enough cash. Who's going to buy all these 3D games?
Ray Maguire: The same argument would have been levelled at introducing a £425 PS3. The answer is, people do want new technology. There are always early adopters of technology; the same people who bought iPads are the same people who will buy 3D TVs. People crave the next experience. That's how we're programmed - we want bigger, better, deeper experiences. One of the ways to get those is by relying on companies like Sony to put R&D into technology and innovation.
Ray Maguire is the managing director of Sony Computer Entertainment UK. Be sure to pop back next week to find out why he's so excited about E3.