A cab ride has taken me from the briefing to the imposing, minimalist Tokyo HQ of the entire Sony Corporation. I'm here to interview Andrew House, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, about what I've just seen and heard.
At the conference, Sony also made the surprising announcement of PlayStation Suite, a PlayStation-branded platform bringing classic PSone games as well as new developments to Android-powered phones and tablets. The idea seems to be that PS Suite will fight a rearguard action against Apple and the iPhone, opening the smartphone market up for more traditional gaming, while NGP takes the fight to Nintendo's 3DS with an equally gimmicky gaming gadget – albeit one with much more horsepower and, it appears, superior online features.
But it's NGP that dominates the attention – not least here, in this blindingly white room. House has one sitting on the table in front of him. It's a glossy, gorgeous device; the resemblance to PSP is pronounced but it's a more confident, less fussy design. And, yes, it's big, but not overwhelmingly so. Up close, it doesn't look too dissimilar in size to PSP, while the benefits of its dimensions are obvious in the large screen and comfortably-placed twin analogue sticks. Lined up next to House's BlackBerry, it looks the same depth and about two and a half times as wide.
House, meanwhile, is friendly and polite, chooses his words with care, and possesses the ability – extremely unusual in videogames executives and, well, human beings in general – to speak grammatically correct English while actually answering your question (or appearing to, at any rate). I start with the softest of softballs to warm him up, but even this answer is quite interesting – so here it is in full.
I think we announced two very significant elements of strategy today, and I think both are important. One is in response to and recognition of how the portable landscape has shifted and changed in the last five years, since we launched PSP.
With PlayStation Suite, we've essentially taken a good look at the Android marketplace. I think you'll find that the volume of games is generally in the casual space and the free space, but where the value is being generated is around richer and deeper games. They're generally for the audience that is, you know, your audience, your core audience.
So we thought, based on that, and in discussion with publishers and especially conventional game publishers, that there's a really significant opportunity in what I would call a middle segment – for a consumer that wants the convenience of a smartphone, but wants something deeper and richer than perhaps they generally get right now, and is prepared to pay for that.
The beauty of that strategy for publishers is that it allows them to leverage their existing content, and to find a new revenue stream. Several publishers have told me that they struggle, in the current Android marketplace, to find a home for their content and to find a new business model. We think we've gone a long way to address that.
This beautiful new device sits very much at the top end of that segmentation. I think it's a statement of leadership, that we think there is huge potential for dedicated portable game devices with the right set of cutting-edge features. And we've gone all out – in terms of a fantastic screen and viewing area which is core to any premium game experience.
One of the learnings that we took from PSP is that consumers are not satisfied with taking a conventional console experience and merely putting it onto a portable device. There has to be a range of features that fit that portable experience. Hence incorporating GPS for location-based services and game experiences. Connectivity is obviously crucial for a new and upcoming generation of gamers who want social connectivity as much as they want a dedicated game experience.