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Shuhei Yoshida pays tribute to Phil Spencer

"He's a reasonable, smart guy, compared to some other people who used to say some unbelievable things."

After blundering so badly a year ago, when it unveiled Xbox One and then had to backpedal on a lot of the system's original ideas within weeks, Microsoft was a lot humbler at E3 last month, paying tribute to its rivals and focusing on the games.

It's a message, and a tone, that was surely familiar to Sony worldwide studios boss Shuhei Yoshida. After all, it's the same one Sony adopted when it unveiled PlayStation 4 at the start of 2013, and the company has ridden that humility all the way back to the top.

"It was very interesting," Yoshida says at E3, reflecting on Microsoft's showing. "The attitude was great, like from Phil Spencer. I read and listened to his interviews, and he's a reasonable, smart guy, compared to some other people who used to say some unbelievable things."

(Editor's note: Yoshida said "reasonably smart guy" when we met him, but he has since tweeted that he meant to say "reasonable, smart guy". The answer he gave in person was clearly delivered with warmth, so this makes sense to us and we're happy to update the quote.)

Some of those unbelievable things, of course, came from the mouth of the departed Don Mattrick in the heated days following Xbox One's announcement. In many ways Microsoft has been playing catch-up ever since, with a change in management following a change in policies that climaxed, most recently, with the removal of the expensive Kinect peripheral from the core Xbox One bundle.

"I read some articles - and I think Eurogamer was one of them - that were disappointed by what they did, and some welcomed what they did," Yoshida said. (That's not quite right - we suggested Microsoft was making the best of a bad situation.)

Shu's on the other foot now.

"Some media people totally believed they should have done it earlier, but some other media people thought it was a unique selling point. Personally, I was expecting that at some point in the future they'd unbundle Kinect, but I wasn't expecting it this early.

"My interpretation was the management change had really helped them to reset and re-sync everything. And since then they've been consistent."

Microsoft may well have been given the hurry-up by the rate at which the PS4 has outsold Xbox One. In the US Sony's console has done so for five months straight, while in the UK Watch Dogs sold twice as many copies on PS4 as it did on Xbox One. But Yoshida is adamant that nobody at Sony saw quite this result coming.

"No, no, no!" he says animatedly. "We were planning, last fiscal year, to sell five million units. That was our expectation. But we did more than seven million - and that was beyond our expectations.

"There are shortages in many markets, and there have been complaints. Cameras are sold out, and we are still catching up with demand. It's amazing. Of course we didn't have much anticipation in terms of number of units that Xbox One would sell, but I understand they're doing very well as well. Because PS4 is doing so well, the gap seems to be widening."

For Yoshida, though, the real winner is the gamer.

"I took a few interviews this morning by Japanese media," he says. All of them said to me, 'In US and Europe, the console games are running and kicking and lots of investment's being made from third parties and great games are being shown.' That amazed them, and I think it was really great for us.

"Competition really pushes everyone, Microsoft and us, to do better," Yoshida concludes. "I think in the end the consumers will win."

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