Shuhei Yoshida, Sony's head of worldwide studios for PlayStation, has said that his team has been surprised by the success of the PlayStation 4, with the machine well exceeding internal sales predictions, and continuing to do so.
Speaking to Eurogamer in an interview at last week's EGX event, Yoshida explained that the number of PS4s in the hands of consumers is around two million more than his department predicted, and that this success has forced them to re-evaulate the resource provision for online first party games like DriveClub.
"DriveClub has sustained its momentum," the executive explained. "They needed to spend time to really rewrite the server-side of the game. We weren't expecting this many people would buy a PlayStation 4, and have PlayStation Plus membership. Because the title was originally titled for the launch of the system, the number of potential people to download for free for the PS Plus version would be much smaller than two years after the launch. We realised the daunting task of supporting potentially millions and millions of people to download and play. The team needed to go back to the drawing board and re-engineer the server-side.
"While they were doing this, they kept releasing new content and people continued to play the game and enjoy it. I'm really happy with how things went forward.
"We had a specific target," said Yoshida of the platform itself. "5 million units - against what we did, 7 million I think, and it just kept going. We had more modest projections before the launch."
As well as the unexpected load on the servers DriveClub, Yoshida says that the PS4's success at retail has also put Sony's first-party line-up in something of an unfavourable light, because its ubiquity has made third-parties more prolific, making Sony's home field line-up seem a little anemic in comparison.
"Typically - it's ironic in a sense, when a platform's doing really well, studio side kind of struggles," Yoshida believes. "It probably has some relationship to these two things. When a platform's doing well, third-parties support it more. So from a pure software standpoint, there'll be more competition. When the platform's not doing so well, our games become more prominent, and we get larger market share within the same platform. Because we continue to support the PS3, in the launch year of the PS4 we had The Last of Us and Gran Turismo 6 and Beyond and so on, many games, we were still working hard. We're just head-down, focussed on delivering the games for the near future. We're happy with how it's going, and we're excited about welcoming PlayStation VR. From a delivering games standpoint, we have work to do. People constantly ask us for the big exclusive triple-A games."
Although there might not be a great deal on the slate on Sony's software side, Yoshida is optimistic about the forthcoming launch of the newly re-monikered PlayStation VR, something which he sees as akin to the launch of a new platform.
"It's like launching a new platform, and it's a huge effort, and it's super-exciting. As far as VR, for the future, is concerned, I have no question that in a few years everyone will be using some VR tech as a part of their lives. Even outside entertainment systems. It's a new tech, it's a new media. How well PlayStation VR will do in that trajectory is a big question. We believe we have a unique position in this effort. I always say we're not just competing with the other companies like Oculus or Valve. We are almost collaborating to make this thing happen, and get people to try and get excited and talk about it to other people. Because we're focussed on delivering the VR experience on the game console as opposed to PC or mobile, and that's their focus, we're covering all the bases together.
"In that, it's just how well we deliver the system, how easy it is to use, how comfortable, how exciting the contents are, the price point is right for the consumer - all these things, it's our effort, so I hope PlayStation VR will do extremely well. As a developer, I'm super-excited about the potential of using VR tech. I feel like, working on PlayStation VR, is like when we were working on the original PlayStation 20 years ago, when we were very excited to use 3D real-time graphics for the games. After 20 years, we're still making even bigger, better 3D games, so I see a long-term great future for VR entertainment for the coming 20 years.
"As PlayStation, we're always gaming focussed. But you know that lots of people use PlayStation for non-games, like consuming entertainment, streaming... So we believe the same for PlayStation VR. The people who know PlayStation as a great entertainment system, a gaming system, and enjoying video contents as well. In the same way, because it's such a new thing, VR, most people, for the first time really try the modern VR, so instead of putting some exotic names for that, we believe that it's better to associate with PlayStation brand that people know as a fun product."