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Focus: PlayStation UK boss speaks at the PSP launch PlayStation Portable is popular on Oxford Street tonight - do you have any idea what number of people have turned up to buy it?

Ray Maguire: I'm not sure - there's a fair few hundred in the HMV queue, and a fair few hundred further down the road at GAME, a fair few down at Virgin as well and at Dixons... So we've had quite a lot of business on the high street tonight.

And across the country, you've seen a few hundred stores opening to sell at midnight as well...

Yeah, loads of people are doing this all across the country. People are clamouring to get their first PSP back home, and hopefully start playing tonight.

How does this compare with previous console launches you've done in the UK?

This will be our biggest launch of any of the consoles. Part of that is that we waited for a decent amount of time so we could actually get a reasonable amount of stock in there for day one - some of that is about design as well as just pure desire for the product.

There has indeed been quite a wait for this console - it's nine months since the Japanese launch, five months since the USA - is that something you're happy with? Is it something we'll see again, or can you work to improve it?

I think the situation happens that when you're getting into a product like this, where the kind of volume that you're talking about for day one is huge, what do you do? You can only have a supply chain which is there to deal with the normal run-rate of the product, because each picking line, each assembly line is a very expensive thing to put together. So you can't just manufacture a whole load of them for day one, and decide that you'll dismantle them for month one, month two, month three four and five.

It just takes time for you to accumulate an amount of stock that's going to feed the market. I mean, who would have thought - with PlayStation, I think we did 27,000 in the first month, and here we'll probably do over 100,000 tonight. The dynamics are so different - and obviously, when it comes to PlayStation 3, I would imagine that we'll have the same sort of phasing as well. Who goes first is obviously a different issue, but nevertheless, I think that's just the dynamics of the business.

Are you anticipating a sell-out tonight, or in the next couple of days?

Yeah, I'd imagine so. We did a pre-order scheme - well, the retailers did the pre-order scheme - and most of them had sold out, the ones that had started some time ago. A few of them have some stock there, but it's only in pockets - so I would imagine that people will now start scouting around and trying to find the available stock.

We've got more stock coming in, obviously, on a daily basis all the way up to Christmas - so hopefully there should be sufficient, there or thereabouts, to satisfy the demand.

You had serious stock shortages last Christmas - is that going to be a problem with PSP this Christmas?

It's never easy to forecast - and also, you've got to get the manufacturing and you've got to get the products over here as well. We try our best to make sure that we can get the right amount of stock, but obviously we've got to get stock of PlayStation 2's in, we've got to get stock of PSPs in, and all the games and all the peripherals as well. Logistically, that's quite a tall order.

How are you going to be balancing out this Christmas in terms of PS2 and PSP? Are you going to be focusing on the newer platform, or dividing up marketing evenly between them evenly, or something entirely different?

They're both very very much in different places. The PSP is a new departure for us really, because it expands the marketplace for us - it's applicable to those people who just want to play movies or who really want to personalise their machines by having their music on it, their photos on it. That's in a different space than a PlayStation 2.

I think you can't say "how do you want to prioritise it" - I think each of them deserves to be focused on, and the message is about what they can do and what they mean to people. We have to do those both in isolation.

Europe has the strongest line-up of any of the launch territories - there are a lot of titles on the shelves tonight. How is that going to build up in the run-up to Christmas, especially given that in other territories there's been a real lack of quality titles in the months following launch?

Well, one of the benefits of actually being slightly later into the marketplace is that people have had more time to develop - and being a year later means that the display of software that you see here is only achievable if you've got that development time. There's plenty of software coming between now and Christmas as well, and obviously off into the future.

I don't see software as an issue, as maybe it was at the beginning with PlayStation 2 when we only really had three games.

And finally... Phil Harrison was quoted (or misquoted) earlier this week describing the competition - namely the Nintendo DS - as "irrelevant". How do you see the two consoles stacking up against each other in the run up to Christmas, or is the like for like comparison really not important to you?

I think "irrelevant" was not trying to put down the DS - I mean, Nintendo have great heritage in the handheld market, and deservedly so as well. They've had that market basically to themselves for many many years. I think what Phil was trying to allude to was that the PSP is a different type of device. It's not just a games machine... It does many other things, and it appeals to a much wider audience.

I think that because of that, it's kind of irrelevant to actually compare one to the other - I think they both have their own place in the marketplace, they will both generate their own space as well, and I don't think that they're actually going to compete for the same consumer.

So there's definitely room for two players in this market?


Ray, thank you very much.


Ray Maguire is the managing director of Sony Computer Entertainment UK. Interviewed at the PSP launch event at HMV on Oxford Street by Rob Fahey. Photographs by Pat Garratt.

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Rob Fahey: Rob Fahey is a former editor of who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.