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Jack Buser: "PlayStation Plus is a revolution"

The head of Sony's Digital Platforms talks about PlayStation Plus, PlayStation Mobile, and what retail means to them

Jack Buser is Senior Director of PlayStation Digital Platforms for Sony Computer Entertainment of America. "If it's not plastic, that's what we do," is how Buser puts it. He's a very enthusiastic and energetic guy, and when GamesIndustry International sat down with him the day after Sony's E3 presentation, he was displaying those qualities in full force. What was the most important thing to him?

"Front and center on the PlayStation side is PlayStation Plus, which is a revolutionary new way of delivering games to gamers," Buser said. "For less than 5 bucks a month, we're offering gamers an instant game collection. You become a member of PlayStation Plus and log in today, and you have access to 12 fantastic games that are yours as long as you're a member."

The service offers award-winning games that fans will recognize. "I cannot stress enough how fantastic these games are," Buser said. "They're really great games, like Little Big Planet 2, inFamous 2, Saints Row 2, Virtua Fighter 5, Lara Croft... They're highly rated games. "

Sony intends to keep customers coming back regularly, by bringing in new free games. Buser explained, "We're going to be rotating in new games all the time. If you think about it, as a member, these are all being offered for less than 5 bucks a month. So you can buy an expensive cup of coffee for more than what it would take for you to access a library of 12 games with new games added all the time. And if you're a member, and you've already downloaded it, you get to keep it as long as you're a member."

The PlayStation Plus service is more than just free games, according to Buser. "Not only do you get tons of free games, but you also get huge discounts. We're talking discounts of 20, 30, 50 percent off some games," Buser said. "As well as things like cloud saves, automatic updates, all these great features that just super amplify your PlayStation 3 experience. It's truly that instant game collection we're really going to be focusing on because that's what is going to make people sign up for the service first and foremost."

Previous to this, people that had been PlayStation Plus members over the last two years had gotten $780 worth of free games across 63 titles, according to Buser. Sony is now offering far more titles than they had in the past through this program.

"You can buy an expensive cup of coffee for more than what it would take for you to access a library of 12 games"

Jack Buser

It's not enough to have a good program; somehow you have to let customers know about it. Sony plans to invest heavily in marketing to build awareness for PlayStation Plus. "We're going to market very heavily to existing PlayStation 3 owners to build awareness of this program," said Buser. "We're also going to market very heavily to new customers of the PlayStation 3. I'd like to see every new PlayStation 3 leave retail with a PlayStation Plus membership, because it's such an obvious choice for somebody who's a new PlayStation 3 consumer."

Buser may be head of digital for Sony, but he certainly hasn't forgotten that the company still makes most of its game money from brick-and-mortar retailers. "We're working very closely with retail to make sure our retail partners can also share in the success of this digital platform," Buser noted. "That's something we take very, very seriously on the Digital Platforms team here at PlayStation; making sure that our brick and mortar retail partners are part of the success of our digital platforms."

Retail stores can sell PlayStation Plus as a card, so the retailers can share in the revenue from this digital program. Of course, the retailer won't be making any money from the free games that Sony is offering, but few of those games would still be generating much money at retail.

"The retail store becomes a place where people know they can go and purchase PlayStation Plus. For gift-givers, the retail outlet for our digital platforms is very important. We see a tremendous amount of potential with this particular program at retail," noted Buser.

Buser underscored the importance of the new program to Sony. "We're very serious about this program; it is an absolute revolution in the industry. It is a whole new way for gamers to be able to access the games that they love, and have an instant game collection. We've seen this happen in home video, with services like NetFlix. This is the very first time those services have come to games, and I think the future is extremely bright for PlayStation Plus. The feedback that we've gotten over the last 24 hours... people's heads were exploding they were so excited."

In addition to the new features of PlayStation Plus, at its E3 conference Sony also announced that PlayStation Suite was becoming PlayStation Mobile, and that HTC phones would be joining the program. "Think about it," Buser said. "In the past if you wanted a PlayStation experience you had to come to us, and for the very first time now we're bringing the PlayStation experience to them. When PlayStation Mobile was first announced the promise was there that PlayStation-certified devices didn't have to be manufactured by PlayStation, or Sony for that matter. Now with this announcement you're going to see PlayStation games running on hardware not manufactured by us."

"In the past if you wanted a PlayStation experience you had to come to us, and for the very first time now we're bringing the PlayStation experience to them"

Jack Buser

Buser continued, "This is one of those scenarios where everybody wins. Gamers have mobile devices and they want to be able to play great games on them. For PlayStation to be able to deploy PlayStation games on their mobile devices is a win for the gamer. It's a win for the handset maker, because in a very difficult market you can differentiate your handset or even your mobile game title by being part of this PlayStation game program. Having that brand, which literally stands for great games, makes it easy to choose your device. For us, we win, because not only is this platform getting very broad deployment, it's a fantastic on-ramp for a whole new generation of gamers who may not have experienced PlayStation before."

Buser wouldn't say how customers would be able to get those PlayStation games on their HTC phone. "Stay tuned for further details. I can't announce anything more than what was said up on stage," he commented. It seems clear that there will be some sort of storefront on HTC phones, and that in some way Sony will be able to get information about those new PlayStation Mobile buyers.

Buser is excited about the state of the industry. "It is such an exciting time in the industry right now, as people by the millions are introduced to electronic gaming for the very first time. This industry is growing so fast, and changing, and specifically to be a part of PlayStation which is so open and ready for this change, it's just such an exciting time for the industry and for PlayStation which is just welcoming these innovations with such open arms."

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Steve Peterson

Contributor/[a]list daily senior editor

Steve Peterson has been in the game business for 30 years now as a designer (co-designer of the Champions RPG among others), a marketer (for various software companies) and a lecturer. Follow him on Twitter @20thLevel.