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Phil Harrison on PS3 - Part 1

Sony Worldwide Studios boss talks Home, LittleBigPlanet and price points.

Last week, Sony Worldwide Studios boss Phil Harrison was in San Francisco to deliver a keynote speech at the 2007 Game Developers Conference.

He unveiled new network service PlayStation Home and Media Molecule-developed title LittleBigPlanet to the audience, and both were met with a positive reaction.

Following his speech, sat down with Harrison to discuss what the announcements mean for the future of PS3 - read on to find out more.

In part two of the interview, to be published on tomorrow, Harrison will talk more about Game 3.0, Blu-ray and retaining the position of market leader. Do you accept that Sony has had a bit of an image problem with PlayStation 3 in recent months?

Phil Harrison: No, I don't accept it. I've been doing my best to make sure that the world sees PlayStation 3 for what it is. I can't deny that we've had some challenges, but I think those are all behind us. It's all about software now, it's not about hardware. It's all about services, it's all about the way that the industry is changing and the way that we hope to be taking a leadership position in that change.

I think you saw that yesterday and Tuesday night - we're taking some pretty giant steps forward.

Following the showing of Home and LittleBigPlanet, do you think this is the tipping point - both in terms of realising the power of the hardware but also changing the public's perception of the machine?

It's hard to describe something as a tipping point when you're in the middle of it. It's only something you can do with the benefit of hindsight.

But I think the keynote here at GDC was a very significant moment for the evolution of PlayStation 3. It's something that we knew all along was coming, so it's perhaps not so much a surprise for me because I've obviously been working with these products and services for a long time.

Also internally, we've been evangelising them, so there's a lot of work that we've been doing amongst ourselves - with some confidence that we're doing the right thing. We thought we knew we were on to something very strong with both of those opportunities, but there's no substitute for sharing it with the world and reading people's unedited reaction.

We've been hearing lots of positive things from lots of people, and the response on the blogs and the websites and the forum seems to be almost universally fantastic - so I'm delighted.

Can we talk about Home, specifically - which studio is responsible for developing it?

It is a collaboration between various bits of Sony Computer Entertainment. We've got some parts of it being done in San Diego, some parts are being based on network platform technology coming out of Tokyo, but the stuff you see, the visual experience of it, is all being done in London.

How long has it been in development?

We've been working on it for a long time. In fact, it started on PS2. It was something we were developing in London initially to be a 3D lobby for a multiplayer game.

Then we thought, 'Hang on a second, we could make a 3D lobby that would solve multiple games,' and then we started to come up against the technical glass ceiling of what PlayStation 2 could do - particularly in the areas of user-created content and streaming.

The Cell processor and hard drive in every machine on PS3 really allowed us to break through that glass ceiling and take it to another level. We've been working on PS3 [Home] for nearly two and a half years, so that was always our intention - but it's certainly grown and snowballed since then.

There's still criticism of the PS3's high price point. How long is it going to be before the price comes down?

You're not going to get any speculation on that, but it's no surprise to anybody that the business model of the videogame industry is to sell as many units as you can. We know what that means.

But it's not about price, it's about value, and it's about putting into the PS3, offering the value that is going to make consumers satisfied - and I think we've done that.

£425 seems like a slightly odd number. Why not go below £400, seeing as there's arguably a psychological difference there?

I'll not answer that question because I'm not in UK sales. That's a local sales and marketing issue, not a Worldwide Studios issue, but I'm sure Ray Maguire would be happy to explain that to you.

Phil Harrison is president of Sony Worldwide Studios. Interview by Ellie Gibson. To read part 2 of this article, visit tomorrow.

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Ellie Gibson avatar
Ellie Gibson: Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.
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