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SCEA breaks the silence

GamesIndustry.biz speaks with SCEA's senior vp of marketing about the new PS3 model

Following official confirmation of the launch of a 40GB PlayStation 3 in the US, GamesIndustry.biz spoke with the senior vice president of marketing, Peter Dille, about the changes in the console, why it took so long to announce, the company's commitment to the prior hardware generation, and whether or not we'll see Blu-ray demo disks in the future.


GamesIndustry.biz: So I see that all of our pestering paid off, in that you finally announced the new model...

Peter Dille: [Laughs] You mean you weren't surprised?

Why wait so long, after the system was already announced in Japan and Europe?

Well, we wanted our announcement to be timed closer to the launch of the 40GB unit being available. The fact of the matter is, we are shipping [the PS3] into each market...Japan, Europe, and the US...as it is being manufactured.

When we launched PlayStation 3, the US got to go first, and Europe had to wait in the background for their turn to introduce the product to consumers. This time around, we all agreed that Europe would go ahead of us, and that would mean [SCEA] would have an awkward PR situation, because people would know it is coming.

But because the introduction of the 40GB is also timed with the reduction in the 80GB...the USD 100 price decrease...we had to do these announcements together. And therefore we wanted to wait much closer to the November 2 time frame.

Regarding the 60GB, now that it is the same price as the 80GB, are you planning to reduce its price as well?.

No, there are no plans to take any action on the 60GB.

The fact of the matter is there is not a tremendous amount of supply out in the channel. Yes, you can find it out there, but it has been drawing down, since we haven't been shipping it for a while anyway.

We don't think there is any action needed on our part. That will be something that takes care of itself.

Are these the two SKUs you plan on supporting for the foreseeable future?

Yes.

Because, once again, there are rumours of another unit with a larger hard drive...

Well, we don't comment upon rumours. We wouldn't be confirming or denying them. These are the products we are talking about.

You once stated that the Xbox 360 had an "inconsistent design" because some had hard drives and some did not. Isn't there now an inconsistent design with the PS3 because of the backwards compatibility differences?

No, we don't think so, because at the end of the day all of our research suggests that backwards compatibility is more of a secondary priority for consumers.

We've been hearing loud and clear that price is more of a primary concern to consumers. We know that getting down to USD 399 will open up the PlayStation marketplace to a much broader swath of consumers that we had been at, at either USD 499 or 599.

So, at the end of the day, the ability to play PS2 games is not the primary driver for the PS3 business.

We know that consumers value the PS2 catalog. The great thing is that many of these people already have a PS2 and can continue to use it, and if they don't have a PS2 yet, then it's probably a moot point...but you can go out and buy one for USD 129.

If you take the USD 129 plus the USD 399 that the PS3 is being sold for today, you are still getting into the game for less than the 599 price we launched at.

We think our ability to cost-reduce the PS3 unit is the real driver here.

One more point I'll make. Our commitment to the PS2 consumer is such that we are still making games, we are still making hardware here in the eight year of the product's life cycle. We will get to ten years in the product's life cycle. The third-party community is continuing to support it...I think there are 160 new [PS2] games

This whole philosophy stands in stark contrast to our competition. They turned the page on a calendar one day and said "Okay, we are not making any more games for the Xbox, we are not going to ship any more hardware" and you are kind of out of luck if you bought one.

That's not our approach at all. We are still very much in support of the PS2 business, and in fact it is one of our biggest drivers.

I'm just wondering about potential consumer confusion, however. Are you taking any steps to educate people...maybe a sticker on the box...about which consoles play PS2 games and which ones don't?

There is information we are getting out to retailers so that the store personnel are briefed appropriately on which does what. There will be information on web sites and things of that nature. So consumers can figure this out

Again, we know from our research that backwards compatibility is more important to some people than others. In practice, once you get the PS3 home, the ability to play games in high-definition is more what they are interested in than their back catalog of PS2 games.

If you were looking for cost savings, Couldn't you have eliminated the Wi-Fi that was taken out of the 20GB but is in the 40GB unit? If you removed that, but left the graphics synthesizer chip, there wouldn't be the same backwards compatibility issue.

Well, we're really excited about the Wi-Fi functionality. It is a great way to get people online, and that's a big part of the experience. But also, we'll be rolling out more and more features that take advantage of the connectivity between the PSP and the PS3, and Wi-Fi is really essential to that experience.

We've got some cool things you can do today with Wi-Fi, but there are also a lot more on the horizon that will help people understand why we left Wi-Fi in.

The 40GB still has the HDMI output, I assume?

Absolutely.

You raised the point about our competition having some units with hard drives and some without. I think that is a bit more of a fragmented experience.

Whereas we have different hard drive configurations, and we have made some cosmetic changes to this 40GB unit, since there are now two USB ports where there used to be four.

The fact of the matter is, every PlayStation 3 that we are selling offers the same core functionality. They all have the cell processor. They all have the Blu-ray drive. They all have a hard disk drive. They all have free online gaming. They all have Wi-Fi.

So, no matter which one you are buying, you are still getting that defining experience that only PlayStation 3 offers. None of them have to be combined with any peripheral products to get the full experience.

Are you still on track to meet your sales projections? 14 million by spring 2008?

11 million in this fiscal year...I think you are combining the 3 million or so from the previous fiscal year, which would be a total of 14 million. And, yes, we are stating that we are still on track to hit those numbers.

Changing the subject a bit, have you announced a replacement for Dave Karraker as SCEA's head of corporate communications?

No, we haven't. We are still going through the process of trying to find a replacement.

It was recently announced that an official PlayStation magazine is returning to the US. Will that come with a Blu-ray disc of game demos, as with the old OPM?

It will not, and the reason for that is...one of the things we are excited about, working with Future, is to drive people to the PlayStation network.

Again, we believe each generation of technology provides different marketing opportunities. Obviously, demo discs were a big part of the PS One and PS2 experience. But the PS3 really presents a different opportunity, and driving people to the network to get the demos from there is something that we are really excited about.

Future has some cool ideas. We are working with them. In every issue, we'll promote the content on the network. So, rather than polybag a demo disc with the mag, we'll be doing things a little bit differently.

But since not everyone has broadband, and not every PS3 owner goes online, are you planning to release a Blu-ray disc of demos...if not with the magazine, than to retail as you did with the PS2 Jampacks?

We've talked with Future. Maybe we'll do periodic demo discs to your point...to people who don't have the unit online. It won't be part of the monthly proposition, like every month you'll get a Blu-ray disc, but certain issues will carry one.

Our ability to do things like Jampack...we'll look at that as well, going forward.

Finally, Spider-man 3 on Blu-ray is bundled with the 40GB, correct?

Yes. The Spider-man 3 Blu-ray movie packed with the 399 SKU, so it is a great value.

We're obviously excited about the new hardware configuration. Price is one issue, but the other thing we've been focused on is delivering great games.

This holiday season, you have the USD 399 PS3 out there, but you also have Heavenly Sword, Warhawk, Ratchet, Uncharted, Folklore...and that's just off the top of my head with first-party. And obviously you've got some great third-party titles with Call of Duty. You've got Metal Gear Solid and Little Big Planet right around the corner.

I just think it is a really exciting time for gamers to get on board with PS3.

Peter Dille is SCEA's senior vice president of marketing and PlayStation network. Interview by Mark Androvich.

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Mark Androvich

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