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Shuhei Yoshida - Part Two

The Sony Worldwide Studios president talks about the PS3's performance, the importance of mass-market, and the future of the PSP

Following the first part of the interview with Shuhei Yoshida, where he talked about his new role as president of Sony Worldwide Studios and the cancellation of Eight Days and The Getaway, here he addresses the performance of the PlayStation 3, the impact of Blu-ray and the importance of mass market, as well as how he sees the future of the PlayStation Portable. Something that Microsoft managed to achieve with the Xbox 360 since launch was the regular roll-out of key titles over time. In comparison the PlayStation 3 hasn't necessarily managed that yet, and while there is now a core of key titles in the market, how important is it for you to keep up the software momentum?
Shuhei Yoshida

Talking about the launch year, the biggest disappointment was that because first party is very important and takes a certain share of titles, as well as a variety of third party titles - something that's very important for any platform to succeed, and something that's always been our plan at PlayStation - I'm sure that third party publishers had planned to release their titles day-and-date with the launch of the PlayStation 3, or day-and-date with the launch of the title on the Xbox 360, but because the 360 hardware was out earlier, the games were built based on 360 architecture.

But still, they must have been planning, thinking they have enough time, to port the second game to PS3 and release at the same time with the same quality. So they massively underestimated the effort that was needed to re-architect the game to properly take advantage of the PS3's multi-core architecture.

That was last year, and if you just look at first party products and how they came out, not everything quite came out on time, but we're pretty happy with how the titles supported the launch and during the first year.

But it's impossible to bring the level of support that we feel is important for the PlayStation 3 platform without the third parties' continued support. That was the miscalculation by both us, and from third parties.

But I think after the end of last year, there are more and more titles are coming out on the same day [as Xbox 360] and the same quality, and we can start to see some additional things on PS3 because of the space available on Blu-ray.

That re-architecture only needs to happen once, and once you pass that, you have the foundation ready. Moving forward I'm totally confident that developers will start to use more from the PlayStation 3 platform. This year is the year of parity, next year is the year of differentiation in favour of the PS3 platform. With the PlayStation 2 we saw titles such as Gran Turismo and Metal Gear Solid push people to buy consoles - and now, crucially, those products are in the market for the PS3 as well.
Shuhei Yoshida

Yes - last week was the launch of Metal Gear, and we're totally enthused and excited. These key titles that are coming out now, like LittleBigPlanet will as well. How important was the Blu-ray victory over HD DVD for the PlayStation 3?
Shuhei Yoshida

Over time I think it'll have a massive impact. As you know, the video format doesn't change as quickly as game formats. Game formats may take five or six years to change, and a successful one may last ten years. But with video, it's much longer.

So Blu-ray becoming the de facto standard of high definition video is going to have a major, major impact on consumers' decision making, when they're looking at different choices of games consoles.

That's what happened with PS2 - when it launched it was after a few years of the launch of DVD, but DVD wasn't at that tipping point. And actually when the PS2 came out with the low end DVD player that really helped the adoption of the technology, and really made the PS2 attractive.

Timing-wise the unfortunate situation for the PS3 was that it didn't come out after a few years of the Blu-ray learning curve - it was almost the launch of Blu-ray in a way, so we had massive amounts of work to do and that really hit the profitability of the company. We tried as much as possible not to pass that cost on to consumers, but we do feel that the early adapters of the PS3 are getting good value [with the integrated Blu-ray]. The PS2 can now be firmly considered as a mainstream, mass-market product, and while there are some mainstream titles slated for the PS3, such as Singstar and Buzz!, how long do you think that the PS3 really acquires that mainstream tag?
Shuhei Yoshida

I think it's a really crucial factor for the PS3's success going forward to be seen as a machine that everyone in the family can enjoy. That might not be the only reason that people choose the PS3, it may not be the biggest reason initially, but having that variety of titles like Singstar, Buzz!, Guitar Hero or LittleBigPlanet are hugely important for the success of the PS3 going forward.

And as more and more people start moving from the last generation of consoles to make their choice for this generation of platforms, having Blu-ray and all this software for PlayStation 3 will be a real key factor. The PlayStation Portable is doing fantastically in Japan right now, but it's not really finding its role in Europe. How do you feel about the performance of the PSP? Is it between roles right now?
Shuhei Yoshida

The PSP is outperforming our short-term expectation, which is why we're short on stock and we don't have enough units to supply. That mainly comes from the major success in Japan - week after week the PSP is the highest-selling platform - so we're really pleased that it's the most exciting games platform in a major territory.

Because we've always thought that the PSP as a platform is standing on its own - there's no direct competition, although some people think that the DS is its rival simply because it's portable, but the positioning and the main user base are totally different.

It's just been a question of how to take the best out of the platform and deliver it to consumers, so they understand that they can use it every day for many things. So I think we're still early on the curve.

Like when we started with PlayStation One, with videogames as being a toy, and looking at the individual countries when it comes to introducing new aspects to the platform - in our minds we're doing the same sort of thing with the PSP since 2005.

It's too early to make judgements - we know there's a lot more that we can do, and with the massive growth of the industry we understand that third party publishers have so many choices, many more than they have resources. Sometimes we struggle to convince them to put more resources into the PSP.

But when they really focus on what they can do with the platform, there are still lots of good business opportunities that are still viable, and will continue to be, because there are no competing platforms.

So we continue to support the platform, and we've been doing really well with first party software, and I hope that more developers and publishers see some of the things that the PSP can uniquely offer to them, and its reach into consumers' lives.

Shuhei Yoshida is the president of Sony Worldwide Studios. Part one of this interview is available now. Interview by Phil Elliott.

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