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Sony's Andrew House

The SCEE president talks PSN Plus, Move pre-orders and charging for online play How do you feel about a publisher like EA making online play an extra payable component on PSN with the Online Pass for second-hand consumers? And also Activision’s less-defined ideas of charging players for online play for something like Call of Duty multiplayer - there’s a lot of talk about subscriptions to play online.
Andrew House

On the principle of making online portions of the game available or unlocked from the disc-based release for a fee, we’re broadly supportive of that. And we’re exploring actively the same option for our own content.

In terms of just a charge for basic online play, that’s something that we have to talk about a lot more and we struggle with a little bit because we feel very vindicated and base a lot of the success of PSN today - a 70 per cent connection rate across consoles - on the fact that we’ve removed that major initial barrier to entry.

And that was what I was driving at with that one-size-fits-all attitude, admittedly in a more complex way, but exploring a range of different monetisation options that fit consumer needs. That’s broadly the philosophy that we’d like to keep. Let’s talk about Move, because it’s out in two months time. How are pre-orders for that, are they inline with expectations and are you hoping for a sell-out around launch?
Andrew House

We are going to do very substantial numbers. It’s not that kind of offering that we just want to have the big blow-out first day launch, it’s very much a launch in September and then drive gradually right through the peak of Christmas We’ve got a couple of big advantages, one of which is the overall sales momentum on PlayStation 3 is so strong right now that I think it becomes a much easier proposition to up-sell a new experience when you’re a console with very positive momentum in the marketplace, as opposed to where sales are struggling a little bit.

The indications that we’ve got so far coming from retail interest, what I can say is that the numbers have just gone up and up over the course of the last three to six months ever since people have started to become aware of it. All indications are there right now that retailer interest is predicting this to be very big and very significant.

We’ve got to have the right communication strategy behind this and in my view we’ve talked about this a lot at Gamescom. In the same way that we’ve hit a really nice balance in the initial content support between the social games, the games for welcoming a new audience on one hand, and a lot of that showcased in the starter pack, and then at the same time validated via good solid core gaming applications as well. That then needs to be carried through into the communications strategy. You’ll already see the advertising out there that’s very broad in terms of media reach and style of communication, while at the same time via digital outlets, via PSN and also making sure that we reach the early adopters, the guys who are at the top of the adoption pyramid. They are the guys that validate it and generate word-of-mouth amongst the rest of the consumer base. Sony has always had that loyal and vocal early adopter, and they’ve been very valuable to the business…
Andrew House

We have and I think the other very positive element that we’re feeling on Move is the correct decision on pricing. It’s a really good value proposition, the key components in there are at or less than the price of a triple-A games release. It’s a fairly easy entry, and that was very deliberate. We positioned this globally as somewhere between a platform launch and a regular peripheral release and the price was set fairly aggressively in order to drive that initial uptake and drive it quickly. Are you selling the hardware at a loss? Is it a loss-leader at that price?
Andrew House

It’s tough to answer that question because it’s heavily dependent on currency rates and where those are. If you saw Sony’s major financial announcements currencies have not been kind to the corporation overall. With the yen hitting a fifteen year high against the dollar it’s no secret that it makes a very challenging environment for us. Currencies excluded we are in a much, much better cost shape than we were in previous years. This week you also announced two new bundles for the PS3, and there seems to have been this impressive attitude to retail where you’re regularly chopping and changing the bundles on offer, not just with software, but by increasing the size of hard-drives on the console and that creates a vibrancy on the shelves. But is there a danger of confusing consumers or alienating early adopters who see a new deal for a the same price and feel they’ve been punished for being too keen?
Andrew House

To be fair what we’ve done very deliberately is to keep the same price points and just in essence add more value into the proposition. There’s a minor risk of consumers that bought in early saying that the new consumer is getting a better deal. But I think that is partially offset by another part of our offering which is that for those consumers that bought early I could make a case that in somewhat intangible but valuable ways that their console is of more value now than when it was launched. Blu-ray is an example, if you look at the growth in that library and the availability of Blu-ray movies that’s become much more valuable now than it was in 2007 with a format war taking place. And also being part of a hugely vibrant network with a broader array of services.

What we’re trying to do is structure it that there’s increased value for existing consumers - 3D is another example. I cannot remember any similar initiative in 20 years on consumer electronics where a company made a significant additional functionality available absolutely free of charge to everyone that’s connect to their install base. The goal is to strike it so that everybody feels like they’re getting added value, and that’s grown over time. For a new user people make a decision point to jump in and they are going to look at what the value proposition is for them. There’s less risk of confusion when it’s a communication essentially to new users.

Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.
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