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Sony's Andrew House

The Euro president discusses PS Vita and the impact of the earthquake and PSN hack on game development

It's been a rough year for Sony. The announcement of new handheld the, PlayStation Vita, has been completely overshadowed by the recent PlayStation Network hack, and back in March the Japanese earthquake and tsunami took its toll, severely disrupting manufacturing and distribution across the entire Sony corporation.

So at E3 last week in Los Angeles, as positive as the PS Vita message was - helped by a price point that surprised many critics - there were still many questions about ongoing PSN and the impact of the natural disaster on supply issues. In this interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Sony's Andrew House took all those questions on, and even had time to offer a few thoughts about pricing strategies, what's next for home 3D and rival consoles.

GamesIndustry.biz The PS Vita price was a nice surprise at E3. But at that price is the system going to be sold at a loss form day one?
Andrew House

I think as a business it will definitely be profitable from day one. In terms of hardware specifically, it's really not something we tend to comment on, but I would say it will be a significantly better situation than for example, the PlayStation 3. This is in a much, much healthier place from a profitability stand point.

GamesIndustry.biz There's some vagueness with a release date as well, what's holding back the decision there, beyond pegging it for release at the end of the year?
Andrew House

There's a very good and sensible reason why we haven't clarified exact timing in regions and geographies, and that's as you know, we were significantly impacted by the events of March 11 in Japan. We've undertaken, across Sony but also SCEE, a significant assessment of impact on our supply chain and what we think the long or medium term impact is going to be. Once we've completed that assessment and have a full understanding of what our supply chain looks like then we'll be in a position to be more specific about launch in specific regions.

In contrast to the PSP the [Vita] price point and the appeal of connectivity will allow us to move much more quickly into a mass market than we did previously in the portable space

GamesIndustry.biz Are you targeting a global roll-out for all territories or will it be staggered?
Andrew House

I'm not able to talk about that at this point because of the impact of those events. It's forced a very close and well-managed assessment and once we've done that we'll be in a position to talk about specifics.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you think the price of the console is too high for the handheld market? If you look at the 3DS it hasn't sold as well as expected because of that high-end price.
Andrew House

I think it does represent very good value for money. The reason we think that is we're talking about a very powerful device with a wonderful screen, a set of interfaces that really have never been put together in this package before and I also think that because it's a device designed with connectivity and that connected experience from the ground up it gives it a significant value to people that will justify the price point.

GamesIndustry.biz The European consumer, the UK in particular, seems to get the rough end pricing due to currency conversions and taxes, etc. How aware are you of that complaint from consumers and is there anyway you can sweeten the deal?
Andrew House

We clearly have used content bundles as a tool to try and improve the value proposition for consumers in Europe with some degree of success. I think we need to do a better job of explaining issues around sales tax as well. The fact of the matter is the UK price will have 20 per cent VAT included in that, the US price by contrast in LA is without the sales tax included. If you're buying it in California you can add another 9 per cent thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Just in terms of sales tax there's a 29 per cent difference and that starts to make the price gap a little more sense, if not fully account for it.

GamesIndustry.biz You presentation on at E3 was very slick, and seemed mainly focused on the core audience...
Andrew House

It's interesting, you're not the first person to say that. And that's surprised me because I don't think it was at all a conscious strategy on our part. We approached it as we always do, how to show the best range of content and hardware that we have on offer. I don't think there was any particular targeting that went on from a Sony point of view.

GamesIndustry.biz What I was going to say was, was it a conscious decision as a way to reach out to the core audience and speak to them after they've seen so much disruption due to the PSN hack?
Andrew House

I don't think that was part of our intention at all. Possibly what may have given an impression of looking for communication to the hardcore audience was an awful lot of the presentation was around Vita. It's a brand new format and a brand new device. Clearly we are looking to have the core audience be excited by that and embrace it because they are extremely important, they have a huge impact in validating the device and providing recommendations to other users. What we're trying to do is strike the balance between a phased approach to Vita. Yes, the initial purchase will be from technology enthusiasts, entertainment enthusiasts, but I think in contrast to the PSP the price point and the appeal of connectivity will allow us to move much more quickly into a mass market than we did previously in the portable space.

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Matt Martin

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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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