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Sony's Andrew House

The Euro PS3 boss talks 3D, PlayStation Plus and opening up new business models

At this year's E3, Sony put a significant push behind 3D home entertainment, new motion controller Move, and also announced an upgrade to the PlayStation Network with a paid subscription service.

Here, in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Sony Computer Entertainment's European president Andrew House discusses the importance of 3D to the Sony Corporation as a whole, showing third-parties what it's possible to achieve with 3D, the balance of offering multiple business models, and lessons learned from the PSPgo experiment.

GamesIndustry.biz 3D took centre stage at E3 this year and Sony is going all-in to incorporate it into the Sony entertainment package. How much does that increase costs and time, and is it a significant investment on top of already large development budgets?
Andrew House

It's hard to put a number on because it depends on the architecture of the game in question and how it's being built. I think what we've done is created a centre of expertise for 3D based in the UK but servicing our worldwide operation. They've been able to garner a fair amount of expertise which they are sharing as part of the SDK process.

I think the reaction we've hard so far, and certainly from our internal teams, is that it's been less onerous than they expected, especially for a game that's being built at a high frame rate and a high spec to start with - it's an easier process.

I don't think it's a radical overhaul and I don't think it's a major impact in development costs – there's some impact obviously – but really as with all of these processes, it's about an upfront investment and an understanding in the technology and how that's going to impact the game.

What we're starting to find is that there are going to be 3D experiences that are built from the ground up. Killzone 3 is going to be a banner showcase for that sort of development process in games. But there are ways in which you can add 3D to certain genres and games just as an enhancement to the overall experience and I think both of those are completely valid.

GamesIndustry.biz It's not just Sony Computer Entertainment that's going big on 3D, but the entire Sony Corporation's entertainment divisions. How much is SCE being pressured from higher up or from outside of the SCE division?
Andrew House

It's been a two-way process. Senior management at Sony Corporation very correctly identified that this was going to be a major new wave in technology and entertainment. What Sony has needed is areas of focus where the whole company can come together and 3D was clearly identified as an opportunity.

We're very uniquely placed from the whole of the TV pre-production process through to the devices themselves. If I'm honest for us it was a process of discovery. We were intrigued by the idea and it's been very much driven by our internal teams and developers becoming excited about what they can do with 3D technology.

Where Sony Computer Entertainment fills a very critical role is - and I've been around the technology business for more years than I'd care to mention - it's very rare to see a new wave of technology impacting the way people experience entertainment. And we already have 35 million of these devices in people's homes that are ready to embrace 3D technology and will become the source of playback for that content, movies and games, and that's very unusual and special. It gives Sony a very unique leg up in terms of building a 3D portfolio.

GamesIndustry.biz When the PS3 first launched it was expensive and you made no bones about it being a luxury item. Since then the price has come down, but now to experience the entire PS3 offering - 3D, PlayStation Plus, Move – that's a significant investment once again. Isn't that asking too much of your loyal user and off-putting for new customers?
Andrew House

I'd take that point and absolutely turn it around the other way. I'd say that what we've done very effectively is build a very future-proof high-end machine. This is a critical factor right now if you look that our sales are up year-on-year amongst the consoles that are out there right now.

The consumer is gradually seeing more and more value built into a device that has now come down in price, and we're laying on more services, a different variety of experiences that you can have on the console - and with 3D it's becoming more special. But I think we've done the reverse and that's unusual but it's a model for how technology adoption is going to be successful in the future.

The critical thing there is you've phrased that question as if there's a push to consumers to buy all of those features and options. What we've done is create a set of choices. There's the basic level PS3 with good value games for it if you're interested in getting on board with PSN. Let's not forget that the very full-featured experience on PSN is free at the point of entry which is unique versus one of our competitors.

What we identified is there is a group of consumers who are saying "I want more, I want early access, I want to be part of a club that's somewhat differentiated". The value proposition we've created with PlayStation Plus is a very good one. If you add up all of the content you get access to it's a pretty good deal but by no means are we saying you have to be part of that.

GamesIndustry.biz Obviously your first party studios are all over 3D, but how are you finding the response from third party developers and is there any friction from those that may think it's to early, too soon to offer 3D in games when its unproven?
Andrew House

That's a question that's better answered by developers and publishers themselves. There will be a fair amount of variety in the adoption at the publisher level. If you talk to the games publishers that have a link into major Hollywood studios, they're also all over it because whether it's coming corporately from their parent organisations or whether it's the fact that the franchises they're just looking to build are going to be built in 3D, it's natural.

There's another tier of publishers that want to and need to position themselves as cutting edge and need to be seen to be delivering the highest experience - you know who those guys are. They're going to jump on it for that reason. Am I suggesting that every game shipped is going to have a 3D component? No, I don't think it will.

As all of these new waves of technology do, it'll impact the higher end experience and users first, and there will be a trickle down effect as learning takes place. That's perfectly natural. The role of a successful platform holder is to provide the right creative palette to provide those experiences and as you correctly point out with internal studios it's important to show what's possible.

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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.