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Sony's Shuhei Yoshida

The Worldwide Studios boss talks Move, creativity - and how Sony has changed since Kutaragi's departure

PlayStation Move, 3DTV support, Gran Turismo 5... It's a busy final quarter for Sony Worldwide Studios, the division which controls all of Sony's first-party development efforts. In its short existence, the group has become a major force in development, an umbrella organisation that oversees 15 studios around the world and holds the reins of IP including Killzone, LittleBigPlanet, Uncharted, God of War, Gran Turismo and eagerly-awaited title The Last Guardian.

Overseeing the group is Shuhei Yoshida, who took over as president in 2008 - not long after Sony Computer Entertainment was rocked by the departure of founder Ken Kutaragi and the elevation of Kaz Hirai to Group CEO. Taking a few moments away from the hectic show floor at the Tokyo Game Show, Yoshida discussed with GamesIndustry.biz how the division juggles its many priorities, why projects like GT5 and The Last Guardian are allowed to run and run - and why the changes at Sony since Kutaragi's departure mean that future PlayStation consoles will be very, very different.

GamesIndustry.biz With new technologies like PlayStation Move and 3DTV on the way, is this a challenge for Worldwide Studios? You have to look at traditional games, at Move games, at implementing 3D games - how do you cope with your attention being divided?
Shuhei Yoshida

And on top of that, of course we have PSP to support, and the PS2 hardware is still selling. It's definitely a challenge to look at all of the games and all of the resources that we've got, and make sure that we're supporting all of the important initiatives that we have, be it PlayStation Move or 3DTV.

Luckily, though, these new technologies naturally excite developers, so we don't have to convince developers to make games that support 3DTV or Move. In the case of Killzone 3, that supports both Move and 3DTV, and many other Move products, such as EyePet, also support 3D. As long as the tech offers something positive, something of value to the game, and the team likes the idea of the technology... It's a natural fit. We don't have to push them to look at it.

The overall balance of our portfolio is a different thing. We can't just allow every team to decide what to make - we always have discussions with marketing groups, and sometimes adjust our focus. That's the job of the management level, including myself.

So yes, focus is a challenge, but it's a fun challenge.

GamesIndustry.biz What you're saying is basically that because developers love new technology, it's not hard to get them to play with it.
Shuhei Yoshida

Right, right. And our job is to make sure that the right technology is supported by the right projects.

GamesIndustry.biz Are you concerned that consumers who aren't interested in Move right now, and won't be upgrading to a 3DTV any time soon, will feel neglected or left behind? Is that something you worry about - making sure that those people are still happy as PlayStation consumers?
Shuhei Yoshida

There's a different answer for that depending on if we're looking at Move or 3DTV. 3DTV is a much larger investment for consumers - people usually use their TVs for five years or even longer. It has to come to the point where, when people are thinking of upgrading or changing their TV, they feel that it's about time to choose a TV that supports 3D technology.

We already know that 3D stereoscopic gaming is a longer-term initiative... But that 3D stereoscopic technology is one of the things that developers tend to be so curious about, they want to see their games in 3D.

The good thing is that supporting 3DTV is not a significant investment, if the technology is right - especially if the engine already supports 1080p or 60fps. It's a bit more challenging if your engine only supports 30 frames at 720p, but we are working on R&D to help reduce the amount of resources that hardware has to spare to support the two separate images.

In that sense, yes, we know that it will take time for lots of people to adapt to 3DTV at home - but it's very exciting technology. Plus, it's not like we're making exclusives for 3DTV. It's always in addition to regular TV support, so we don't feel that we are leaving people behind.

GamesIndustry.biz So you don't see, at any point in the next few years at least, that you'll be doing a game that's exclusively for 3DTV?
Shuhei Yoshida

Well, never say never - but I don't think that makes sense. Stereoscopic 3D isn't adding something completely different, it's just making it a bit more natural for users to see 3D images. We just don't have to think about making games exclusive to 3DTV.

GamesIndustry.biz Sony recently revealed that the PS3 is now breaking even on the hardware side. Does that take some pressure off the development side, perhaps freeing you up to take more risks because you're no longer compensating for big hardware losses every quarter?
Shuhei Yoshida

It's delightful to know that we're not losing money with every piece of hardware we sell! However, the SCE management - Kaz and all of those people - understand the importance of first-party software development. Even though the company overall had been losing money, mostly due to the hardware costs, they always tried to support Worldwide Studios' investment in software - especially as we are launching lots of new initiatives, including Move and 3D technologies.

We have never felt that because hardware is losing money, we can't make the games that we want to. We never felt that. But, as a part of the company, it's delightful to know.

GamesIndustry.biz You sleep better at night now?
Shuhei Yoshida

Oh yes, absolutely! [laughs]

Rob Fahey avatar
Rob Fahey: Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.
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