As president of Sony's Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida oversees 15 studios and has most recently been responsible for bringing software developers into the hardware creation process, with Move and PlayStation Vita. In this exclusive interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Yoshida outlines the original planning behind the PS Vita, how it has evolved from the PSP, its close ties to PlayStation 3 and how software development costs can be kept low.
Going through the PlayStation 3 experience was difficult for all of us involved. So when we started working on PS Vita three years ago we set goals, and one of those goals was to hit $249 price point, €249 from the very, very beginning. That was springtime 2008.
At the same time using the advanced graphics, the larger screen, the network options - these were things we wanted to do so we spent a year looking at every single option in terms of hardware devices that will become available in the 2011 period. The hardware group provided us with some components and prototype hardware for our studio teams to use so we could experiment with our prototypes, such as what if we have a touch panel behind the unit. Initially we thought that was strange, but the BigBig team in the UK came up with the Little Deviants prototype and we realised it would work.
We showed it to the SCEI guys and the hardware guys were convinced by it. That was how we looked at every single option, with always in mind our budget in terms of cost is to hit the $249 price, which is a totally different approach to the PlayStation 3.
In the past, up to the PS3, SCEI kept everything behind closed doors, even from ourselves
In terms of hardware development it was between 2-3 years and I don’t think we spent any longer than we had before. The difference was the timing of the Worldwide Studios and game teams involvement in the process. We were involved in Vita development before we made the decision on what kind of CPU and GPU to use. That’s usually the very first thing because of the semi conductor development cycle, it’s the first thing we had to decide on.
That shows how long we’ve been involved and so we were there all the time when the SCEI hardware guys got hands on the components. In the past, up to the PS3, they kept everything behind closed doors, even from ourselves, and making decisions based on their inspirations from a mostly hardware engineering standpoint.
Although Kaz Hirai set out to have the Worldwide Studios group part of the hardware development team from the beginning, I wasn’t sure how the hardware guys would react to that. But I quickly found that the people in Japan didn’t really want to - it’s not like they didn’t want to talk to us - but the fact was they didn’t know who to talk to. There has to be certain secrecy in development process and they also know game creators are different, each individual person has different opinions. So they cannot talk to just one person. I acted the role of looking at the hardware issues they are looking at and then recommend or connect them to the right groups in the Worldwide Studios teams. If it's about the choice of camera then you should talk to London Studios because they have been instrumental with PSEye development, for example.
So I did that role while development teams formed into work groups and begin looking at projects. We got those teams to not just write up their impressions and feedback, but also create something tangible so that SCEI people would not only listen to what the development team said, but also feel why developers wanted certain features.