December 1, 2007 // 3:38 pm
- PS3 to live 10 years: Sony's Dille on firmware updates, Competition & More
With the holiday shopping season about to be in full swing, we sit down with the big three console makers, get their thoughts on their 2007 year, why consumers should want their respective console this year, plans for after the new year and much more.
We wrap up our series with an interview with Sony's senior vice president of marketing, Peter Dille. While Sony may be in third place in the console horse race, behind Nintendo and Microsoft, don't count it out yet. As Dille is quick to point out, the PlayStation
3 is holding its own when it comes to core features and exclusive titles. While Microsoft grabbed headlines after grabbing previously exclusive PS3 titles like Assassin's Creed and Virtua Fighter 5, you're still only going to be playing games like Heavenly Sword, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Ratchet & Clank Future on Sony's machine. We talked with Dille about exclusivity, the embattled Blu-ray format and the company's plans for 2008.
Note: We originally intended this story to run Nov. 21, and after several delays and false starts, we finally got our questions answered. We apologize for the tardiness, Sony fans.
Game Informer: You face some serious competition this holiday season from Microsoft and Nintendo–why should consumers go with PlayStation 3?
Peter Dille: Well, quite frankly, it is always competitive in this business, and there is no better time to be a gamer than right now as there are many great console and content choices to choose from. And if you want the most technologically advanced gaming system that will stand the test of time for the next 10 years and comes with a free online gaming service, then the PS3 is a perfect choice.
The technical horsepower in PlayStation 3 is something that you just won't find anywhere else. That, combined with the included Blu-ray drive and continually expanding features of the free PlayStation Network makes PlayStation 3 the best choice on the market. We have a proven 10 year lifecycle on our hardware platforms, so consumers can be confident they'll experience great entertainment options for years to come. Prior to the holiday season, the two big concerns we would hear about from our fans was the cost of the PS3 and the release of big games. Today, we're seeing great momentum following the lower price of the PlayStation 3, and we've been delivering a steady diet of great software for the system. Games like Heavenly Sword and Warhawk and Folklore and Eye of Judgment and Pain and Uncharted and Ratchet. And that's just from Sony - there's a ton of great third party games too. It's not just one or two genres - we're hitting every gaming taste, whether you're a hardcore or casual gamer. There are more than 160 games including 19 exclusives. We think all of this positions us very well for this holiday season, into 2008 and for the next 10 years.
GI: What have you seen from your competitors that's really impressed you in 2007?
Dille: It has been a great year for the gaming industry as a whole. Of course, Microsoft has done well with consumers who like the first person shooter genre. The Wii has done a great job appealing to the social/casual gaming crowd and introducing new consumers to gaming. We think that's good for the industry and many of these new gamers will eventually trade up to a high definition gaming system. All told, there have been a lot of great games from all publishers this year and every platform, and as 2007 comes to a close, consumers have a wide variety of choices that span every category.
GI: With people buying new PS3s, why won't they be getting the new Dualshock 3s out of the box?
Dille: The new DualShock 3 controller will be coming to Europe and North America in Spring 08. This was the timing we announced when we launched the product at TGS in September. Our announcement was intended to give developers enough time to integrate code and add the controller's new functionalities into their titles, as well as allowing us enough time to manufacture enough DualShock 3 controllers to meet the demand.
GI: What kind of benchmarks would you use to determine whether this holiday season is a successful one?
Dille: First and foremost, we want to ensure that our consumers are getting a full entertainment offering, not only from PlayStation 3, but also from PS2 and the newly designed PSP. PlayStation platforms make up more than 40% of the market and all three of our platforms have very compelling software and wider entertainment offerings, so any true benchmark will be ensuring our customers are satisfied and that we are continually pushing the content envelope.
GI: How do you see the low price point of HD-DVD affecting the HD-DVD/Blu-ray format battle, and do you think Sony needs to drop the price further?
Dille: There are also new low priced Blu-ray players, and the new $399 PS3 is one of those. There is a tremendous amount of momentum behind the Blu-ray format. Blu-ray continues to outsell HD-DVD titles approximately 2 to 1, and virtually all of the major CE companies support Blu-ray from hardware and software perspective. Blu-ray has the exclusive support of Disney, Fox, MGM, Sony and Lionsgate. Warner is issuing discs in both formats. Content is also key for consumers. If you want to catch Cars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, you will need to have a Blu-ray capable machine. The unparalleled storage capacity is being taken advantaged by both the movie studios and game developers, and millions of consumers are seeing the content advantage as well. Also, in the week of the $99 HD-DVD promotion, Blu-ray software held 73% of the market.
And, of note to your readers and gaming fans, with PS3, you get a built Blu-ray capability. We don't ask you to buy a separate peripheral. And the storage capacity of Blu-ray offers gamers so much more gaming content - more space equals more game. Sony is absolutely committed to the Blu-ray format. We're confident Blu-ray momentum will continue this holiday and throughout 2008.
GI: Sony has frequently added more system features and tweaks through a steady stream of firmware updates. Are there plans for any more firmware updates in 2007? Are there any cool features you're thinking about including in 2008 that you can talk about?
Dille: With the ability to update the firmware features, PS3 is really living and evolving in terms of the features and functionalities we can add to the hardware. Since launch of PS3 we have added more than 80 new features to the hardware as we are listening to gamers about what they want, and we are not done. As far as in-game XMB access, we know it's a feature that's important to our consumers. Because PS3 packs so much advanced technology "under the hood," it takes some time to implement major, new functionalities, but we are working hard on addressing this feature, as well as continually expand the capabilities and functionalities of PS3. We expect firmware updates to continue in 2008 and throughout the product's lifecycle as new technologies and enhancements become available.
While we don't have any announcements today regarding future system advancements, we recently released Firmware (v2.00) that enhances the user experience and delivers added value with exciting new features, such as the ability to remotely turn on your PS3 using your PSP and added ability to have users customize their XMB themes and backgrounds. In addition, the new Information Board enables SCEA to communicate with PS3 users directly via the XMB delivering the latest news updates. Stay tuned for some more great new enhancements very soon.
GI: When the PlayStation 3 launched, its backwards-compatibility support with the first two PlayStations was a major selling point. What led to the change in strategy?
Dille: All of our research indicates that backwards compatibility was a secondary feature for consumers. Price, on the other hand, was of primary importance. And because any consumer who has a PS2 software library also has a PS2, we felt it was important to cost reduce the system. But, unlike our competitors who have abandoned their previous consoles, we continue to actively support PS2. In fact more than 160 titles will be released for the platform this fiscal year, and we introduced a new sku, the ceramic white SingStar bundle. And if playing you PS2 games on your PS3 is still your preference we do offer PS3 models that support backwards compatibility.
GI: Does Sony have any plans for downloadable holiday surprises on the PlayStation Store?
Dille: We are continually offering new content, from free game demos and add-ons to full products on the PlayStation Store. Consumers are singing up at an extremely rapid rate, and taking advantage of the free access to PlayStation Network. Also, we just completed a promotion where four of our hottest titles on the PlayStation Store had reduced pricing and we saw a huge increase in downloads for those titles. So it's always a good idea to check out what's going on at the PlayStation Store.
GI: Home, Gran Turismo and LittleBigPlanet didn't make the 2007 window. How do you think their absence affected the PlayStation 3 landscape for the holidays?
Dille: We have a fantastic line-up of PS3 games this holiday, and our variety of software and exclusive titles, as well as our new hardware models and pricing will position us well this holiday. Our first party line up from Warhawk, Heavenly Sword, Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and Uncharted: Drakes Fortune offer some great exclusive content for PlayStation 3 owners this holiday, as well as the amazing line up of 3rd party titles. Another exclusive, Unreal Tournament is coming to PS3 next week as well, so our line-up for this holiday remains very compelling for consumers. Beyond that, third party support for our platform is only getting stronger and, as I mentioned earlier, there is definitely no shortage of content in each category.
As you noted in your question, we have an amazing line up of games coming for PS3 in 2008 as well, and although I haven't heard a lot about what's coming for Xbox and Wii, everyone knows we have an amazingly broad and AAA heavy line up from not only our first party studios with Killzone, Gran Turismo, Little Big Planet, but also AAA exclusive titles from our 3rd party partners as well with titles like Metal Gear Solid 4, Final Fantasy, Haze and many other genre defining games that you will only find on PlayStation 3.
A lot of developers don't seem to have a complete grasp of how to get the most from the PS3. What can Sony do to change this?
It takes developers time to get acquainted with next-generation technology and a new development platform. We are now starting to see developers creating games on PS3 and then porting them to other platforms such as EA's Burnout. More and more developers are telling us that they are starting to create their games on PS3 first and take advantage of the hardware capabilities and then port down to other platforms.
This shows the strides developers are making in creating content for PS3 and we've been working closely with them to ensure they are able to further tap into the raw power of PS3, so that their titles not only look better than the competition, but play better as well.
GI: There don't seem to be many–if any–family oriented PS3 exclusives right now. Sure, players can have a great time with Buzz, but does that lack of accessible and/or casual games hurt the platform in the long run?
Dille: We are very focused on casual gaming, or what we call social gaming, and recognize it has a huge market opportunity for all our consoles. Some of the most popular titles this holiday, like Guitar Hero III, are available and selling very well on PlayStation 3. In addition, we have a wide variety of exclusive content available today as well as coming soon. There are plenty of family friendly titles available currently such as High Velocity Bowling, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and The Eye of Judgment, as well as some of the other titles that are available on PlayStation Network that take advantage of PlayStation Eye. We also have SingStar for PS3 coming soon and we expect that exclusive franchise to be a big hit with families as well as casual gamers.
GI: What's Sony's New Year's resolution for 2008?
Dille: It's really the same resolution and promise we've made every year for the past dozen years - to stand by our fans and to continue to offer amazing new gaming experiences. One of our goals is to provide PlayStation fans with a broad variety of hardware and new innovative games across all of our different platforms. We are very well positioned for this with an amazing line up of products from our first party studios and third party partners that will span every genre and appeal to all levels of gamers. We expect to continue to evolve the PlayStation 3 hardware as well as introduce new experiential services such as PlayStation Home that will help consumers discover new ways to play.