As we all know, Sony had a pretty busy Gamescom last week. After the event, The Times Online had a sit down and an in-depth chat with head of Sony Computer Entertainment, Kaz Hirai. As well as being a fascinating read, a few tit-bits of information can be gleaned from the interview. If you want to read the full article, go here. However, if you are a bit pushed for time (we all are at the moment), then below is a break-down of the best bits.
Nigel Kendall, the interviewer, raises some interesting points regarding the PS3’s marketing in particular. As a marketing student, this part was particularly interesting to me. As much as I love the PS3, I have been the biggest critic of Sony’s advertising and positioning of their shiny flagship model. In my opinion, the new PS3 Slim is a master stroke and on first evidence, Sony seems to have got their adverts sorted.
In the interview, Kaz is asked “A marketing person once told me that the most difficult thing to sell is a Swiss Army penknife, because it does everything. Do you think you made the same mistake with the PS3?” How true. It’s something that Kaz openly agrees to:”Right”. He goes on to say that “I think the PS3 had a bit of an identity problem. We focused in the first year and a half or so on talking about the great games and also we sent that message to all of our development partners.
I think we’ve done a pretty good job of doing that, which is why we’ve got this great raft of software coming into this holiday season. Once we’ve done that, then we can talk about all the other things that it can do in terms of the non-game video content.” So, market it as a games machine first and foremost and then move onto things like BluRay, web browsing and music video streaming later. It makes sense and the American PS3 adverts certainly did that. In Europe though, SCEE certainly missed a trick or two with the “This is Living” campaign, failing to explain ANYTHING about the console.
Again, on a marketing note, it is highlighted that dropping the Spiderman-style font style for the PlayStation 3 heralds “a new direction for the PS3” and makes sure we can now see it on adverts: “On a practical level, when you have PlayStation 3 spelt out, the aspect ratio was such that if you wanted it on a billboard it became tiny. It didn’t work in terms of visibility.”
A main section of the interview is dedicated to the integration of all the various Sony companies and products. “Because we at SCE are one of the very few companies within the Sony group, probably the only one, which deals in both hardware and software under one roof, we have that conflict built in. It’s part of our culture to manage that conflict and to manage it in a right way, so that it becomes a positive rather than something that takes down the organisation.” Certainly, Kaz has a lot on his hands and all the departments within Sony don’t always pull in the same direction. But the Bravia Sync function on the PS3 Slim and the remote play on the latest Sony Ericsson Aino mobile phone are signs that Sony are keen to push PlayStation as a brand across all of its products.
Another interesting point raised is the “death of physical media”, with the PSP Go on the way and Sony’s commitment to pushing the envelope when it comes to downloadable content and games. The answer is a resounding “no”. “Perhaps we can sit down three years from now and have a beer, or two or ten, while we wait to download 40 gigabytes of data for a full ps3 game. That’s still going to take a lot of time. We’re in over 100 countries and there are areas where consumers still don’t have access to the type of broadband that we have. The death of physical media is a very nice conclusion, that seems to be nice to say, but it’s not something we’re going to see soon.”
I could not agree more with Mr Hirai. I love downloading games and playing on the PSN. I’m even a fan of the PSP Go (see here). But, it makes complete sense that physical media should sit alongside digital media while there is a lot of skepticism surrounding going purely download only and while not everyone has infinite hard drives and super-fast broadband. This is why there will still be a PSP 3000, why I can buy Burnout Paradise on a disc and why Game UK are posting record profits.
Kaz re-confirms that the motion control tech will be available in the spring of 2010 with “great software that supports the controller at launch” and that he looks to ease of use as his personal criteria for a successful gadget. In terms of Sony losing money on each console sold: “If you’re just talking about the hardware alone, the quick answer is yes.” So that’s that sorted then. But Kaz is quick to reiterate that the money is made back on the peripherals and games and that as of the last fiscal year, PlayStation is in profit.
It would seem that Kaz Hirai and the entire PlayStation department of Sony are optimistic for the future of the PS3 and PSP Go (the 10 year lifecycle was mentioned, yet again) and with two new consoles, a great library of upcoming titles and a refreshed promotional campaign, they have a bright Christmas period ahead of them.