SCEE President David Reeves explains the key product announcements to come out of Games Convention in Leipzig.
What are the key differences between PSP-3000 and PSP-2000?
Last year at this time we announced PSP-2000, which was Slim & Lite, and we said then that we would continue to enhance PSP. As new technology comes along and we get feedback from consumers, one of the suggestions we had was for a built-in microphone so we decided to build that in.
The second thing is that we've enhanced the screen. When you look at it in daylight, it looks brighter, it looks more intense and you get a better feeling when you're looking at the pictures. If you looked at a PSP-2000, you would say that it looks great anyway; when you see the PSP-3000, it's only then that you see that there's been quite an improvement on the screen.
We're going to introduce PSP-3000 in October, and this will be sold initially as part of a bundle, with a piece of software. During this period, PSP-2000 will remain as the base PSP model.
How will consumers benefit from the newly announced PlayStation 3 160GB?
In thinking about the future, particularly with so many consumers wanting to store things on the hard drive, and especially with all the different media people are putting on there, a bigger hard drive is something we think people will find very attractive. It means that people will be able to store more without the need for an external hard drive.
So what we're going to do at the start of November is releasing a 160GB Limited Edition PS3. The configuration is exactly the same as the 80GB model, with double the size of the hard drive. It's a limited amount and we want to see what the reaction of consumers is.
How does a title such as Heavy Rain give an insight into the future of games on PlayStation?
The brief with Heavy Rain was to bring more emotion into it; people get very excited about videogames although maybe they don't bring out the same emotions as movies do. We want people to feel the full range of emotions from sadness to elation when playing this game and the great thing with Heavy Rain is that you will produce that reaction yourself rather than in a movie which of course is a little bit more passive. So we think that some of the scenes in Heavy Rain will do that.
The other key thing with Heavy Rain is that you can get different endings; you can have different levels of intensity, different ways of interacting with the environment, and this will affect how the game plays out. Other games have tried to do it, although you will find with Heavy Rain that this runs right through the game. We feel we have to move on with videogames; interactivity is one thing, but being able to have your own ending and beginning is something else. It also has very high production values. Put those things together, and the ability of PS3 to process all this information, and you have something that is very powerful.
You're building up suspense, and you're doing that yourself, rather than watching a Hitchcock movie and consuming that passively; you're looking at something and thinking, how far can this go, how close can I get?
Why is it important to introduce such interactive storytelling elements in PlayStation games?
We're getting closer to reality. You can play Prince of Persia or Tomb Raider or even Tekken; it's really enjoyable and it's entertainment, but a long way from reality. A game like GTA, although not 100 per cent reality, does get closer to it. The closer you get to reality, the more familiar you feel with it, and the easier you find it to be able to play.
We've always wanted to get to that reality and the difference between the different endings in a movie, as has been tried on some DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, and the different endings in an interactive game are quite big. In a movie it doesn't really work; what works is being able to play through a scene and have a particular ending, and then being able to come back to it and know that you can have a different ending, or make it more tense. It's like turning up the dial, pushing yourself to try something new and feeling good about it.
Can you tell us a bit more about the VidZone music service?
In some of the research we've done over the last few years, when you ask users to trade off features against each others, obviously the most important feature is games. Interestingly, though, the next thing is music.
So what we thought is that it's essential on PS3 to have the ability to be able to have music available; we're not trying to match iTunes or that type of system, but we felt it was absolutely essential that our consumers could dial into music and be able to have access to it at any time. So, they listen to music, watch the video, or they can download it to their mobile phone. We're working on this with a company called VidZone and, although it's a taken a while to get right, we can show what it's about.
Many gamers cannot live without music and we felt the need to be able to provide this. For now, it will only be available in Europe.
What is the state of the PSN business?
Registrations on PSN have moved on enormously; we're now on 46 per cent registrations for unique users. They're connecting because we're managing to get content on there which is a little bit more of something for everybody. We're also finding that people are loading their wallet more and actually buying items.
Moreover, some of our publishing partners are now starting to see the value of being part of PSN. It has partly been our fault that we have not been proactive enough in going to third parties to show them the opportunities; equally, some of the other publishers wanted, quite rightly, to wait and see how the service developed. But it does now have exponential growth and I think we're now at a stage where huge numbers of people are going to PSN every day to see what's there.
How will titles such as DC Universe and Home continue to evolve the PSN experience?
We can't just have a PlayStation Network; that's just like having an Internet. We need to have something that gives people a reason to use the service, and to bring more people in. So, just as we expanded the market earlier with EyeToy and SingStar and Buzz!, we have to try and break these barriers as well.
So, it's important for PSN to evolve, and for us to give it new facets. DC Universe Online, which of course has got lots of heroes in it, is an MMOG which is an area we haven't gone into before. By partnering with Sony Online Entertainment, we feel that we're going to draw in people who've said that they still prefer the PC. There are a huge number of PC gamers, particularly in Eastern Europe, Germany and the UK; now we're able to get them onto PS3 to do exactly the same thing and play this type of game through PSN. It's simply a strategy of growth, and thinking about how we attract new people.
As for Home, we wanted to create a user interface that was easy to navigate and we decided that a good way to do this was to humanise it. What gamers like to do is talk about what they've achieved, and they like to meet each other; they tend to be very sociable people.
The other thing people like is to group together around things that they like and be members of clubs; so by having different areas within Home where people can go, all the research suggested that that is what they wanted.