David Reeves, President of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, talks PlayStation.com through the big news at this year's E3.
How has E3 changed in recent years in terms of the size and scope of the event?
At a global level, E3 is relevant because it is a milestone. Although the retail trade are much less involved than they were before, the press and the media will be there and they will be expecting announcements. E3 is now focused around three areas: the announcements and then, on a much more low key level, the publishers showing what software they have available. It's also a good opportunity for people to meet, particularly with other publishers. So, the relevance to our region is that everything flows from E3, and from Leipzig and from the Tokyo Game Show; these are the three legs of the stool, and whatever is announced here our consumers will want to know what the relevance is to them.
So, in terms of the announcements made, what are the key points for European consumers?
There are three: the first one is that we have announced an 80GB PlayStation 3 model for introduction in August/September 2008 in Europe. This will have the same features as the 40GB model in Europe, with double the capacity of the hard disk. That will be introduced at €399 and later in the year we will be doing some bundles for the Christmas season.
The second thing is the introduction of the Platinum software range for PS3, which will mean people can get top selling PlayStation 3 titles at half the price.
Thirdly, we've confirmed the software line-up for the rest of the year: LittleBigPlanet, the next Buzz! iteration, as well as the next set of titles from other publishers such as FIFA, PES, Call of Duty, Guitar Hero and so on.
Are you excited by the software titles revealed at the show?
The software line-up is the best we've had and in fact it's already started. We call it the landing lights: these started with GT5 Prologue, then moved to GTA IV, Metal Gear Solid 4, SingStar Vol.2, Buzz!, LittleBigPlanet, and then back to Buzz!. On top of that, there are at least six or seven titles by other publishers that are real big hitters. Looking further down the track, there's Resistance 2, MotorStorm: Pacific Rift and finally Killzone 2 in February 2009. It's a really good line-up.
How will PlayStation Network develop over the coming year?
I think it's going to develop in two ways: the functionality of PSN will become much smoother and we will get more and more content up there. Having seen what is coming from the European and American developers on our side, we have got some great PSN titles and expansion packs coming.
Also, so far we have only had two high capacity downloads – Warhawk and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue – and what you will see more and more is that we will let the consumer choose whether they want to download a title or go in store and buy the Blu-ray Disc. The same goes for PSP: we are trying more and more to get UMD versions made available as downloads, and to make download games available on disc. We may have different release dates but ultimately it will come down to consumer choice.
Moreover, we want PlayStation Network to be something that people experience every day just as they might log on to certain websites on your PC. We want people to enjoy it, and to some extent be shocked, but also to be entertained.
How will this move to publishing on multiple formats affect retail?
I see it like the relationship between DVDs and theatrical releases; people thought the theatrical business would collapse but it hasn't and in fact it's thrived despite there sometimes being just a three-week window between a movie being available in theatres and on DVD. So I really don't think retail is going to suffer.
The big news really is that it has been a golden year for the industry throughout our region. The market has gone up in a phenomenal fashion; more and more people are coming in, some of it driven by our competitors of course, and some of it driven by SingStar, Buzz!, Guitar Hero and Rock Band. We're almost in the middle of a revolution; what I've seen from development recently shows that there are more and more ideas coming out.
How important are the non-game applications for PlayStation in terms of continuing to drive this revolution?
Thanks to our partnership with CanalPlus in France, we were the first to market with PSP with non-game content. Over time, while we will continue to focus on what we're good at, namely games, we will need to balance that with the non-game content without going too far in that direction.
This kind of happened with PlayStation Home; the focus of this now is definitely games, and the ability to launch games from within the Home environment as well as viewing game trophies as you collect them. And really the reason why we held up the launch of Home was not because it was behind schedule but so we could give other publishers the opportunity to become integrated to Home. I'm happy to say now that it is on track and it will launch later in the year.
How will Home sit within people's experience of PlayStation?
The first people that will turn to it will be the current PlayStation owners. After that, as can be seen by how people are being switched on by things like Facebook and MySpace, people are really engaging with the community aspects of certain websites.
So, Home is our community; people can talk to each other, go into video rooms, play the games that they want to play with each other. It's a meeting place, a starting point, rather than a destination in itself. For now, we are focused on getting things like game launching and trophies right, and there will be more innovations to come after that.
What is the importance of user-generated content within the PlayStation community?
Psychologically, what drives people at the moment is the ability to express themselves, either artistically, in terms of writing or creating something, or socially, in terms of telling people what they're doing or what they're plans are. That coupled with being able to sell things and make money is really very attractive.
So, for example, what we're trying to do with LittleBigPlanet is almost iTunes meets eBay in the sense that once an individual or a developer has qualified by producing certain levels or certain add-ons, they will then be able in the future to exchange these and make money out of them. Eventually, it's feasible that you might well see the first LittleBigPlanet millionaire!
Even if you charge less than one euro, it doesn't take many downloads if you've got a really strong LittleBigPlanet level for people to be able to make money. It's a great way for people to show others what they can do.
How will the PSP software business continue to develop?
Particularly in Japan, we have seen a lot of publishers making second and third generation PSP games that aren't particularly long but are very, very interesting and will probably come to Europe in the new year. Similarly, I've seen four or five games from America that are going to be big, big hits.
The other thing is that we have launched Go!View and Go!Messenger and you will see other dedicated applications for PSP next year in 2009 .
What opportunities will the advent of in-game advertising create for SCEE and PlayStation owners?
I think some producers will say they don't want advertising in their games; product placement kind of works, as you can see in titles such as Pain, but I'm not sure having a guy swigging from a branded drink in Killzone is going to work so well.
Where it will work better is what we call in-Network advertising; similar to the Internet, as you click through PSN you might see unobtrusive ads or pieces of information come up. It's feasible that on eu.playstation.com, or on PSN, you will be able to access certain content for free in return for viewing advertising.
What is the key thing people in our region should take away from this year's E3?
The main thing is that PS3 is constantly evolving; at the moment we're probably moving from third to fourth gear and next year I expect us to be hitting fifth gear. We're just starting to motor.
As of 31 March 2009 Go!Messenger service is no longer available.