Interview: Sony talks PS4 price, games, and entertainment
According to many attending the annual games convention, E3, in Los Angeles, Sony had a good show. Its E3 press conference detailed much more on its next-generation console following the initial tease in February. It managed to undercut Microsoft's Xbox One on price by almost £100, and gained huge support within the gaming press for not following Microsoft's lead in restricting how games are played and shared.
But is Sony's "games, games, games" approach better than Microsoft's combined entertainment and games mantra? Pocket-lint sat down with Fergal Gara, VP and MD UK & Ireland at Sony Computer Entertainment to find out more.
Pocket-lint: You are really coming out fighting?
Gara: Absolutely, gaming is what we do. We were determined with PlayStation 4 to come back and develop a machine that is by gamers for gamers. It was very important for us to introduce it at a very attractive price point, and it was very important for us to bring that community with us, and to be open to that community and be open to them. Some of the messages that we announced at the E3 press conference clearly resonated with that community, and that's great news, but it is one small step on a very long journey.
There still isn't a single person with the PlayStation 4 in their hands right now and we are by no means getting carried away with the support we are getting from the gaming press.
How have you been able to price the PS4 so cheaply against the Xbox One?
Our reference point wasn't the Xbox One, we didn't know what their plans were. Our reference point was the PlayStation 3 and we certainly wanted to be able to better that starting position. In the UK we've beaten the PS3 price by £75. In Europe it's even more dramatic from 599 euros down to 399 euros.
Right from the architecture of the machine, achieving an attractive starting price point has been front of mind for years; the choices of components and balancing that fantastic mix between cost and performance has been key - we believe we are very strong on a spec front from a gamers perspective.
Have you priced the PS4 too low?
We aren't here to be greedy; we are here to do the best we possibly can for gamers and it's great that our price point has been well received.
Is entertainment important for the PS4?
We certainly aren't saying that entertainment isn't unimportant or that it won't improve, it will. What we are saying - as a very strong message in February and again at E3 - is that gaming is what made us the brand we are, gaming is what will lead the charge in the next-generation cycle, so doing the best, best possible job by the gamers was absolutely front and centre. You saw some shape to the entertainment services and some shape to the evolution of that at our press conference. There will be more news to come as we go down the line, but we are absolutely putting gaming on the pedestal, front and centre, for the focus of this machine. That is a little bit back to basics for us as a brand.
PS3 was all about entertainment is that not the case with PSS4?
We've made a lot of progress with entertainment on the PS3 and PS4 will continue to take that on, so expect more news in that space, but it is absolutely appropriate to plug games at E3.
Is tablet and mobile gaming key to PS4?
The canvas is very flexible. The desire for second-screen experiences is clearly out there already. We are allowing that and encouraging that in multiple different ways. One of the strongest elements we aren't talking about enough is how you can play a full PS4 away from the PS4 via the PS Vita with full comprehensive controls and a glorious screen.
Whether it be that, or the more activity based companion apps - like with Watch Dogs from Ubisoft, as one example - we are opening up to those experiences.
It may have some benefit for Sony with its Xperia line-up, but it is not about Sony devices, it is about the gamer and the gaming experience.
Will all Sony games have some form of second-screen experiences?
Yes and no. It is Gaikai technology that allows us to do that [stream PS4 games to play on the PS Vita], but it is not the full Gaikai-powered service for playing cloud games that is rolling out in the US in 2014.
The sharing of games within the home will work for all first-party games from day one [in the UK also] letting you play your PS4 games on your PS Vita. It is a very easy feature to enable on games because the horseload is driven by the processor in the PS4 not the PS Vita. We [Sony] are expecting most developers to include the feature.
Will we see more leverage made of the Xperia Z and the Tablet Z with the PS4?
The difference is, with the PlayStation Vita, you've got full-on gaming controls and dual-sticks. I don't see the tablet experiences challenging that any time soon. The second-screen experience was big at last year's E3, but it's come on considerably since then.
How do you cope with running two platforms. the PS3 and the PS4, at the same time, it's not something you had to worry about with the PS2 and PS3?
PS3 remains a powerful system, it remains a good-value system and it has fantastic software coming this year. We will keep PS3 going as long as there is an audience. We won't neglect the PS3. There is a large install base for the PS3 and with the best success in the world it is going to take some time to reach that level with the PS4.
Will you have stock shortages for the PS4?
We don't know for sure. Let's put it this way: we aren't anywhere close to telling people to stop taking pre-orders. We saw a huge surge in orders following the press conference so we are confident of healthy stocks. We are delighted we are in the market before Christmas, and we are delighted that our price point has gone down well with gamers.