GamePro got an opportunity to speak with Sony executive Phil Harrison during Sony Computer Entertainment’s Tokyo Game Show first-party PlayStation 3 preview.
GamePro: The PlayStation 3 games on display at Tokyo Game Show look great. There’s been quite an improvement over the last few months.
PH: We knew it was a risk going ‘radio silent’ after E3, which is always part of our strategy. E3 was great, obviously, but saying nothing until today put a great deal of pressure on the titles here to really sing. I think they’ve more than done that.
But, we’ve got a long way to go. I don’t want anyone to walk out of here thinking that these games are “it.” We’re still tuning, improving, tweaking performance.
GP: We were intrigued to see how many games have 1080p support, and to hear focus so much on talking about 1080p. Is that a real commitment from Sony to 1080p for the future?
PH: The PlayStation 3 is the only format that can do full HD, true HD. So it’s obviously to our advantage to take advantage of that … where appropriate. And it doesn’t require that every game be 1080p, because I think that some games actually look better at 720p depending on the style of the game, depending on the pixel rendering or pixel shading that’s been adopted.
But I was being a little bit cheeky [discussing 1080p so much during the event] because one of our friendly competitors made a very bold statement, saying that that there’s no way that we will be able to do [1080p] at launch. So we thought it was appropriate to, rather than get all emotional about it, just give it [1080p] a nudge.
GP: What does Sony have, as a company, that Microsoft doesn’t?
PH: You know, we have had….I’m going to answer your question! But we’ve had a couple of accusations of sounding arrogant. So I’ve been very careful about answering that question.
One of the things that we do have, and we would never rely upon it, but we do have 200 million plus PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 sales worldwide. And that gives us a very loyal fan base, who we could never upset and never take advantage of, but it gives us some fans who love what we do, and push us really hard to do the best that we can do. And they have been pushing us. I read the forums, and the newsgroups — possibly some of the same ones that you read. And we’ve had some justifiable criticisms, and I won’t try to defend that.
But what we do have is that ultimate fan base of people who want us to do a good job. So that’s actually quite important. We’ve also got industry support, we’ve got worldwide studios as you’ve seen today, who are doing some incredible stuff and really leading the charge in making the PlayStation 3 shine as much as it can. And that makes a difference.
There was an interesting report issued a couple of days ago by Merryll Lynch which observed that Sony Computer Entertainment’s internal development resources are as large as Microsoft’s and Nintendo’s combined. Obviously I know what our numbers are, but I didn’t know where the [competitors] were at. So that’s a tremendous power that we have. We have 14 studios worldwide and about 2200 people at last count, and all of those studios share common technology, common tools, and that really helps.
From a product point of view, I think you saw earlier on when I did a quick whiz across the “cross media bar,” that we’ve got some really consumer-friendly functionality built into the console, before you even buy a game. “Do I want PlayStation 3 to be my digital…life center?” You know what I mean. And I think that there are more things in PlayStation 3 that give people who buy it more reason to use it more often. Not very eloquent, but you understand.
What else do we have? Ken Kutaragi! We have somebody who is visionary and equally brutal in his demands that we achieve that vision. Which is…sometimes a challenge, but never a dull moment, you know?
GP: Speaking of Ken Kutaragi, he was quoted in an interview with PC Watch magazine a few months ago speaking about possible hardware upgrades for the PS3, such as a better video card, maybe more RAM or a Blu-ray burner? Is that a direction that Sony is interested in pursuing with the PS3, making it more of a consumer personal computer?
PH: Definitely from a software point of view, PlayStation 3 will grow over time, just as we’ve made upgrades available for the PSP to add functionality. I can’t comment on the hardware strategy, but whatever we do, if we do it, when we do it, the key thing is going to be maintaining the existing library of games. So, nobody need worry that they’re going to be left behind.
GP: What do you say to gamers who don’t care about Blu-ray movies but would rather have a cheaper console?
PH: That’s a great question. I can understand that. There’s this sort of misunderstanding that the Blu-ray disc player for movies is somehow burdening the console with unnecessary cost. That is completely not true. We put our Blu-ray Disc functionality in the console purely from a game design point of view. Once we had that storage capacity on Blu-ray Disc, adding the movie playback functionality was extremely cost-effective, [the cost] is actually non-existent.
So games like Resistance which, as a launch title, is up to 20-something gigabytes already. And that’s day one — think about four years, six years from now. We’ll be pushing the 50 gigabyte limit with dual-layer Blu-ray very quickly. So we absolutely need it as game designers, and in that regard, the consumer is getting the movie functionality effectively for free.