Recently, we caught up with Peter Dille, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Sony Computer Entertainment America, to discuss the subjects of delayed games, the upcoming launch of the PlayStation Move, the PSP, and he feels about the position of the two platforms, from the standpoint of third-party game support and success.
Soon after, the topic changed to that of niche games and how Sony plan to address that market, with promises of the PlayStation Network playing a big role in the process being made.
Peter Dille, Senior Vice President of Marketing: We’re really excited about what PlayStation Move is doing. We announced a million 1.2 units shipped in North America.
Our European counterparts are at 1.5 million. Collectively, we’re really off to a great start. Some of the early units went off the line to Europe since they got multiple countries. We’ll certainly close the gap and catch up.
We kind of have a high class problem now, just chasing a hot product. If you go to retail sometimes its hard to find one because as soon as we’re shipping them to them they’re selling through, which we love, but we’d love to also have one for everyone who walks into the store. We have 24 games out right now. We’re going to have close to 40 games by the end of our fiscal [March 31, 2011]. We just shipped a couple of new great games, The Shoot, The Fight: Lights Out is coming soon, Singstar: Dance, stuff to be excited about.
You said before that PlayStation Move can broaden the PS3’s user base, but what about the hardcore crowd who already own Playstation 3s. Konami just announced No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise with Move support, but what other titles are there?
Hopefully, people will have a chance to check out Killzone  with the PlayStation Move. Again, I think that’s a game that’s going to get the core excited. Just by itself, its an awesome game. Add the fact it has move support and 3D support, Killzone  is going to be something to look forward to.
The good news is you don’t have to look that much forward to it , it’s right around the corner after Christmas. You always want to have something out there to keep the PlayStation Nation fired up. I think Killzone is going to do that.
What about third-party support? We haven’t seen too many third-party games yet.
Well, that’s coming. I think there is a gap between the time when publishers kind of got convinced. I think we turned some people around both at GDC and then at E3 when we showed off what PlayStation Move can really do. Obviously, we were having good conversations with them earlier, but when they started to see the precision it enabled. And then the creativity of things like Eyepet and Sorcery, I think light bulbs started going off.
What our third-party publisher guys told me is, it was at that point in time when they said we need to redouble our efforts on this platform and invest more. What that means is, if you’re making those decisions in the summer, you’re not going to see that content for Christmas. The good news is, it means the consumer will see a bunch of great third-party games, post-Christmas and into next year.
The other neat thing about PlayStation Move, in contrast to our competition, is you don’t have to do a standalone game to participate. With Kinect, it only plays a Kinect game. With PlayStation Move you can do Move-specific levels on an existing PlayStation 3 game and then play it with the DualShock or PlayStation Move. A great example of that is the Tiger Woods game. You can play it the traditional way, but you also have a new way to play the game with PlayStation Move. LittleBigPlanet from our studio has got some new functionality in the game along with Dualshock.
Speaking of LittleBigPlanet and SCEA’s holiday lineup. How do you feel about the holidays with the Gran Turismo 5 delay and the loss of LittleBigPlanet 2?
We feel great about the holidays. We’ve got great momentum and we’ve got a great line-up of games whether its move or GT5. As the person responsible for marketing the platform and as a huge fan of LittleBigPlanet, I wish I had it for the holidays. Those are tough decisions to make. What I would point to is that as much as it is a bummer to wait for something as important as that, our studio organization is on such a roll. Their attention to detail and quality is second to none.
The studios from Sony have the highest Metacritic in the business. I think the last time we were talking about this is an average 92 Metacritic score, which is just crazy. You sort of take your hat off to them and say LittleBigPlanet is a hugely important product, people’s expectations are high, the team at MediaMolecule are doing things no one in the industry is doing, and they need to make sure they get it right.
We need to respect that at the end of the day. We look forward to selling the hell out of it when it comes.
What about Gran Turismo 5 is it still on track for this year?
Yeah, Kazunori came out with a comment that they are working on a few last things. He apologized to the community, but explained it is coming before Christmas. We haven’t put a date to that yet, but we will just as soon as we get word from him when he’s done.
That’s just not for Japan, it’s for North America too?
The PSP has a strong line-up of Japanese series including Monster Hunter, Final Fantasy, and Persona. While the handheld is thriving over there, in America the PSP seems to be struggling even though those games are coming over here. What do you think is the missing element, aside from trains.
[Earlier in an unrecorded chat, Dille mentioned how the success of PSP in Japan is in part due to people commuting via trains and playing the system during the ride.]
You know, we have sold 66 million worldwide. There is a big install base of PSP owners here. I think one of the things that have limited the business that I didn’t talk about in the room earlier, but which is a reality is piracy. That has limited a publisher’s ability to make money on the platform because it is a hacked platform. There is a lot of piracy, I’m sure you’re familiar with some of what’s going on. If you aren’t, you can find sites selling pirated games.
That’s something we’ve been trying to combat for awhile, but that’s not the only reason. It’s now in its sixth year and it’s typical for these devices to migrate down in age, so that’s where our focus is.
Now, the other thing that we’re doing is taking content, perhaps, from other markets or even other platforms. You know taking a PsOne product and bringing it over to the PSP platform. One of the cool things about the [PlayStation] Network is you might have an opportunity to make a game for your reader or core gamers that doesn’t have to go through mass market distribution.
A game that you could put on the PlayStation Network can find its audience because there is unlimited shelf space. Even if retail is saying this won’t do the number of turns I need, the audience isn’t big enough at the big box retailer it still might be something they can sell online on the PlayStation Store. We’re trying to encourage publishers to make sure they exhaust their internal catalogs and content and keep that on the platform as well.
How do you feel you can better promote these kinds of niche products? How do you set up these partnerships like the import store with MonkeyPaw and make sure people are aware of them?
One of the neat things about the PlayStation Network from marketing perspective is we can follow your interests. In the past when the business was an unconnected business you relied on people filling out registration cards to know what they liked.
Fortunately today, just like when you go to Amazon it knows what you like, when you come back to the PlayStation Network, we can identify what you like as a gamer. Are you a sports gamer? Are you into shooters, etc? We can do a better job at marketing directly to people and tailor to those interests.
This week we launched the PlayStation Rewards program, which I’m really excited about as a marketing person because its something we’ve been working hard on from a couple years to get all of these data feeds into a place where we can create a program around it. Just from the initial announcement this morning, I’m seeing some great feedback on the [PlayStation] blog. People are like "this is going to be cool."
That’s a great way to say, if you played Monster Hunter 1 and Monster Hunter 2 is coming, we can talk directly to those people. We can share that capability with other publishers to get them excited about it as well.
Can you talk about the Japanese PsOne game import store? Like how MonkeyPaw along with PlayStation Network made an import section?
That’s really publisher by publisher. We encourage them to bring those types of products to this market, but we can’t make them do it. What we try to do is say there is a market for this, your content can find success.
Again, if the retail channel doesn’t want to look at some of those niche products this is where I think the PlayStation Network comes in handy. We can have products that don’t require the type of velocity that you have at retail.
Is Sony thinking about doing that with their internal studios. Games like the Ape Escape franchise was once popular here and is on PSP in Japan, but those games haven’t come out. Are you thinking about using PSN as a channel?
Well, I’m not sure that they haven’t not come out…
Games like the racing game and the PSP platformers…
Whenever the next Ape Escape comes out, it’ll be available in the US market. You have my commitment. If the retail community isn’t excited about it, we’ll put it on the PlayStation Network so that gamers can get it.
What about Tokyo Jungle, which was shown at Tokyo Game Show?
I don’t want to get into specifics of that title, but I think we look at all content from our studio organization and try to make sure it finds the biggest audience we can. As you probably know, it costs a lot to make these games and you want to make sure you amortize that over the biggest audience possible. There’s no reason you can’t get these games published even if the scale is less than a GT or a God of War.
Sony has a 3D push in one direction and Nintendo is going in a smaller, portable direction. How do you feel about the Nintendo 3DS?
Our perspective is they are doing something different and that’s what Nintendo does. They’ve got their own view, Sony has their own view. Our hope is they do it well because we’re big advocates of 3D. We need consumers to have good 3D experiences.
I actually haven’t seen much of their technology. I know people are excited about it. I’ve heard a little bit that if you move your head a certain way you might lose the image. I just hope they do a great job, building a great 3D platform so people are interested in other 3D platforms. Because, collectively, we need to make sure a consumer has a good experience with 3D however they’re experiencing it so they have an interest in more 3D.