With a PlayStation 3 price cut, a PSP redesign and a new platform due in 2012 – oh, and a little game called Uncharted 3 on the way – SCE Europe is heading into Q4 with understandable optimism. MCV caught up with new president and CEO Jim Ryan to find out more
Congratulations on the new role. As you take the new job, what’s your vision for PlayStation Europe?
Well, I’ve been at SCEE for 17 years. So to me, it’s not a business in need of radical transformation. We’re proud of where we are at in Europe, the momentum and the business we have built. There’s good movement for PS3, and PSP has been surprising us this year. Things are going well, so there’s no need to turn things on their head.
The PS3 price cut should help momentum in the Christmas run-in.
This is something we have been planning for a while. Getting to £199 is fantastic in the UK. It’s a real milestone. UK is one of the territories where we have to do better.
What do you mean by ‘do better’?
Whether you approach it from the perspective of our momentum or the perspective of the competitive landscape, for us the UK is more like USA than continental Europe. If you look across the PAL territory, where typically we outsell our competitors by around 50 per cent on a weekly basis, it’s inverted in the UK. That’s something we want to address.
How much of that is down to UK retail struggling overall?
It’s somewhat the case but I wouldn’t seek to lay it all at the door of those problems. We have similarly challenged economies in other territories where our business is particularly vibrant.
In the UK the year’s No.1 so far is a fitness game for a rival format. So is that why you unveiled Move Fitness at Gamescom?
It’s one of the reasons, but coming back to the price cut: all history has shown us that once you get to £199 it is lift off. We can do some serious business and this kick starts that. Getting to £199 was a defining moment for PSone and PS2 – this will be no different.
As for Move Fitness, I think it’s an evergreen genre. And you could argue that we perhaps should have had a game like this for the launch of Move. But having it for this Christmas, with the hardware the price it is, it’s pretty perfect.
The Move software line-up for this season is really impressive.
Do you think it’s stronger than last year?
Yes I do.
Move was last year’s hardware launch. Vita is next year’s. What can you learn from what happened with the weaker Move line-up that you can apply to Vita?
We’re in a much better place with Vita given the strength of the line-up. I don’t think a console has had as strong a line-up. There is variety there we haven’t seen before. And that helps because sometimes you don’t know which of your launch games is going to be the big one. When we launched Move we didn’t realise that Sports Champions would end up the stand-out title. I think going forward we’ll be more reflective on where we put our marketing chips.
Does Vita’s release in 2012 give you a clear run for supporting PS3 this side of Christmas?
Yes, it definitely allows us to focus all our energies on PS3 for Christmas. Conversely it means that early next year we focus all our energies on Vita. It’s a nice situation.
What else needs to be done to fortify your European position?
PS2 across our territory went well over 50m units. We’re at 22m on PS3. So there’s lots of life in that still to come.
Next year, just getting Vita established and building momentum, publishing software, making that a success, and then building up to Q4. By that point we’ll have lots of third party support. Third party support is not bad for launch, but come Christmas 2012 we’ll have a lot.
You unveiled FIFA 13 with Move support during the Gamescom press briefing – all before FIFA 12 is even out. Is that a statement of intent when it comes to Move?
Yes, and it’s a major announcement for us. It’s there to re-bolster Move’s position and say that functionality is coming to the world’s biggest sports title. That’s something to shout about. We have a good relationship with EA, and have a long-term marketing strategy on FIFA.
On the third-party front, who do you think will win… Modern Warfare or Battlefield?
(Laughs) You’re not getting me on that one.
But it must be good to see two third parties being so competitive when the aim is to sell more games?
That’s our take on it. We have good relations with both, and they make great games, and they are both on PS3. May the best man win.
…PSN in the post-hack era
“What has surprised us is the willingness of the consumers to re-engage when it came back up. The level of activity on PlayStation Network since then has exceeded our expectations.”
…bringing free-to-play games to PS3
“There’s no reason why we can’t do it. But first of all you need to know what the consumer proposition is. Provided you can work that out, there’s nothing stopping a third party or a Sony studio doing that.”
…downloads vs retail
“What we did on Infamous 2 [which launched simultaneously at retail and on PSN] was very much a test. When we launch Vita all of its games will be available for download. And the bigger ones will be available in a physical form. It’s something that’s coming.
Our hope is that you expand the overall pie. We want a business where all our stakeholders prosper. And retail is a big part of that and will be for the foreseeable future. There is no real reason digital has to cut physical retail out. Vita is a connected device and people will expect downloads. But you still offer things in a physical form because of the size of them. It’s just easier for some to go into HMV and buy it.