“Joe, the boss of my local taxi company, told me: ‘David if ever you wanted a quiet life, you can come and work for me. I know you’re a very careful driver – your wife tells me so...’”
He might be retiring after 15 years at Sony PlayStation, but three minutes into our verbal kiss goodbye and David Reeves has already proven that he hasn’t lost his ability to chuck a surreal curveball into an interview when necessary.
Except this time, it’s not a histrionic metaphor about PS3, nor a cheeky pugilistic broadside at the competition. He’s half-serious.
“I’ve taken so many taxi rides from Joe in the past 15 years,” he adds. “I said to him: ‘So long as I’m on days and not nights, I’ll consider it.’ It’s the only job I’ve been offered since announcing my retirement. That’s the truth.”
By laughably pondering a new career ferrying the public around Surrey, Reeves skilfully dismisses internet rumours linking him to a host of other posts. It’s the latest in his armoury of tactics to backhand difficult press enquiries. (Those of you waiting for him to announce a consultancy role at Scottish developer RealTime Worlds will be disappointed to hear that he’d never heard of the studio until hearsay began).
WHY SO SERIOUS?
As a man who can impart more sage advice on this industry than most – and a master of dealing with a dogmatic press – Reeves has a few tips for those industry execs who will fill MCV’s interview pages in future.
“Do media training, and do it with someone who is absolutely ferocious,” he says. “I did it with someone called Neil Bennett and he tore me to pieces several times. It was like being interviewed by Paxman. It really worked.
“Oh, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Believe me, even though you’re called ‘president’, it’s not long before you’re ‘former president’. I’ll probably turn up to the SCEE reception desk next month and no-one will know me. You have to maintain a sense of humour.”
Without wishing to offend mini-cab operators everywhere, David Reeves’ talents may be a little wasted transporting folks from Guildford to Woking of a Thursday night.
A Cambridge graduate in Natural Sciences, he went on to complete a Ph.D in Chemical and Astrophysics and an MBA in marketing.
He joined Sony in 1995, setting up and managing SCEE companies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (Reeves recalls his team “organised everything, from the photocopiers to the desks”).
After overseeing the launch of PlayStation and establishing the brand in Europe, he moved back to the UK in 1999 as SVP for Sales and Marketing – securing an 82 per cent market share for the PlayStation brand in PAL territories, with over 102 markets reporting to him. He became president of SCEE in 2004 and his Midas touch didn’t desert him – yet he also endured his most testing times.
“The last three years have been quite tough,” he admits. “Economically, we’ve had a high priced PS3 and some very strong competitors. We’re just starting now to see what the Government Ministers would call ‘green shoots’.
“In addition, PlayStation 3 launched after the competition, after other regions and at a high price. But we’re starting to come up trumps now.”
Reeves says his most difficult quandary was negotiating with God himself – via the Bishop Of Manchester – back in 2007. Sony invoked the fury of the Church of England, after the likeness of the city’s Cathedral popped up in Resistance: Fall Of Man. Following a number of public, upfront discussions between Reeves and the Church, the controversy disappeared.
Then, of course, there was ‘Goatgate’. In the same year, The Mail On Sunday screamed ‘Slaughter’ from its front page – above a story slamming Sony PR for using a ‘decapitated goat’ at a ‘sickening’ party to promote God Of War in Greece.
“I wouldn’t say it was a joke, but it wasn’t far off,” Reeves recollects. “Ten days later, I was informed that it wasn’t even a real goat – it was a stuffed one. They couldn’t even find the butcher.”
BABY, COME BACK
A daunting intellect, incredible success in the European games business and the ability to deal with unfair and pugnacious national journalists. It’s not MCV’s place to rob the world of taxicab operators, but surely a part-time industry representative role awaits?
“I think that’s a good suggestion,” Reeves affirms. “I honestly don’t want to reinvent myself and come back as chairman of company X. I’ve done that – the reason I’m retiring to do different things. There are already some very good industry spokespeople, but I’d be quite happy to do something like that if asked.”
If Reeves did take a role at, say, ELSPA, what would he feel the industry still needed to achieve?
“We require much closer dialogue with Government,” he asserts. “When we get odd hiccups or we’re blamed in the press, we need to remember there are people within the Government who understand that we are a major employer – especially for the young. It’s important we work on that relationship.”
Fifteen minutes pass in a flash, and MCV’s last ever interview with David Reeves draws to an end. We dive under the PR radar for one last question: Do you have any parting message for the UK games trade?
“Within this wonderful industry we have such a wide variety of talented people,” he says. “Some of them are highly creative, some of them are highly emotional. As it stands, we have such a great future. Just don’t change.”
We won’t. The place really won’t be the same without you.
Joe, taxi for Mr. Reeves please.