PlayStation’s Shuhei Yoshida: Triple-A titles ‘feel too big to fail’

It’s been ten years since MCV first interviewed Shuhei Yoshida in his then new role as president of PlayStation’s Worldwide Studios. A decade on and he’s cemented his position as a true industry legend, enabling and guiding the teams that have created some of the most memorable games of that period.

We’re honoured and delighted that Yoshida will be receiving the Develop Legend Award at this year’s Develop Awards in Brighton on July 11th. Additionally, Yoshida will be delivering the opening keynote at the Develop:Brighton conference, which takes place between the 10th and 12th of July. We take time, before the event, to talk to him about his role in Sony’s incredible first-party hit factory.

What have been your career highlights?

There are so many memorable moments in my career working with enormously talented devs, but receiving Game of the Year awards for our titles and sharing the moment with dev teams as they accept awards at industry events has always been special. Among those moments, two occasions come to my mind as most significant personally.

The first was receiving the Game of the Year Award for God of War at the 2006 D.I.C.E. Awards; the first Game of the Year Award ever

for Sony Interactive Entertainment first-party titles at a major industry event. I was sitting with Allan Becker – then the studio head of Santa Monica Studio that he had founded – and we hugged each other when the announcement was made.

Another occasion was when Journey received the Game of the Year Award at the 2013 D.I.C.E. Awards, sweeping most award categories it was nominated in – an amazing accomplishment for the small, young indie team of ten or so at Thatgamecompany to be able to compete and beat other triple-A titles nominated.

What drives you in your work? Do you have an ultimate goal?

I joined Sony in 1986, right after I graduated from university. At that time, one of my career goals was to join a video game business at Sony, which did not exist but somehow I believed Sony would make its own video game systems in the future. Sony then was making some PC products, so I imagined a video game system as an extension.

I was a Sony fan and a big video game fan. So by some miracle when I joined Ken Kutaragi’s original PlayStation team in 1993, it had become my goal to help make PlayStation successful so I could continue to work in the video game business at Sony. After 25 years, I could say it still is my career goal!

How do you feel to be receiving the Develop Legend Award in Brighton this July?

I’m super honoured to receive this remarkable award. I have been a fan of Develop:Brighton for many years; I like the small, intimate feel of the event, especially with many talented indie developers attending. I always try to schedule my regular summer visit to our UK-based studios in the week of Develop:Brighton. Attending the Develop Awards show is always a fun part of the week, as I’m able to share the moment when our titles get awards and our devs go up to the podium to accept them. It’s a moment to celebrate the success of our titles and a chance to reflect on the time it took to develop those titles receiving awards.

It had never occurred to me that ‘I’ could be receiving an award; I should always be there to celebrate our teams receiving awards. So when I received an email by the organiser with the news, it came as a total surprise. I highly appreciate the consideration by the MCV team and all the warm congratulations that I have received from people in the industry and game fans since it was announced. It makes me feel very, very warm and happy.

What are your feelings about the state of the industry right now from a development perspective?

On one hand, in the triple-A space, the scale and the tech of game development has grown so much that I feel like we are making a huge bet every time we start a new project. The end results are, when successfully executed, an amazing fusion of art and tech, providing hours and hours of highly engaging interactive entertainment in a big, often open, world to explore with lifelike characters and imaginative creatures.

Because of the size of the investment, each title feels too big to fail. It creates an enormous pressure to manage these triple-A projects. These games are the drivers of the industry to become more and more mainstream entertainment. We need to keep pushing the art of making triple-A games.

On the other hand, it is a golden age of indie developers; tools like Unity and Unreal Engine offer talented individuals and small teams from around the world the opportunity to create great games that can be published to a global audience. With the number of triple-A titles becoming smaller and the type of these triple-A games becoming somewhat similar to avoid taking risks, there’s a vast, open field of types of games for the indie devs to explore and succeed. I’m a huge fan of indie games as I always enjoy fresh game experiences and artistic expressions. Indie titles drive innovation and experimentation in the industry and it’s important for the gaming landscape that we continue to support this flourishing market.

The industry seems to be very clearly delineated between incredibly strong narrative single-player experiences and ongoing live multiplayer games. What are your thoughts on this dichotomy?

It is extremely challenging to create a successful single player game or a successful live multiplayer game these days. The art of making each type of game has progressed so much that devs tend to pick and choose where their strength lies and where they should put their focus. It does not help to attach a half-baked online mode to a single player game, or vice versa. I think it is a result of rational thinking on the side of devs and publishers.

Sony’s E3 showing and recent releases have demonstrated a growth in maturity, minority representation and diversity. How important are these things to you personally when it comes to games as a medium?

I think it is extremely important as the games become more and more mass-market entertainment; we need to cater to all kinds of people, whatever the age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or belief. As we provide an experience to game players to become a hero or heroine to do amazing things in our games, it is good to try to create protagonists that people of different backgrounds could associate with.

It feels like the quality of PlayStation first-party games has steadily increased over recent years. What are your reactions to the critical success and why do you suppose that is?

It is great to hear comments like this, thank you very much. I think what we are seeing today are the results of many years of our belief and our teams’ efforts to create the highest quality titles possible. I’m super appreciative of SIE’s management team for understanding the importance of quality and their support for the needs of our studios to achieve the level of polish that each title needs especially towards the end of development.

Additional reporting by Seth Barton

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