David Reeves: The E3 Interview
26th May 2006 | 14:31
While thousands of people thronged Sony's stand at E3, David Reeves, the British-born President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, escaped from the melee of the show floor in a special Sony room, seemingly sound-proofed from the hubbub and tumult outside.
In that comparitive oasis of calm, CVG caught up with him to discuss the announcemnts from the Sony conference, the future of the PlayStation 3, how PS2 will survive and the surprise announcement of the PS3's tilt functionality.
In an intriguing interview, Reeves says that that PS3 price point won't seem so steep once people experience the console's power and its Blu-ray functionality "the first five million are going to buy it, whatever it is, even it didn't have games", touches on the thorny issue of PS3 availability "we are about double over-subscribed on what we can initially supply" and reassures developers and gamers that the PS2 is definitely not dead; "The money, the 'honey' is to be made on the PS2 games - because 40 million people are using it'.
Reeves also has reveals more on tilt functionality in the new Sonic game and has some intriguing insights into the 160 territories his remit covers, including the untold gaming story of PS2 gaming in Iran. So without further ado, we're going to pass you straight over to the main man. Take it away Mr Reeves.
The announcement of the tilt functionality in the PS3's controller took a lot of people by surprise at your conference?
David Reeves: I think initially it will take third party developers time to understand what it is all about. They have not been introduced to the specs. It was quite a surprise to a lot of them. However the first party people, certainly in Tokyo, who had seen it for two weeks, had put together some good mini games, especially the compatibility with WarHawk. They are also putting tilt capability into the new Sonic game. Really, it's very easy to get to grips with and it's infectious.
What are your aims for the PS3's launch line-up?
David Reeves: Within the launch window, for the first time, we are not going to go just for hardcore gamers. We are going to have a portfolio of social gaming. There will be a SingStar certainly before Christmas and an EyeToy one after Christmas. EyeToy is not playable at the moment but it will come before March 07.
And how will you approach line-up after the initial launch frenzy has died down?
David Reeves: We have built up a certain brand equity over time since the launch of PlayStation in 1995 and PS2 in 2000. The first five million are going to buy it, whatever it is, even it didn't have games.
The question is what about the next five million? That's when our marketing really has to kick in. It means we have to enhance our brand attitude and our personality as we have done before with all the other PlayStation iterations, including PlayStation Portable. We have to make sure that the really big titles start to come out at that point.
A lot of people have questioned whether they're really getting value for money with the PS3's price point?
David Reeves: If people buy the 499 euro version it will be by far the cheapest Blu-ray player on the market. So people are going to buy it for that as well as the games. They will experience Blu-Ray and what it provides. If they then play it on a high definition television it will look amazing.
So from a marketing point of view we are going to try and create these real cool spaces and invite consumers to come in and look at it - not in an environment like this (E3) where it's all very noisy - but more of a cool environment. Once they have seen that, many people will go back and revisit PS3.
Are you confident in your approach and the inevitable build up to November's launch hype?
David Reeves: Without being too arrogant about it, I don't think we worry too much about building up the hype in the first six months, but where the rubber hits the road is going to be when all those hardcore gamers have bought PS3. They have also bought Xbox 360 and they have probably bought Nintendo Wii as well .
[For retailers] we have now put together the whole of the puzzle. They know the price; they probably know the quantities. They know the date and they have a good idea what sort of software is going to come out. They know the specifications. So from a retail marketing point of view we are about double over-subscribed on what we can initially supply.
So where does this leave the PS2?
David Reeves: At the press conference we said we will ship 10 million this year worldwide. There are more PS2 games coming out this year than there were last year. Sony will launch at least 50 games and third parties a whole lot more.
From a Sony corporation point of view most of our profit over the next year will come from PS2. We believe we will add between six and six million hardware units on PS2 next year in our region.
Do you think it will still attract third party developers as a platform?
David Reeves: When they made the transition from PS one to PS2 many developers made the change too quickly. They went straight to PS2. We told them this time to do both PS3 and PS2 because the money, the 'honey' is to be made on the Playstation2 games because in our territories alone there is going to be 40 million people using it . Now some will switch the PS3 - around 6 million in the first six months worldwide - but millions of people will want to buy new PS2 games.
Is it true that you oversee something like 106 countries? Are there marked differences in the markets?
David Reeves: When it comes to hardware sales PAL markets such as Argentina and Indonesia, Russian and the Stans are doing well, as is the Ukraine. What we can't forget though is piracy. It's very difficult to sell software in certain markets. Pakistan for instance has the highest number of factories producing counterfeit PS2 and Xbox disks. We are trying to penetrate new markets, win the Middle East and Africa and some southern Mediterranean countries with the PS2.
Iran is a big market for us. Absolutely booming. What they don't do is buy a console to play it at home. They set them up in coffee shops in say groups of 40 or 50 and they charge people to come in and use them, like an arcade. We ship 10,000 PS2s each month to Iran. And it's one of the few places that doesn't tolerate piracy. We have some problems with content of games (as we do in Saudi). For instance the number of females you can put into games (even if they are fantasy females) is very limited.
Do you think the PS3 suffer similar issues with piracy?
David Reeves: PS3 with Blu-Ray will make it much more difficult to pirate software. If it can be done at all it will be very, very difficult. In fact the movie industry has have been waiting for Blu-ray because they have been decimated by piracy, so we hope not.