Sony's Shuhei Yoshida on PS Vita: 'I've lost track of the number of launch games'
12th Jan 2012 | 12:50
Last month we were fortunate enough to travel to Tokyo for the launch of the PlayStation Vita.
There, we were granted a rare one-on-one interview with Shuhei Yoshida, Sony Computer Entertainment's President of Worldwide Studios. That is, the man ultimately in charge of Sony's in-house development.
In our chat Yoshida spoke frankly about how Sony has changed its development processes to ensure a steady supply of games for PS Vita, hinted at as yet unseen elements of the Vita's Cross-play and Augmented Reality features, and discussed how the software teams got involved in its design.
For more on Sony's impressive handheld, read our PS Vita review.
24 games at launch addresses one criticism levelled at the 3DS. How did you set about making sure there will be plenty of games for PS Vita?
I'm not responsible for third-party relations, although I did participate in evangelising meetings regarding the PS Vita's features, and showing off games like Uncharted and Little Deviants to third-party developers to give them some ideas and inspirations. But I had no idea there were so many games targeted by third parties. Up until a couple of days before TGS, I was working on the draft of my presentation, and talking about six or seven titles. Then I looked and said: "What? Are you sure that's for the launch, rather than the launch window?"
As far as first-party is concerned, we have many games in the pipeline. We are strategically spreading them out so that there will be a constant supply of our games, because we don't have control over when third party titles are released - sometimes we have to fill in the gaps with our titles.
For you, which are the key PS Vita titles?
Uncharted, which shows off the capabilities of the system. And for the Japanese launch, Everybody's Golf is really key.
Do you know whether there will be 24 games at launch in Europe?
Potentially more, because those 24 games are already done for the Japanese launch. Obviously, some of them are meant for the Japanese market, like the anime-style games, so I don't think all of them will go over to the US and European launches. But there are US and European third-party titles targeted for those launches, so I would expect at least the same number of games. I'm very excited about FIFA, for example - it looks very pretty.
[Here, Yoshida showed a demo of what he termed Markerless AR - simply by pointing the PS Vita's camera at the packaging of Hot Shots Golf (what Everybody's Golf is known as in Japan), he persuaded a typically cartoonish golfing character from the game to appear.]
Can you talk us through the PS3 Cross-play feature, and which games support it?
There are many different styles of connectivity. With WipEout 2048, for example, you have real-time network play: that's one example of Cross-play. With LittleBigPlanet, they have a slightly more involved style of connectivity. It's still in development and hasn't necessarily been publicised, but what we are talking about is that any character or item that you have on PS3, you can download and use on the PS Vita version.
There's more in development, but you'll have to wait a bit before we show it. One of the tech-demos that we showed at TGS was using PS Vita as a controller for PS3, and we used LittleBigPlanet as an example. So that kind of thing is very exciting.
That sounds quite similar to what the Wii U does?
[Laughs] When Nintendo announced Wii U, we were kind of surprised, because we've been doing that sort of similar tech using PS3 and PSP. You know about Remote Play? So we can render PS3 images through a network to PSP. I understand that Wii U works similarly - the console renders images to the portable.
So it was very natural for us to extend it and enhance it for PS Vita, because PS Vita has a much better screen, is more powerful and the connectivity speed is much better than PSP. This is something we'd like to maintain for the future. There are so many things that PS Vita can do, but let's not try to cram everything into the launch period.
The AR games are fascinating - you've just shown us Markerless AR, but we've also seen demos of large-scale, 6-card AR. Will that take AR gaming to new levels?
We've been doing AR with PSP, with things like Invizimals, which uses one card. That was very cute and nice, especially for kids, but when you actually play it, it's very easy to lose sight of the card, then the character disappears. But using multiple cards, it's very difficult to lose all the cards.
If the PS Vita only sees two or three out of six, for example, it remembers whether the other cards are in relation to those ones. So you get a very consistent, robust games experience. It takes more power from the hardware to recognise multiple cards. So as far as we are concerned, the AR in PSP was a good start but the AR in the PS Vita has way, way more potential.
Previously, AR games have been nice to look at, but not really credible as games. Is that one thing you set out to change with the PS Vita?
Absolutely, yes. That's why we're going to be focusing on... We have some very cool ideas about how to get our AR cards in the hands of consumers.
We remember you saying that Sony is determined not to make the mistake you made with PSP, when after launch, a lot of your development resources were diverted to the PS3. Have you managed that this time around?
I have lost track of the number of games we have for the launch. Compared to when we were working on the PSP, the timing of the PSP and PS3 launch was back-to-back almost. So we really had to scrape together our resources, otherwise we would have missed the launch of the PS3. Also, the jump from the PS2 to the PS3 was a huge challenge for all the times, so we had to increase the resources of all the teams moving from PS2 to PS3.
Was that mainly due to the increased resolution?
Yes, and working on the multicore CPU, and all the new shaders. There was a lot of staffing going on for the PS3, and unfortunately, that happened just after the launch of the PSP. But that's not happening this time around. PS3 is selling very well in Europe. We have a stable platform in the PS3 and we are adding the PS Vita, so we are of course shifting some resources around from PSP development. So compared to the ramp-up challenge that we had working with the PS and PS3, we are in much better shape.
And of course, we have increased the overall resources from five or six years ago. We're just making sure that we keep track of the number of titles we have for each platform, and there are certain types of genres we like to make sure are in the pipeline, so we have much more communication with our marketing partners, who have information from third parties as well. Overall, we'd like to manage the PS Vita's supply of games much better than before.
Andrew House spoke about how you got developer kits out much earlier this time. Developers had trouble getting to grips with the PS3 devkits, so would you say you've learned from that?
Absolutely - the company has changed. When Kaz Hirai took over, he demanded that the SCEI hardware team integrate with our studio teams, specifically for the process of developing the hardware. Actually, we have many of our tech groups in our studio working on the software SDK for the PS Vita. And some of the SDKs were developed by our internal studio teams, because they know games better.
We talked about how difficult it was to get hold of PS3 devkits early - part of the problem was that they were gigantic machines - very intimidating, noisy and hot. But because we were involved with designing the hardware for Vita, our teams worked very closely with the SCEI hardware team, to make the devkit very small, like the actual Vita. That was a challenge for the hardware team, and they did a great job. Vita has many unique UIs and, if you remember the PSP devkit had a very thick cable.
Is that something you will take into the future with the PlayStation 4?
[Laughs] I don't know what you are talking about. We are still very excited by the PlayStation 3.