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Interviews

Sony's Fergal Gara on PS Vita launch: 'We're seeing encouraging signs'

SCE UK's managing director on early sales, price cuts and future plans

This morning Sony Computer Entertainment's impressive new handheld, PS Vita, launched in the UK and US.

With the hustle and bustle of the midnight launch behind us, CVG managed to sit down with SCE UK's newly appointed MD, Fergal Gara, who kindly agreed to meet with us on PS Vita launch day.

Gara, by his own admission, came from the "ruthless, very commercial world" of retail, and now he wants to bring his sharpness and commercial focus to the world of PlayStation.

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The Sony UK boss agrees with earlier comments from within the company that a lot rides on the performance of Vita, but in our interview he tells us he believes the market is ready for something "fresh and new" in gaming - the UK especially.

In our interview the MD touched on Vita's positioning as a cross-play device, the possibility of future price cuts and of course early indications of how many gamers have run out to secure their handheld on day one.

What are your early indications following yesterday's launch of the PlayStation Vita?

Very encouraging. First of all, the excitement of a midnight console launch was great to see - it's my first time seeing that first-hand, on this side of the fence. It was fantastic to see that enthusiasm.

We are in a new world, of course, where early sales don't only come from queuing at midnight, and there are a hell of a lot of pre-orders shipping today, which have been ordered either through retailers or online specialists, so judging the numbers at this stage is very hard. But people are coming through with re-orders, which is always exciting to see.

We presume you have plenty of stock?

We've got enough to satisfy demand; it depends how big those re-orders are and how the week plays out. We're seeing encouraging signs, but it's very, very early.

Are you seeing decent tie-rates, and people buying lots of accessories? Memory cards are a particular must-buy.

Memory cards are attaching at a rate of greater than one to one. We've only got detailed data from a couple of retailers right now, but there's an unusual pattern in that in some retailers, it's the 16Gb card that is selling the best and in others it's the 8Gb one, but so far, nobody is selling the 4Gb ones the most. Which for me is a little bit of a contradiction, because the best-selling console at the moment is the Wi-Fi model, and people are going for the trade-up on the memory card.

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Yet we expect people to buy more games as packaged media than as downloads, and that's what the Japanese evidence suggests. So we really don't know how it's going to play out, other than that people have got a lot of choice here.

We've got our eye on one of those 32Gb memory cards, but they aren't on sale in the UK yet. When will they be?

They're not available here yet, although we did respond as soon as we got the early sales figures from Japan, and we ordered a volume of those, as again the first evidence we had completely contradicted our European assumptions, I must admit, as we thought that markets like the UK are very much about price. And in some ways it is. However, memory cards are breaking that rule.

In terms of numbers, what would constitute a successful launch in Europe over the first fortnight or month, say?

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