Sony on PS4 vs. Xbox One: "It's nice to feel you're ahead"

Sony UK managing director Fergal Gara talks to GameSpot about the PlayStation 4's line-up, the battle for preorders, and why the console looks set to sell-out this Christmas.

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After its triumphant showing at E3 in June, Sony stood up at Gamescom 2013 to announce the launch date for the PlayStation 4: November 15 in North America and November 29 in Europe.

Much has changed across the next-gen landscape since Sony last made a big public show for the PlayStation 4--Microsoft's Xbox One policies have been utterly and completely reversed--though a captive audience expected to see Sony recreate some of that E3 magic as it stepped up to the plate on Monday evening, ahead of a jam-packed public PS4 showing at the bustling trade fair in Cologne, Germany. After a string of hardware and software announcements, including a price drop for the downtrodden PlayStation Vita, Sony Computer Entertainment president Andrew House slipped in a sly put-down of rival Microsoft.

"While others have shifted their message and changed their story," said House in front of a global audience waiting on tenterhooks for him to announce the PlayStation 4 launch date, "we were consistent in maintaining a message that is fair and in tune with consumer desires."

Consumer desires, and more specifically gamer desires, is the very area that Sony continues to focus on when it talks all things PlayStation. With its bright and broad showing championing smaller indie games and downloadable titles, the company's focus feels new and refreshing.

After the conference, GameSpot spoke to Sony Computer Entertainment's UK & Ireland Managing Director Fergal Gara, formerly trading director at Wal-Mart subsidiary Asda, to see how House's bold statements about the company stood up off the stage.

So how are you feeling after last night's announcements?

Gara: Really good. I think we were confident going into last night, and we're at least as confident this morning. It was great to flesh out a bit more detail around the PS4 plans in particular, and to underline some key strands of our strategy by demonstrating them. For example, the indie publisher agenda, or the Remote Play agenda would be just two that instantly come to mind as things that aren't new, but they were sort of proven and underlined in a nice way last night.

Those two things, second screen gaming and indie games, have become major points of discussion over the last few months. Why do you think that is?

Gara: There's a broad belief across the industry that there is a role for second screen, and there are various apps being developed that will give you a second screen experience. to me it means two things, there are two strands in that: first of all the complimentary screen, for example maps for what you might be seeing on the screen. Then there's taking that a level beyond, which is what PlayStation Vita does. We're talking about a full remote play experience, a full PlayStation 4 experience, away from the console. Both are important, we've got both in play, and that's really exciting.

You can see an energy coming from the publishing community to develop for it, and we've got lots of tools we've developed, and it's down to gamers to respond and say that's good or that's not good, and it becomes big or not. But there's certainly energy behind it.

When it comes to the indie publishing space, it goes back to the vision Mark Cerny went through on February 20, which is that this is a five-year project to understand the needs of developers, to give them the best place to create, and to give gamers to play. And if you're going to be the best place to play, then you've got to have the best range of content. Sure some of that will be relatively wacky and relatively eclectic, but we need to be a broad church. That's what the brand is and should be, and there's some tremendous creativity coming out of that camp. You can see a real energy amongst that development community to self-publish, and there's a real willingness and a warmth in coming to PlayStation. Lots of that was underlined last night.

I also think the advent of digital consumption plays very well with indie developers. If you think about how the market has polarized in recent years towards huge blockbusters and lots of displaced product struggling in the middle-ground, what we might see is a reemergence of a middle-ground. I don't see the big brands disappearing by any means, but we may see a reemergence of the middle-ground that can be published digitally in a lower risk, lower cost kind of way. Then if the product does well, and starts to pay back, it can become a disc product, or a more heavily marketed product, or just an extended product. Digital retailing just offers tremendous flexibility. I think there's a few things coming together which means it's right that there's a spotlight on indie gaming.

For people who read gaming news every day, I think it's safe to say Sony has won over that crowd. But isn't there a worry that gamers who just play Call of Duty and FIFA every year, that you're not attracting those guys?

Gara: Well, I think there's a marketing challenge for us. If you're a player who plays CoD and FIFA and that's almost it, well, there's a marketing challenge to get them to try something new. Trying something new could be something very quirky, something at a great value price point, it might be five, or ten, or fifteen or twenty pounds rather than a top-tier price point. But there are many, many more gamers beyond those we call Top 10 gamers--those who play the mega titles--so we've got choice and variety and content for them.

Who knows who's going to produce the next hit? We're just opening the gates and saying come join us, and there will be some surprise hits in there that will spill out into the bigger market of top 10 and more casual gamers. I think we've just opened the door, and who knows what will float to the top, but we're giving it every single chance we can.

To me it sounds like you're trying to put all the cards in the right place, so when the next hit comes out it's already on PlayStation.

Gara: There's a bit of that, but there's also… what does the PlayStation brand stand for? And what has it stood for many years, it's stood for being a broad church, really, and having something for everybody. Without strength in that area, we wouldn't deliver upon that objective. You saw immense diversity in content last night. On one hand you have the ultra family friendly, quirky and innovative Playroom, and on the other hand you have esoteric indie content. Almost polar opposites in whom it appeals to. But there's nothing wrong with that, for me. That's exactly what having something for everybody should look like.

And you are getting lots of big-budget content at launch--you'll have Watch Dogs, you'll have Call of Duty. But it does feel to me like you guys aren't focusing on AAA as much.

Gara: I would say we're not focusing on it only. We're trying to focus on several camps, and I believe that's right. Other fantastically gamer-focused things that I would pluck out of last night are, for example, that trade-up route for PS3 to PS4.

Well, it will be down to the publisher to decide. That mechanism doesn't affect us, because we're not publishing any titles across both platforms. It's over to the EA's, the Activision's, and the Ubisoft's to go and decide what the differential is to trade-up. But I think it's exciting that we can offer it, because it gives gamers more confidence. We don't expect [the cost] to be huge. I think what roughly feels fair, is if… there might be more competitive pricing on the PS3 version of the game, so if you end up paying roughly the price of the PS4 game as it would be on shelf, plus a little bit maybe--that feels fair, doesn't it? For the flexibility. Get started early, but end up paying round about the price you would for a PS4 game from scratch, possibly plus a bit. That's the intention.

Microsoft's announced that FIFA 14 will. Will that make a difference on the high street this Christmas?

Gara: FIFA's a very significant title. That's a robust promotion, I would say. We are not seeking to accelerate our preorders any further, to be honest. [PS4 preorders] are breathtakingly high as they are right now. We do not have a preorder problem. We will remain focused on value, and there's lots we can do around launch to make gamers feel looked after in a PS4 world.

And, let's be clear, you can buy a PS4 plus FIFA 14 at full whack for less, as I would understand it, than a free FIFA 14 with an Xbox One. We will continue to focus on great value for the gamer. There's loads of instances on how that's real today, whether that be the price of the PS4, or the fantastic content proposition that goes with PlayStation Plus.

Amazon won't guarantee a PlayStation 4 at launch day anymore. Do you expect the PS4 to sell out?

Gara: It's highly likely there's going to be a shortage. Where we are today is, we're trying to think like a retailer and help them not to disappoint their customers, so we've advised them to say beyond August 5th, we're not guaranteeing day one delivery. So the very significant numbers of preorders they had up to that day we're very confident will be delivered for day one.

We hope that some more people will also get it day one, but as we finalise precise allocations by market and then by retailer, we can offer greater clarity there. For example, an Amazon customer that may have preordered on the 15th of August, might get good news. That's better than getting bad news. We're just trying to give them the clarity to communicate clearly with their customers. It's better to overdeliver than underdeliver.

To launch across 32 countries within about two-three weeks of one another, that's really rare. I guess they must be flying off the factory lines already?

Gara: The reason to choose last night to announce the date is clearly where it fitted in the production schedule. This date happens to be nicely timed for our confidence on production to have reached a certain level, so we were able to define the date, we were able to define the launch countries with a bit more clarity. We wouldn't be doing that if we hadn't built units, and we hadn't built confidence that they were coming out of the factory at the right pace. But is it a huge project? Of course it is. Getting to this moment, getting to launch in the month we wanted to after a several-year gestation period, is possibly the biggest achievement of all.

You've announced over a million preorders. How many of those are coming from the UK and Ireland?

Gara: A very significant chunk of it is the UK. There's definitely been a ground swell of support towards PlayStation. It was most pronounced around the E3 period when preorders went into orbit, and we thought maybe they'd settle down, but they've not settled down. It's just continued to go. We're a very, very big chunk of that preorder number.

I think we'll be able to sell everything we make, and everything we can make, in 2013. But it's a long term project, isn't it? We want it to run for many years, so we will get back into a free supply situation hopefully reasonably quickly.

And, finally, just how satisfying is it to see Andrew House stand on stage and deliver a cheeky swipe at the opposition?

Gara: Well, it's a competitive market you know. We're all competitive animals. We all come to work to do the best job we can by our gamers, but there is a part of that job that is about winning versus the competition. It's nice to feel you're ahead, it's nice to feel that we've got a lot going for us, and of course Andy chose to put bit of a dig in there. All's fair in love and war!

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Hi! I'm Martin, for some reason or another I have managed to convince the people who run GameSpot that I am actually wor

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Discussion

1104 comments
SlayerX13
SlayerX13

They are enjoying the high point of their smear campaign.  Enjoy it while it last.  Sony in notorious for talk big then shitting all over everything.

All I know is CoD dedicated servers on XB1 is going to pull a decent chunk to XBL. P2P hosting for a competitive FPS is just cheap and lazy,

formerroadie
formerroadie

Looking forward to having 2 PS4's in my house :D

Jedi_Ferveo
Jedi_Ferveo

It's a fact that you feel, but all feeling ain't a fact!!

SpiderLuke
SpiderLuke

"And, let's be clear, you can buy a PS4 plus FIFA 14 at full whack for less, as I would understand it, than a free FIFA 14 with an Xbox One." 

Lol, BURN!

eman7522
eman7522

Oh how Sony sux...let me count the ways...

BS1, BS2, BS3 & the soon to be released BS4.

StonerDemon
StonerDemon

I'm not only happy for the Playstation brand. I'm happy for Sony, the legendary brand that has always delivered with products made to last and excel.

Samsung and Apple have brought a lot of good ideas to the industry, but now they're destroying everything in front of them (Philips won't make audio/video electronics anymore, for example). Thus, it's nice to see this old warrior making efforts to stand on two legs again and reclaim the throne.

hyksiu
hyksiu

Its nice that my favourite company is also the at the top!

strikeback1247
strikeback1247

Does anyone else scroll down these topics just to have a good laugh? 

Aphyosemion
Aphyosemion

PS4 + Vita bundle = Pure win.  More Vitas out there means more support, which means better games.  I'm hoping the rumor of $500 PS4 + Vita turns out to be true.  I will get it for sure, if it is.

edinko
edinko

Shortage and pretended shortage of units to trick people into fast buying is not the same

midway_nights
midway_nights

make another shadow of the colossus and god of war and i will be buying ps4 next year.

jk i will still buy ps4 anyway.

Dictatroll
Dictatroll

I just played Shadow of the Colossus for the million time, that game is just...the best ever #1 in my book.

Make an other one Sony!, where is the Last Guardian!!!!!!!!

Warful
Warful

To all the indie game haters; There's a BIG difference between a mobile phone game and an Indie game.
If you hate Indie games, you haven't played the right ones or if you have, you're having an egotistical opinion, wanting the whole world to have a console without indie games cause YOU don't like them.

Fez.
Journey
Bastion

Enough said.

jgrigs09
jgrigs09

Do we need to give them a piece of candy now?

HowlPendragon
HowlPendragon

Whether you're a getting an Xbox or a PS4, you have to be pretty dumb to buy a console based on its launch lineup.

I would understand if the launch titles were THE ONLY games that were ever going to come out for it, but come on. Launch tites won't matter worth a shit by next year.

Get the game system you think will have the most games to match your gaming preferences and shut the hell up.

natalieyan
natalieyan

as a playstation gamer, i have absolutely no interest in indies at all,

if you wanna play indie games, you play them on mobile phone, those 0..99 dollar games should never be on console

quickshooterMk2
quickshooterMk2

no demon's souls 2? 

no sale--for this year 

maybe when the witcher 3 comes

goutetsuo
goutetsuo

Most funny part was when the dudes with minecraft masks came out.Literally my reaction was like " Reallly WTF this is next GENERATION!!!! NOT AGAINNNNNNN I HATE THAT GAME!!!"

OurSin-360
OurSin-360

Sony is getting too cocky, they should stick with the humble stuff cause after the last conference they had I was starting to consider the Xbone instead.  Indie games are cool, but I want some AAA exclusives as well, all they got is killzone.  Where the fuck is the last guardian?  They don't have a system selling game yet, even if it's not at launch TitanFall alone makes you ALMOST want to get a Xbone and go through M$ bullshit.  Almost..

suren1998
suren1998

@SpiderLuke  um actually its still cheaper on the ps4, coz the xbone is 100 bucks more expensive

lol, BURRRRRN

LaserXUKM
LaserXUKM

@eman7522 It it wasn't for the success of BS1 and BS2. Xbox would never be created,  you wretched kid.

Frosty192
Frosty192

@Warful Dont forget to throw Super Meatboy and Hotline Miami in there. Actually, Trine, Torchlight, Limbo, Minecraft, ...... Ok I will stop now..

jameson425
jameson425

@Warful I don't disagree with that statement I just don't think people give Indie games enough of a chance, I won't lie though never played Journey or Fez, But Limbo and Bastion were damn good games... 

Vict95
Vict95

@Warful some Indies are way better than some AAA games.

Slade968
Slade968

@Warful Bastion is hand's down one of my favorite games of all time. I still listen to the sound track from that game.

awesomebun
awesomebun

@HowlPendragon Exactly. Long-term support is much more important. If you have a PS3 or 360, what are the odds you're still playing a launch title? And in all honesty, Sony has made it clear that they have not shown everything they're working on by a longshot. MS, on the other hand, might not have many exclusives come, say, 2015 or 2016.

santinegrete
santinegrete

 you won't believe wich fanboys won't shut their mouth about it. Hint: Acekidder is one.

Warful
Warful

@HowlPendragon Thank you. Launch titles should NEVER be what persuades you to buy a console, or suggest a specific console is superior etc. Unless of course a person is an impulsive buyer.

awesomebun
awesomebun

@natalieyan They are not close to being the same. I can't think of a single mobile game that even resembles a single indie game on a console. They are NOT mobile ports, those would mostly be PS Minis, which are very much dying. They are unique gaming experiences that takes major risks to fulfill awesome, creative concepts.

santinegrete
santinegrete

Indie games are not the same as mobile games. Good indies have artistic merit and more soul than some AAA games. But like everything, there are also projects not worth mentioning. If you don't belive me check for Amnesia, Interstellar Marines or Routine, I call them AAA indies.

awesomebun
awesomebun

@goutetsuo I don't really care for Minecraft, but it's good to know that it's on PS now, as many, many people are purely obsessed with that game and now the platforms are on equal ground in terms of the game.

lulababy
lulababy

@OurSin-360 Just play it on your PC Titafall that is. And eventually it will come out on PS4 .Its only a time exclusive. 

I will play it on my  16 gig ram FX8350 4.6 GH and Nvidia 780 . Might even get another one for SLi... Dont need Xbox. Ps4 i will use for Sony and console specific games. There is convergence of mediums. And If I get another 780 than i can probably play it in 2560 x 1440 resolution.

And Star Citizen or Project Eternity is PC only so one has to have a good PC.

demonsouls13
demonsouls13

Then you have world record.Normally pc running fine 3 to 6 months:)

Warful
Warful

@Slade968 @Warful I've played it several times just to hear the speaker. His voice is just Legen-wait for it - DARY

awesomebun
awesomebun

@lulababy A fellow PC/PlayStation gamer is telling you to shut up about your specs, no matter how impressive.

R2C25
R2C25

@lulababy Titanfall will never land on PS4. Titanfall 2 might grace your orphan console but MS will never allow that. Remember ME1?

goutetsuo
goutetsuo

@lulababy @OurSin-360 windows live stops jan 1st read about it. Microsoft one step ahead of ya. =D

santinegrete
santinegrete

A lot of people care, but if they give Xbox One the finger and get Titanfall on a PC, I can understand that. If Titanfall really wowes people and critics it will find  a way to get on PS4 eventually. He'll they will even make it for PS4 not only based in expected sales, but also for the dev adaptating work in that hardware.

321FOX123
321FOX123

@R2C25@lulababy
you mean Mass Effect 1? all ME trilogy is available on ps3... anyway titanfall is just another fps - exclusive or not, who cares???