TGS '07 Q&A: Sony's Phil Harrison

President of Sony Worldwide Studios talks up the new PSP, discusses the PS3 press furore, and ponders the future of the PlayStation brand.


TOKYO--On the fourth floor of Sony's Japanese offices in the posh district of Minato-ku, the PlayStation 3 maker held a party Wednesday night to show off 30 of the PS3's upcoming games to an audience of international journalists.

Phil Harrison, briefly not praising MotorStorm.
Phil Harrison, briefly not praising MotorStorm.

The company remained tight-lipped about what to expect in tomorrow's Sony Computer Entertainment keynote address, which starts at 10:30 a.m. Tokyo time on Thursday (2:30 a.m. BST Thursday, 6:30 p.m. PDT Wednesday). However, speculation is widespread that SCEI CEO Kaz Hirai will use his presentation to unveil a rumble-enabled Dual Shock 3 for the PS3, amongst other announcements.

At tonight's event, though, the atmosphere was informal. Informal enough, in fact, for GameSpot to corner Sony Worldwide Studios president and World's number one MotorStorm fan Phil Harrison over a cold drink. He politely discussed the constant comparisons of the PS3 and Wii, and how Sony plans to move on from the negative press the company has attracted over its latest console's bumpy ride at retail.

GameSpot UK: So can you talk to us about what's going to be announced during Kaz Hirai's keynote tomorrow?

Phil Harrison: No. And I wouldn't remember anyway. [Laughs.]

GS UK: We keep seeing stories from Japan about the Wii outselling the PlayStation 3 here 3-to-1 or 5-to-1 or whatever. Does that worry you?

PH: I'm not worried about it, no. Obviously I would like it to be the other way round, but it's not really fair to compare two products that serve different markets and are at different price points. So, it's not something that concerns me when you look around at a place like this and see the depth and quality of talent in games we've got coming through, so I'm pretty happy, actually.

GS UK: So you think it's unfair that people keep comparing the Wii and the PS3 when the Wii is so much cheaper?

PH: Yes. I don't know what the analogy is. If I make an analogy I'll probably make an unreasonable analogy, so I won't bother.

GS UK: Let's talk about the new PlayStation Portable. Why was this launched this summer?

PH: Constant improvement and innovation in design is what drives us, so why wouldn't we pass on to the gamer the advantages we can have in terms of making something smaller and lighter. In a handheld device, something that is smaller and lighter is a pretty highly regarded feature, and people seem to like it, so I think it's cool. Have you actually held one?

GS UK: Yes.

PH: People at E3 were going, "Is there anything in this? Is this just a mock-up or is this the final one?" Yep, it's the real one.

GS UK: Nintendo's strategy right now seems to be to widen the gaming audience and bring more widely appealing things to the market like educational games, and even non-game software. Any plans to do something similar?

PH: Since you are UK-based, you will know how influential games like EyeToy and SingStar and Buzz are, not just [to] the PlayStation 2 format, but growing the market generally cross-category. So, we're continuing to work on those for the PlayStation 2, we're bringing them all to PlayStation 3 in new, networked, innovative ways, which you saw at [the Leipzig] Games Convention with SingStar on the PlayStation 3 and Buzz! TV--which is going to be phenomenal with the ability of user-generated content for quizzes.

GS UK: I've been wondering about that. What if someone puts the wrong answer in?

PH: Then there will be a way to complain about that and rank it lower, which will then push it down in the recommendation engine to a lower ranking. It's all about the community. And I think there's going to be a button where you can actually challenge an answer.

GS UK: For the PS3, would you say it makes more sense to you to just focus on the hardcore gaming market?

PH: I think if you look back at the history of our platforms, they will all follow very similar trends where your initial audience is very different to the audience you have buying into the console seven, eight, or nine years later. So, we try to make software which is slightly ahead of that trend, software that enables younger users or new users to come in. I think what characterises PlayStation 3 is there's actually more variety and [a] more diverse genre mix that's available on the PS3 earlier in the life cycle than we saw on PS2 or PSone. So I think we're pushing into new areas more quickly than we've done before.

GS UK: Peripherals seem to be increasingly important. Have you guys got any plans to make any innovative new peripherals for the PS3?

PH: We have a research and development group that looks at new human interface designs as part of our core group, so there's a few interesting things that are lying around--literally--but there's a lot of innovation that doesn't ever make it to retail shelves, because of either creative or commercial or other considerations, so we'll continue to invest in that, and hopefully something along the lines of Buzz! or Eye Toy will come along. But I have nothing to share with you today.

GS UK: There seem to have been quite a lot of negative PS3 stories and criticism of Sony in general in the media. How do you intend to get past this?

PH: I think you're surrounded by the answer to that question, which is a tremendous lineup of really great games. We'll let the games do the talking.

GS UK: Thanks for your time, and enjoy the party.

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