post #21 of 31
7/17/08 at 1:39pm
E3 2008: Sony Says 'Stand By For Tokyo Game Show'
VP Scott Rohde discusses the FFXIII shocker, Sony's product strategy, and more.
By Philip Kollar, 07/17/2008
E3 2008 -- the game industry's biggest convention (arguably) -- is happening all this week! Check out E3.1UP.COM for news, previews, podcasts, videos, blogs, and more direct from the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Whether you thought its press conference was the best of the bunch or were bored to tears by it, you'd be hard-pressed to deny that E3 week has been big for Sony in several ways. Among announcing a handful of new titles, showcasing several eagerly awaited ones, and losing one of their biggest third-party exclusives, the list of upcoming game releases for Sony is more important than ever. I had a chance to speak to Sony Vice President of Product Development Scott Rohde about the company's E3 showing alongside Sony PR manager Ron Eagle on Wednesday afternoon.
1UP: What are your feelings, and Sony's feelings in general, after the Tuesday's press conferences? Has the reaction from fans been what you wanted?
Scott Rohde: I think the reaction has been even better than we expected. Everyone's been very, very happy. We went in announcing that this was the year of the PlayStation, and we showed tons of breadth and depth. We showed a bunch of new titles and everything.
1UP: Among the announcements yesterday, you have Resistance becoming a Greatest Hits title, the Resistance 2 trailer and gameplay footage -- which I thought was astonishing, by the way -- and then the PSP Resistance spin-off, so clearly, Sony is pushing Resistance as its next huge franchise. What makes you guys feel that Resistance is a franchise that's worth getting this much attention and this many new products? SR: First of all, it goes without saying that Insomniac is just a supersolid developer. They create triple-A products all the time. We debuted Resistance 2 yesterday. You were at the press conference, I assume, so you saw the scale of the enemies in there. It's just completely coming together as this gigantic, epic story. We're just very excited about that product.
1UP: Do you think there's going to be room to continue spinning the Resistance franchise off into other products in the future? Does Insomniac have plans to end the story at some point, or do you think the studio will be able to keep it going?
SR: I'm not going to comment on specifics, but we're always looking for opportunities to expand our franchises.
1UP: If you add in the Ratchet and Clank downloadable content that you announced, which also looks really cool, and the Ratchet PSP bundle, Insomniac comes out as a really big player at the press conference. It had a lot of its products on show, or at least a lot of stuff related to their franchises. Does it worry you at all that you're so reliant on a developer that you don't own?
SR: No, it doesn't worry us at all. We have a good relationship with those guys. They've been working with us here at Sony for a long time. I just had dinner with Insomniac CEO Ted Price the other night. It's a good relationship. They build good products, and they liking working with Sony. We're not worried.
1UP: Does Insomniac own the Resistance IP, or does Sony?
SR: I'm not going to comment on that.
1UP: One of the things that appeared to be different between the Sony and Microsoft press conferences was Microsoft's focus on a lot of third-party games. A lot of the third-party stuff that you did show was relegated to montage videos rather than its own spotlight. Is there a specific reasoning behind that? Did you want to focus on first-party titles to show that you have a strong first-party? Is Sony still pushing for third-party exclusives very much?
SR: Part of the strength of Sony's structure is that our worldwide studios organization is huge. We have tons of gigantic worldwide developers, so we have tons of products. That's why Jack Tretton was able to stand there and say we have more exclusives than anybody else, because it's absolutely true. We're building a lot of them ourselves. So, of course, in this press conference we want to push our own homegrown titles, like LittleBigPlanet and Resistance 2.
1UP: About the LittleBigPlanet thing, I've got to say -- from the standpoint of someone who had to watch both press conferences, the LittleBigPlanet thing was so much more interesting than the PowerPoint with numbers that Nintendo President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime did.
SR: [Laughs] It was brilliant. I think it was one of the first times everyone had to stop checking their BlackBerrys during that part of the press conference, because it was totally interesting.
1UP: I was live-blogging both press conferences, and during Nintendo's, when Reggie was giving numbers, I wrote a lot of the numbers because, otherwise, I wasn't sure how I would stay awake. During Sony's, I wasn't actually writing that many of the specific numbers because I wanted to watch it and just enjoy it. It was a lot of fun.
SR: We actually all joked about it internally. Will we have to do all our internal presentations and PowerPoints using LittleBigPlanet now?
1UP: Back to the Ratchet and Clank DLC -- like I said, I'm excited for that. I think it's a really cool idea. Will you need a copy of Ratchet and Clank: Future -- Tools of Destruction to play it?
SR: No, not at all. It can stand by itself. The whole idea behind Quest for Booty is that for those who already love the franchise and already own Tools of Destruction, why not go buy a little extension? But for those who aren't familiar with the franchise, this is a really inexpensive way to get a quick taste. We're pretty confident that they'll be hooked, too.
1UP: Will there be any bonuses in Quest for Booty for people who do have the full game?
SR: I'm not sure of that off-hand. You'd have to ask the production staff.
Ron Eagle: I'm sure if there is, they need a little time to build the rest of the schedule for when they'll be announcing stuff.
SR: But to stick to Quest for Booty for a minute -- I think that title specifically shows the strength of the PlayStation Network. It's not just tiny little games like you might see on competitive services. We're really focused on offering something that's totally exclusive, and these are real, full dev teams making these games. This is premium content on the PSN. We're very excited about it.
1UP: Tretton said at the press conference that it's likely that other Sony franchises will get similar PSN spin-offs -- more downloadable content add-ons that maybe aren't full games but act as sort of mini-adventures. Are there any franchises that you'd specifically like to see extended in this way? Not necessarily anything that you're confirming is in development, but just stuff that you'd like to see?
SR: Again, I'm not going to give any specifics, but the bottom line is that we're going to explore everything. Why not? The PlayStation Network is a very important part of our business. We want to make sure that it's fresh content there all the time. Let's take a title like Pain, for example. I know it was born on the PSN, but it will almost be more content than the original release when we announce the Amusement Park add-on this summer. It just shows our dedication to sticking to the franchises that are on there but also looking at our whole lineup and seeing what opportunities are out there.
1UP: Just to throw it out there, I would really love to see an Uncharted mini-adventure, or maybe that could be the place where Jak and Daxter finally comes to the PlayStation 3. These are just ideas that I'm interested in.
SR: We're exploring everything. [To Ron] We'll have to invite him to our product-portfolio planning meeting.
1UP: I would love that.
RE: That would be a pretty heavy NDA [nondisclosure agreement] he'd have to sign. [Laughs]
1UP: The new PlayStation 2 and PSP pack-ins that Sony announced were both described as family-focused, family-friendly products. Is there any reason that you want to shift these two products to a family focus at this point?
SR: For PS2, that's the stage of its lifecycle that it's in. As you saw in the press conference, we're also going to be really pushing the PS2 into Latin America. That machine has the most amazing set of legs on it. It continues to sell, and that's the demographic that's buying the PS2 right now. A lot of these families are buying a console for the first time, and our marketing guys have done a great job of putting together a bundle that will appeal to their needs.
And for PSP, we're in an expansion period still, where we're trying to grow from not just the hardcore guys. We want to see who else out there really wants to play. Is it families? We don't think it's just our hardcore guys. We think it's going to expand.
1UP: Will we see more games coming out for the PSP that reflect this attitude? I think a lot of the PSP's catalog is better suited to hardcore gamers, and while I appreciate that, it might not appeal to the family quite as much. I guess you announced Buzz! for the PSP....
SR: That's what I was going to hit on as the first example of that. We're going to start exploring that area on the PSP as well. But of course, we're always going to keep pleasing our hardcore fans, our bread and butter, with games like Resistance: Retribution.
RE: LocoRoco 2 should make families happy as well.
1UP: Yeah, I suppose. I didn't think of that. I think of LocoRoco 2 as a hardcore game, but....
RE: I've got an 8-year-old that's just now getting dexterous to the point where she can handle a controller, and she loves LocoRoco.
1UP: LocoRoco is one of those games that seem to somehow magically appeal to both the hardcore and the casual gamers. I don't think it gets enough credit for that, but somehow it pulls it off.
SR: In fact, anecdotally as well, a friend of mine has a 4-year-old that played the first LocoRoco start to finish. It blew my mind. It was the first game he had ever played from start to finish. He just got it. So I forgot about LocoRoco 2 and also Patapon 2.
1UP: Patch 2.41 for the PlayStation 3 is a major update for the system and brought some awesome upgrades to it. One of those upgrades was the in-game Cross Media Bar. Now that we have that and can access it at any point, why should we care about Home? Why should we still be excited by Home?
SR: Home is a totally different experience than what you can do in-game with the XMB. We're really proud of the fact that our system is constantly evolving, and both the XMB patches and what we're planning for Home are part of that big strategy. With Home, we're trying to figure out how we can give the community something they've never experienced before. It's a totally different experience than what you see on the XMB. XMB's a menu, and Home is an experience.
1UP: In the press conference, you briefly showed off a couple of examples of some of the game-specific areas in Home. Will we be seeing more of those before the service goes into public beta or launches?
SR: Once again, we're always exploring opportunities for every single game. Let me talk about some of the specifics. I'm not sure if you had a chance to go check out the Warhawk one, for example.
1UP: No, I haven't yet.
SR: The idea behind it is -- you could barely see it in the press-conference video, but it's a sandbox area. Groups of people who want to hook up and play in the game can strategize a bit, move pieces around the sandbox, say, "Hey, I want to go around this building, and you guys flank me on the left." Whatever the story is, right? Then they can launch from that right into the game. It's not just another advertisement for the game inside of Home. It's a new interactive space that is attached to the game.
1UP: Rather than opening up Home, walking over to that area, and getting your friends to meet you there, can you launch right into that area of Home?
SR: I'm not going to give a ton of details, but I know that there are plans for hot jumps within menus to jump from area to area.
1UP: One of the other things that you showed off at the press conference was a lot of footage from Gran Turismo TV. What surprised me, though, was that you didn't show any gameplay add-ons for Gran Turismo 5: Prologue. Can gamers still expect new gameplay additions for that?
SR: Ron's actually your Gran Turismo man, so I'm going to let him answer that.
RE: Yes, they've got downloadable-content plans beyond GTTV. And of course, we're also in production on the full version of GT5. What GTTV was really about was additional feature sets. We're looking at a gamer's overall experience in GT5: Prologue and building on the infrastructure that's already there. Some of the updates that I know about that we're planning have tweaks to leaderboards and game matching -- some of the stuff that isn't sexy but makes the gameplay experience better. But GTTV is significant in the sense that if you are a big automotive fan, a lot of the content that we're putting in there is very difficult for somebody to get. To find the best motoring DVDs, for example, you have to import them, and they're quite expensive. We're actually allowing you to pick an episode [and] download that content directly into the game. We've already captured that audience. They're automotive fans, and that's why they bought Gran Turismo 5: Prologue to begin with. It makes sense to house that content in there.
1UP: Yeah, although the GTTV content specifically doesn't appeal to me, it's cool to see something being built around a game that appeals to the culture of the game's fans. Will Sony explore similar possibilities in other games? Is there a culture around other types of games that you could exploit in a similar way? I'm not sure what kind of extras you'd build for hardcore fans of Resistance, for instance....
SR: Again, I'm going to give you that default answer that I know you hate for me to repeat over and over, but we're always going to explore those options. A driving game kind of lends itself to this because there's so much content out there that you can't get easily in the U.S. Of course we'll explore it, but we have to find the right product to do it with.
RE: It's an interesting question. It makes sense. Somebody has to be the pioneer, to step out there and make it happen. It may be hard or it may be easy to find a way to fit that kind of content into Resistance, but what I was thinking about when you said that is the historical aspect of some games. The plotlines and stories of our games are getting so deep now that it may be interesting to tie some of the historical references and real inspirations into the game.
1UP: Looking at the PS3 and the Xbox 360 as well, consoles are turning from videogame machines into all-around media machines. So if you look at videogames as becoming this more all-around media experience, GTTV could almost be a pioneer in that field. It makes me wonder what else could be done with other types of games in other genres, and what could end up expanding from that. It's interesting to think about.
SR: Absolutely. And I think the beauty of a company like Sony is that we've always hung our hat on allowing developers to be innovative and try new things. New business models, new ways to get content to users -- GTTV is a perfect example of that. It's a great idea to start exploring that kind of thing.
1UP: You had mentioned that Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty shows how Sony is exploring unique games for the PlayStation Network compared to the competition. One thing that you've also been doing on the PSN, though, is rereleasing original PlayStation games. I'm a fan of that. I like having an archive of older games to go back to, and I love having them available as downloads. But in the U.S., PS1 games have been coming a lot slower than in Japan. Is there any reason for that? Will we be getting a lot more at some point?
SR: We're always looking at our back catalog, and if consumers are asking for specific titles, we're going to take a look at them. There's no specific reason releases have been slower.
1UP: I was with 1UP Editorial Director Sam Kennedy at the Sony press conference, and he had one question after it ended: Where's Wipeout HD?
SR: I'm not sure I know how to answer that right now. There are still some decisions being made on that particular product for the U.S.
1UP: I was also sitting next to 1UP executive editor Matt Leone. I don't know if you guys are familiar with Leone, but he's a huge God of War fan. I asked him what he thought about the teaser, and his only response was, "It was kind of short."
SR: [Laughs] That's why it's called a teaser.
1UP: I suppose so! Was there any reason why you chose not to show gameplay at this point? Was it just not ready yet?
SR: It's all having fun with you guys. We just wanted to let you guys know that Kratos is coming. We'll continue to keep you guys updated, though.
1UP: I have to ask about it. You knew it had to come up. Final Fantasy XIII on the Xbox 360 was Microsoft's big announcement at its press conference. Speaking as someone who bought a PlayStation 3 shortly after its release, one of the ways I justified the purchase to myself and to my girlfriend was by saying, "Listen, it's the only place I'll be able to get Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy XIII."
SR: [Laughs] And now your girlfriend's calling you a liar?
1UP: I haven't told her yet. I hope she doesn't read this interview. But for someone who might not have purchased a PS3 yet but is planning to, and Final Fantasy XIII is one of the primary reasons, you no longer have that pushing them toward the PS3 now. Does Sony have anything in the works that might appeal to Japanese role-playing-game fans specifically?
SR: We have a long-term strategy that we follow. I know you hate to continue to hear me say it, but we're always looking at opportunities. Do we have an RPG in the works right now? No. Are we always looking at that opportunity? Absolutely. To get to the root of your question, are we concerned about the fact that Final Fantasy XIII is not only on PS3? No. That's why we always have a long-term strategy that we're working on. Jack made that very clear in the press conference.
1UP: You're not too upset about the announcement? You don't think it's very pressing?
RE: Again, you've got 23 exclusives already on the PS3 from a first-party perspective. If Microsoft wants to back up the dump truck full of money, there's not a whole lot that can be done there. Certainly, Final Fantasy XIII is still coming on PS3, so it's not like it's not on your system anymore. It's being developed first for the PS3, so your experience is probably going to be better on the PS3 than it will be on the 360. I haven't seen it or played it; [this is] just based on what I've been told. It's definitely a win for the 360 owner, and Microsoft should be applauded for that, but it's not a loss for us. It's not like the title is not coming out on the PlayStation 3. It is.
I'd also stand by for Tokyo Game Show. There are still other products that need time to incubate before they're announced.
1UP: Is there anything you want to leave Sony fans with so they know what they should be excited about for the future? SR: The big story of E3 for us is a lot of fall releases. LittleBigPlanet is coming, which I think the world should be really excited about. We've got Resistance 2. We've got MotorStorm: Pacific Rift. We've got NBA 09: The Inside. There's a lot of stuff coming. When you start talking about the future, the little teaser we showed on God of War 3, the MAG announcement -- these are products that we're very excited about. To drive home Jack's message, this is the year of the PlayStation, and from my perspective, it's just the tip of the iceberg. Momentum is really starting to slide in our direction.
|Prototype: NOTHING! The game that was supposed to come out this year gets nothing at E3? WTF?
|Sometimes prototypes don't work quite as well as envisioned. Sometimes they just need a bit more work before they're ready for production.
A representative with Sierra Entertainment today confirmed that to be the case with the company's upcoming open-world action game Prototype. Originally set for release on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC this fall, the game has been bumped to a nonspecific 2009 release date.
"Since its announcement, Prototype has been regarded by many as groundbreaking and taking the open-world genre in new directions, and in the simplest explanation possible, we need more time to deliver the game the team initially set out to create," the representative said.
Developed by Radical Entertainment (the studio behind The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Scarface: The World is Yours), Prototype casts players as a genetically altered shape-shifter tearing a path of destruction through New York City. Along the way, gamers try to discover who they are and what's behind their mutations, all while fighting off an assortment of military and mutant adversaries