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Interviews

Sony's Andrew House Pt. 2

PlayStation's president on Vita, PS3's lifecycle and the future of Sony

In part one of our Japan launch PS Vita interview, the affable president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc, Andrew House, gave a full and frank account of Sony's 2011 tribulations.

In part two, the 46-year-old Welshman speaks about the importance of PS Vita to the company (read our PS Vita review) and the changes that his ultimate boss Sir Howard Stringer (a fellow Welshman) has made. He also reveals something of the man behind the job title.

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PS Vita launches in Europe on February 22.

How important are the social networking features of Vita, and what ratio of Wi-Fi to 3G versions of it are you expecting to sell?

I think the latter is one of the tougher questions to answer right now, because we have not, to date, launched a device in these configurations, with 3G and Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi only. So I hesitate to make a strong prediction. Speaking for the European market, I would say it would edge much more towards the Wi-Fi version.

But in Japan, in contrast, it seems to be leaning much more solidly towards the 3G model. Having moved to Japan in the last four months, from London and before that the States, I've been quite surprised by the degree to which Japan doesn't have the greatest access to wireless hot-spots.

In March 2011, Sony posted its second biggest-ever loss, but SCEI was profitable for the first time. Is there a sense that SCE is becoming the jewel in Sony's crown? Are we likely to see better figures next year?

The figures we've released obviously tell a story that this is an extremely tough economic climate. Layered on top of that we've had, as we were talking about earlier, some really significant unforeseen events, with production capacity being impacted most for some of our most profitable products. So we'll do our best to get through those bad times.

Yes, I'm pleased to say that SCE, in part because of the period of the PlayStation 3's life-cycle that we're entering now - is really starting to deliver on that promise. It now has an installed base north of 55 million units worldwide. And on a per-console basis, I'm pleased to say, we've seen higher hardware-to-software tie-ratios than we've seen on previous generations, and that has a direct impact on profitability.

It's not without its challenges. I think, along with almost all other Japan-based companies, there are significant challenges posed by currency movements, particularly with regard to the Euro, and we are doing our best to ride those out. There are good and positive expectations within the company and externally about SCE's continued ability to deliver profitability.

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Do you have contingency plans for the collapse of the Euro?

I think we will take the necessary steps to protect our business and do business in a rational way. Having run the European operation, we operate not just across Europe but in all the PAL TV system territories, so we have significant experience of running the business across multiple territories and multiple currencies. One hopes that we won't have to contemplate those issues, but we'll face them if they come.

With big dollar and pound markets, that probably helps.

Yes, it does, and there's a big yen market, which is a bright spot for us currently. The dollar versus the yen is much less of an issue. Having had much more experience at the company over the years with the dollar-yen impact, we've been able to take steps to increase dollar purchasing. We are, if not quite neutral, then a lot less affected by the yen versus dollar movements than we would have been, for example, when I started at the company.

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