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Interview: PlayStation Europe CEO Jim Ryan

Key Sony executive on how Vita can become a profitable playground for other publishers

There was a sober message behind the razzmatazz of Sony's Gamescom press conference last week. Amid illuminating reveal trailers and on-stage demonstrations there was a confession that the industry has transformed dramatically and Sony needs to adapt.

PlayStation Europe chief executive Jim Ryan spoke on stage about the challenges that the industry faces, with potential customers spilling across numerous devices and platforms to engage with the content that's most appealing to them.

By the end of the press event there was a sense that Sony has shaken off the forced paralysis that the other platform holders engage in. Sony, or at least Sony Europe, understands that PS3 owners don't want to buy a second copy of their game for Vita. They don't want to sign up to PlayStation Plus if it doesn't benefit their expensive Sony handheld. They don't want a second-screen experience unless there's good content that comes with it.

PlayStation Vita was billed as a truly next generation handheld, yet many of its philosophies were stuck in the past. Before it was about driving a market; pushing products in the hope that people will bite. Today it's more about reacting to the market, noticing consumer habits and acclimatising fast.

We speak to Ryan about the potential, and drawbacks, of the changes happening to Vita.

CVG: Congratulations on the Gamescom press conference. There was a clear positive response to it.

Zoom
SCEE chief executive Jim Ryan

RYAN: Thanks, do appreciate that.

At the press conference was it your objective to pitch the PS Vita as a PS3 companion?
No I think the priority was to convey the range of great IP that's coming to the platform this Christmas, and I think we achieved that. It's not so much about considering the PS Vita as the 'little brother' of PS3, I mean we consider it a partnership of equals.

Obviously, if you have in excess of twenty million people in Europe that have a PS3, that's a pretty good place to start.

I did get the impression that you're now pitching PS Vita to PS3 owners specifically. That narrows your target market of course but gives you focus. Would that be fair to say?
I think we're trying to appeal to PS3 owners, but I don't see how that is essentially restrictive. The main emphasis for PS Vita at our Gamescom press conference was the focus on this big killer IP that will be on the platform.

But how can PS Vita appeal to the more casual audience? What does it have?
Well, the games we create for the PlayStation Mobile initiative are compatible with Vita and we see Vita as being one of the primary devices for that content. We have a lot of Vita network games that are lighter touch but are priced accordingly. So I think there's a reasonable amount of things now that will appeal to that side of the market.

I just wonder what's happened to the casual market. It feels like it has left the traditional games business.
Well we still have a significant PSP business in many markets, which is something that tends to be forgotten. But I think a certain amount of that market has found its way onto smartphones and tablets.

Which is why you've moved into that space with PlayStation Mobile?
Yeah you see commuters playing games on their smartphones and tablets, and these are not people you would normally consider to be gamers, so there is a great opportunity to be able to provide these people with a recognisable PlayStation experience.

And quality is going to be the priority with PlayStation Mobile, we are going to be fairly robust when vetting these games. Having a place where people can go, and where people know there will be quality, is going to be the big draw of the service.

The new Cross-Buy service essentially allows people to buy the licence of a single game and access it on either their PS3 or Vita.
Yeah, that's essentially it.

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