36 Interviews

Interview: Shuhei Yoshida on PS4's indie explosion

By Rob Crossley on Wednesday 21st Aug 2013 at 5:44 PM UTC

When Shuhei Yoshida took centre stage at Gamescom to demonstrate how the PS4 works from the player's perspective, the whole process was unusually genuine.

It's now obligatory for live demonstrations to come with a games developer who has committed all the stage directions to memory - they know exactly where to stand, where to look, what to do and when. It's always intensely hectic, impossibly perfect and inevitably explosive footage of games pretending to be films.

Shuhei Yoshida, SCE's president of Worldwide Studios

But when Yoshida fired up Killzone Shadowfall (complete with a - shock - genuine loading screen) he stumbled onto the battlefield, fired aimlessly into the air, and paused to take a screenshot of a tree. (That very image, by the way, was posted live on his Twitter feed).

This was a demonstration made perfect by showing its imperfections. It was confident, relaxed and authentic - which says a lot about Yoshida's confidence in his next generation system.

In an interview with CVG following the Gamescom press conference, we discuss the final stages of PS4, the future for indies, VR headsets and the outlook for Vita.

From a games line-up perspective, I think one of the biggest differences between Microsoft and Sony is that one system has triple-A exclusive games and the other has many indie titles. How would you evaluate the differences in those two approaches?

Sure, I don't think we purposefully decided we were going to release so many exclusive indie games on the PS4. I think we decided some time ago to support indie developers - it's just that the indie games ecosystem has taken off since then.

There were smaller digital games since the launch of the PS3, but nowadays there are so many that become huge hits. It's amazing how many talented people are now independent and make their own games.


Do you feel that is the future for the industry?

Yeah, absolutely. Because of the digital platform, and because everyone in the world can reach the same audience. That's pretty healthy. And these guys aren't interested in hiring PR agencies, or lawyers or sales reps! [Laughs] They want to focus on making great games, and that's really healthy.

It's very natural for us [the traditional industry] to be very conservative with the games we make, especially at larger studios. So we need these small guys to come up with something unique.

That's interesting, do you want Sony Worldwide Studios to make more of these smaller digital titles too?

Yeah, it's not necessarily the focus, but always it's healthy for our developers to try something new - especially the studio has a franchise. Some people work on the same franchise for six years, so it's good that our teams can unleash their creative talent. So we don't limit what the internal guys do, so they can start some smaller projects, but they tend to make big things.

At the Sony Gamescom press conference there was a renewed focus on Remote Play - which gives gamers the option to play their PS4s on their PS Vitas. What I haven't seen much of is that used for dual-screen gameplay - asynchronous gameplay. Is there still an interest in this?


Yeah, interested, but... we did dual-screen with LittleBigPlanet and it's kind of interesting, but you have to tell people when to watch the portable and watch the TV, but people don't have four eyes! So I think that's why we are focusing on Remote Play. I like playing console games in bed on Vita.

With regards to PS Vita, it has struggled to match the kind of sales Sony achieved with PSP. And considering the decline of the handheld market in general, I wonder if you think Vita will be Sony's final handheld? In the long-term, is this a business you feel you can still pursue?

Yeah I think we can still pursue it, and I don't think we have to make that decision now. Also, the distinction between the portables and mobile is [blurring], because there are all kinds of hybrids, different form factors and operating systems can still be conceived, in terms of how we characterise portable and mobile. We still like PS Vita and we know people who buy it really like it.

So, I'm going to have to ask The Obligatory Last Guardian Question.

Oh okay, so yeah we are still making it [laughs] - Ueda-san just Tweeted about Shadow of the Colossus HD on PS Plus. So we are still waiting for the right time to announce it. To re-announce it! [laughs]

Would it require a huge leap in imagination to suppose it's now a PS4 game?

So, we have decided not to discuss this yet.

So, we're a few months away from the release of the PS4, and you must be delighted by the response it's received.

Yeah so far, we are very excited and happy. But internally we have a lot of work to do. We are focused on getting everything done for launch before we have a chance to really take a look at what everyone's been saying. But I'm very excited by what people are saying.

The positive comments must help drive the teams.

Yes so the hardware and software teams are heads-down day and night, and because they have been looking at the same thing for a long time, they can't really get a feel for how it's going to be perceived. So when they hear the responses from fans, it's a huge morale boost.

"We are focused on getting everything done for launch before we have a chance to really take a look at what everyone's been saying."

With regards to the PS4 system, do you feel it is innovative enough to stimulate new ideas from developers and reach out to new people?

So, the system has to be good before we can talk about innovation. We looked at all the options in terms of technology, and all the potential devices to include in PS4, and we feel we've made a very good choice. It's really up to developers how they use the technology, and it's what they make from this technology that will make people say - wow, that is really innovative.

If you look at the PS4 and it's nearest rival, those two consoles are very similar, and I wonder if the industry is doing enough when it comes to the collective responsibility of growing the sector and reaching out to new people.

Yeah, usually just looking at the big titles, maybe we are just chasing the same people. Which is why the smaller developers are so important and will bring new ideas to the platform. I think we will see more great things come out in a few years that will again reach out to a broader market.

One innovation that a lot of people are talking about is Oculus Rift - I know you have tried it yourself.

Yes and I really like it.

I do wonder if that is a technology Sony is looking to pursue itself.

Y'know, we're Sony, so we have lots of different things and different ideas in R&D. When it come to researching things, we are doing a lot of things that we can't talk about.

finally, there's a substantial games line-up for PS3 this year. When it comes to Sony Worldwide Studios, is the shift entirely on PS4?

So, in terms of larger teams the shift is now on PS4, but we will continue to support PS3 in slightly different ways.