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LOS ANGELES — Scott Rohde and the rest of the team at Sony’s PlayStation business are riding high in the wake of a successful press briefing in a duel with Microsoft at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The Japanese company struck two blows against Microsoft when it undercut its rival’s new home console price by $100, pricing the Sony PlayStation 4 at $399 compared to Microsoft’s $499. And Sony drew cheers when it said it would allow consumers to purchase used games with fees.
The dust is settling on those announcements, and Sony’s position isn’t so far apart from Microsoft’s. But it’s clear that Sony out-marketed Microsoft, targeting gamers, consumer rights issues, and indie game developers with its message.
At various times over the last decade, Sony has been called arrogant, clueless, and brilliant. On Monday night, it was riding so high that it had to refrain from declaring victory in a console war that hadn’t yet started. To talk about the reaction to the press conference, we caught up with Scott Rohde, PlayStation software product development head for Sony Worldwide Studios America.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: It seems like sometimes there’s an advantage in going second with a press briefing at E3, but you guys probably had a game plan for a while.
Scott Rohde: Absolutely. Everything that you saw [Monday] night had been in place for a long time. It’s not reactionary. It’s just a matter of forming our plan and executing on it.
GamesBeat: Some have pointed out a couple of things that clarify what Sony announced. They noted that Sony exec Jack Tretton said Tuesday that game publishers are still able to make their own decisions about whether to charge fees for used games. Others pointed out that Sony now has a subscription fee in place if you want to play multiplayer on PS4. On top of these, I think they pointed out that the PS4 lacks a camera, so it’s natural to price your console lower than the competition. Can you speak to these points?
Rohde: Let me comment on the last one. The strategy to not include the camera in the box is more about offering consumers that choice. Sure, they can buy it, pay the $59, but that was a conscious decision to give value to the consumer. We wanted to bring the machine in at $399. That was our goal. Those other topics, as you might imagine, over the course of the day they’ve been kind of beaten to death. But I will say that the policies that we’ve laid out very clearly at the show are very fair policies.
GamesBeat: The hardware had a couple of hiccups when it was running. The frame rate slowed down during Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. I think I noticed similar issues with Watch Dogs and Destiny as well. Was there a common problem that would explain the issues? Some speculated that there was a hardware problem.
Rohde: We haven’t talked about that at all, but—it could be any number of things, quite frankly. All I know is that sitting in the rehearsals all weekend, it never happened. It’s software in development that is running through a very complicated video streaming setup in that room, with all sorts of different possible explanations. But it’s not anything that we’ll worry about.
GamesBeat: Microsoft has brought up again the idea of cloud processing. I haven’t heard much about that on the Sony side. Do you think about that in the same way as Microsoft has?
Rohde: We’re not talking about the type of cloud processing that they’re talking about. We’re concentrating on what cloud servers can mean to us regarding Gaikai and getting our content on all sorts of different devices over time. That’s our goal. It’s going to start in early 2014.
GamesBeat: It sounds like the point of view may just be different on some things. Microsoft has the three operating systems and the cloud processing. It seems to want to be able to instantly switch between things.
Rohde: It’s just a matter of strategy there. We’re very confident in the power of the PlayStation 4 as a box. We could look into that type of technology, but again, Gaikai is a big part of our company. That sort of thing is certainly something that we could explore, but it’s not something that’s in our plans right now.
GamesBeat: Were there any particularly interesting reactions you guys heard, whether to the whole presentation or those two big points where you drew cheers?
Rohde: It’s fascinating. You’ve been to so many of these shows, just like I’ve been. Those are some of the biggest cheers I’ve ever heard at an E3, when Kaz [Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai] started out with the policy. And of course, the price at the end was just a big exclamation point.
We’re very proud that, after a long three or four years of work, we can get PlayStation 4 out the door. It’s a powerful machine at a great price. We’re proud of the engineering team that pulled it together. They made it possible to announce it at a price point that’s $100 cheaper than the competition. That cheer just kind of said it all at the end.
GamesBeat: I think you might get a bigger cheer if you show up with The Last Guardian one of these days.
Rohde: [Laughs] That’s been a running joke all day long. It wouldn’t be an E3 if I wasn’t fielding questions about that. All I can say is that it’s still alive. That’s all I’m going to say.
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