This is part of our ongoing series about games and trends of the upcoming next generation.
Sony Computer Entertainment executives like to say that they don’t really care about or react to the competition — I’ve heard it more than a few times behind the scenes. But we’ve all seen evidence to the contrary. Take this past June’s E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo game industry trade show. On stage at its own press conference, Sony announced its stance (at the time) on used games for the upcoming PlayStation 4 console to the delight of the crowd. It was clearly a shot at Microsoft’s perceived draconian policies on the Xbox One — but that’s perfectly OK. To think that Sony would do its business in a hermetically sealed bubble is just unrealistic, no matter what its representatives say publicly.
This week, the company ran an extravagant two-day press event in New York City to promote the Nov. 15 launch of the PS4. There I had a chance to interview Adam Boyes, the vice president of publisher and developer relations for Sony Computer Entertainment America. I wanted to avoid the standard, cookie-cutter set of launch-week questions — questions that Boyes admitted he had been hearing plenty of from other members of the press. So I decided to press on something Sony is traditionally uncomfortable with tackling: its competition. Not necessarily as an excuse to bring up mobile gaming, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Steam as direct competitors but to see how the PlayStation 4 fits into the modern gaming marketplace.
More than once, Boyes’ PR handler gave me a concerned look about my line of queries, but honestly, they’re not supertough or inappropriate questions, and Boyes handled them like a pro anyway.
Maybe Sony execs are comfortable with this stuff after all.
Adam Boyes: I love that, in [PlayStation 4’s] launch week, we’re talking about console death. [Laughs]
GamesBeat: What are your thoughts? How does the PlayStation 4 fit into this new age?
Boyes: Mobile has made a massive impact on the gaming industry in general. It’s broadened gaming content to more people than ever before. More people now think about a game than in the history of time. That’s great for everyone.
The way I like to often compare it: I think mobile does a great job of making snackable content: stuff that you’re going to fire up here and there … smaller, bite-sized stuff. But people will always want that big, huge experience. If we compare it to snacking, people want to sit down for that nice 12-course meal and have some appetizers and a nice wine and all. That’s the way we think about the PlayStation 4. It’s the place that delivers that big, huge, amazing, impactful content.
As all these seeds have been planted around the world with these mobile gamers, if we see an evolution of content for mobile — version one to version two to version three and getting more immense — I think that is going to grow gamers into wanting that big, huge meal-sized experience that PS4 delivers.
I do think, though, because of the amount of content, it becomes challenging to get noticed on mobile. That’s another thing we’ve focused on with PS4: bringing more discoverability to games and content.
GamesBeat: How is it different? The PlayStation Network store has a lot of digital games, including triple-A products. How are you going to solve that discoverability problem?
Boyes: The stores — any way you slice it, there’s always going to be finite shelf space. From a functionality perspective … the social elements — when you go to the What’s New tab on the PS4, you see all the stuff your friends are playing. If they’re live streaming, it’s right there. If they uploaded a video, it’s right there.
When I’m playing on a mobile phone, I don’t know what my friends are doing. I don’t really care. I’m doing my own little thing, usually secretly, because I don’t want them to know how far I am in Candy Crush Saga. [Laughs]
But [PS4] really broadens that exposure. My brother isn’t much of a hardcore gamer, right? He buys about three games a year. When he sees me playing games, he’s like, “Oh, just my brother playing another crazy game. I don’t know what it is.” Now, though, he’s going to be able to tap in when I’m streaming and watch it live and be able to go straight to the storefront and purchase it.
When I look at top 10 charts, I don’t base a purchase solely on that. I usually look at Twitter. What games are people talking about? Once I see four, five people talking about something, that’s when I buy it.
Also, I think, outside, it’s not just about the PS4. When you have the PlayStation companion app [for tablets and smartphones], you’re going to be able to look at all of these videos and content from wherever you are and purchase stuff remotely. It wakes up your PS4 and starts downloading remotely. When you’re streaming on Twitch, and people are on their PC browser, they see this game, and they have the ability to go and buy it.
Just creating all that awareness — that’s the big thing that’s been lacking. There’s been no pathway to actually engage. That’s a really important thing that we’ve focused on trying to solve.