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PlayStation Chief Jack Tretton: How To Sell Vita, Navigate Clouds, And Debut The PS4

onQ123

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Forbes - PlayStation Chief Jack Tretton: How To Sell Vita, Navigate Clouds, And Debut The PS4


Jack Tretton is the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, a subsidiary of Sony responsible for the company’s PlayStation brand in North America. He’s a video game industry veteran, at SCEA since its 1995 inception, and before that at game publishers including JVC Musical Industries and Activision.

I spoke to Tretton earlier this month at E3, the game business’ biggest annual trade show. The following excerpts from that conversation are edited for length and clarity.

David Ewalt: The three console makers had very different keynotes at this year’s E3. Nintendo showed off their next console, Microsoft was all about the Kinect peripheral, and Sony focused on the Vita handheld, due for release later this year. What do you make of such different strategies?

Jack Tretton: I think more than ever, this generation of consoles has more product differentiation, and companies have staked out their own ground. I’ve always felt that the classic Nintendo franchise was a more casual, young audience, Microsoft was more the shooter audience, and we were always the masses. But I think we were all interested in the same things. But you mentioned Vita, and that’s clearly our message in the portable space. The big message in the console space was our exclusive big blockbuster titles. And then there’s the 3D and [PlayStation] Move.

It’s a very healthy industry, there’s room for everybody. We’re going after a lot of the same things, but I think consumers get the product differentiation. They kind of gravitate to one brand or another, depending on what their tastes are.

It’s interesting that you set the industry up in those terms, Wii for entry level gamers, Xbox as hardcore, and PlayStation in the middle, serving both.

I think the opportunity is that we can speak to a very diverse audience across an entire worldwide plane. The challenge is that it’s difficult to focus your messaging, and you have to go out and deliver multiple messages to multiple audiences.

I think one of the best examples of the way we approach gaming would be something like a Killzone 3, which is a classic shooter. You get an audience that says, ‘Well, I’m not interested in a shooter.’ And you say ‘Wait, have you tried a shooter using motion control?… have you tried it in 3D?’

The good news is that’s the same $59.99 game, and we can sell it to a very wide range of consumers; not just the shooter fan, not just the 3D fan, not just the motion gaming fan. I think it allows us to play to a much wider audience. And where that really seems to bear out is when you look at things on a worldwide basis. We compete extremely well across the entire worldwide audience, where competing devices tend to run into roadblocks in certain genres or in certain markets, where their message just doesn’t play well.

Is that where the Vita fits in, because it can be marketed as a game device or a media player?


The PlayStation Vita
What we felt we had done with the original PlayStation portable was create a gaming device that is multimedia and not just gaming, which was very evolutionary back then. And also, tried to deliver that console deep, more sophisticated experience in a portable device.

But this is the first time, not only in terms of graphic quality and depth of game play, but also in terms of things like duel analog sticks that you’re used to from the console experience with the added features that you see typically in more of a portable space, like the front and back touch or the two cameras and the built-in gyroscope, and all the social communication features.

You’d like to have the Vita to appeal to entry level gamers, but is a $250 price tag too high, or is the device intimidating?

I think that is the line you walk. It’s sophisticated, so it’s going to appeal to gamers, but because it’s sophisticated, the point of entry might be more difficult. When we approach any platform launch, it’s in stages. We want to go after the core gamer, the person that’s the uber user, that’s really going to intuitively know what they want when they first pick it up. And the key will be whether we can scale to a very casual entry level consumer. I’d like both of you, but if I had to get one, I’d rather get the gamer, because the mom may not buy the same amount of games.

I think we have made a lot of inroads there with the PlayStation 3, with the ‘It Only Does Everything’ message, and the fact that people can appreciate this is for the whole family. Even if mom doesn’t think she’s ever going to play a game, she can justify the purchase to download her photos or videos or watch Netflix. Once the machine’s in the home, it’s the Trojan Horse. We’ve got a much better chance to get your mom to pick it up if she owns it than if she hasn’t.

And that’s kind of the way I look at the whole advent of casual and social gaming. People are always asking ‘Do you see it as a threat?’ I see it as an opportunity, because your mother may have said ten years ago, ‘I wouldn’t touch a game for all the money in the world,’ but now she may be playing something on a smartphone. There’s a much better chance to introduce her to Vita today than five years ago.

Will you market the Vita as an entertainment device, something for non-gamers to watch movies on?

The fact that it’s PlayStation, and PlayStation is synonymous with gaming, says that we’ll always lead with the gaming message. We will quickly try to enunciate the multimedia features of the device and make it accessible to more people. But I think if we were going to go out and try to market this as an entertainment device from Sony, we probably wouldn’t use the PlayStation name.

Gaming is our core strength and we’re going to play to our core. But I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons from the PSP in terms of mass non-gaming audiences, and we’re going to try to tap into some of that with Vita.

But increasingly, portable game devices like the Vita do the same things as multi-function handhelds running Apple iOS or Google Android. Don’t you have to compete against those products?

The key is to make make sure everybody takes the Vita with them before they leave the house. You can’t take everything you own when you leave your house. When you walk out the door, you say ‘I gotta have this, I gotta have that’… it’s wallet, car keys, money, and phone, right? e want, if you’re thinking about entertainment at all, for the Vita to go in there.

I think that the ability to do things that other devices can do will be a reason to make sure you own a Vita, and maybe why you leave the other devices at home. I’ve certainly gotten that way, I don’t carry a laptop anymore. Something like a Blackberry’s perfect for the vast majority of what I need a laptop for. And then I think when it comes to entertainment, you’ll find that Vita will do everything, and maybe do things better, than any other device that you’re using.

The Vita will have access to cloud computing services, so you can upload your progress in a game and pick up where you left off on another device. Are cloud services just a feature, or is all game content moving online? Will future consoles rely on the cloud?

I think it’s a feature. The thing we like to do is give consumers flexibility. Watching video content on the PS3 is a perfect example of that. There’s a lot of conversation about people migrating from DVD to Blu-Ray, whether consumers will stay disc-based, or whether they’re going to stream movie content. We don’t need to bet on one, because we’re able to play in all those camps.

I think we’ve done the same thing as it relates to gaming. Large form disc-based gaming, small form digital gaming, stored on the Cloud, stored on resident memory or on a memory stick –all of the above. The more flexible you are, the wider net you can cast.

When will you start talking about PlayStation 4?

PlayStation 3 is really just hitting its stride. And technologically, I don’t think it’s possible to provide any advancement beyond what we have. What we’ve seen from the competition is trying to add features that already exist in PlayStation 3. We invested heavily in that, we rolled a very heavy rock up a steep hill, through the launch period. But now I think that all pays off, and we’ve got a long run way behind it. So, I wouldn’t look for any discussion of a next generation PlayStation for quite some time.

I think there’s ground to be carved out for everybody. But I didn’t see anything about Nintendo’s announcement that said ‘Oh, we’d better get working on rolling out a new PlayStation here pretty soon.’

Our attitude is kind of ‘welcome to the party.’ If you’re looking at being a multimedia entertainment device, if you’re looking at high def gaming, that was 2006 for us.

Is the PlayStation 2 sticking around for a while?

Yeah, sure is. we’re going to sell another six million this year.
 

The Lamp

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lol @ Tretton's comments about the Nintendo franchise. Fair enough, I suppose that's his opinion and his right to believe it. But I'd say (almost to my disadvantage lol) Nintendo's core franchises have become more for the "masses" than anything Sony or Microsoft does. I can get my 50+ year old mother to play New Super Mario Bros. Wii, as well as enjoying it myself, as well as having my 8-year-old cousin play it. I can't say the same for any game by Sony or Microsoft.

Even the Microsoft comment was a bit unfair, though I suppose that IS the console lots of (dare I say it?) "dudebros" shooter fans flock to.
 

thegriefer

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I liked the comment at the end.

"Is the PlayStation 2 sticking around for a while?"

"Yeah, sure is. we’re going to sell another six million this year."

haha so true
 

offshore

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May 26, 2009
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"just hitting its stride"

I wish Tretton would stop saying this. The PS3 was "hitting its stride" at E3 in 09, 10 and 11 according to him. How can you be hitting your stride for three years in a row?

"And technologically, I don’t think it’s possible to provide any advancement beyond what we have. "

Okay, he's just trolling everyone.
 

Plinko

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So either he's lying or Sony's next console isn't hitting for a few years.

I have a feeling that with Vita's (what I believe to be) massive success they won't need to push it out for a while.
 

Erebus

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When will you start talking about PlayStation 4?

PlayStation 3 is really just hitting its stride. And technologically, I don’t think it’s possible to provide any advancement beyond what we have. What we’ve seen from the competition is trying to add features that already exist in PlayStation 3. We invested heavily in that, we rolled a very heavy rock up a steep hill, through the launch period. But now I think that all pays off, and we’ve got a long run way behind it. So, I wouldn’t look for any discussion of a next generation PlayStation for quite some time.

I think there’s ground to be carved out for everybody. But I didn’t see anything about Nintendo’s announcement that said ‘Oh, we’d better get working on rolling out a new PlayStation here pretty soon.’

Our attitude is kind of ‘welcome to the party.’ If you’re looking at being a multimedia entertainment device, if you’re looking at high def gaming, that was 2006 for us.
Ouch.
 

bjaelke

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Plinko said:
So either he's lying or Sony's next console isn't hitting for a few years.

I have a feeling that with Vita's (what I believe to be) massive success they won't need to push it out for a while.
10 year cycle
 

The Lamp

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bjaelke said:
10 year cycle

Isn't PS2 still selling? Wasn't PS3 released 6 years after the PS2 anyway?

Not sure if 10-year-cycle means "No new console until 2016".

I’d like both of you, but if I had to get one, I’d rather get the gamer, because the mom may not buy the same amount of games.

This statement resonates with me for some reason. It makes me feel trusted, respected, and special :eek:
 

Vic

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"I’ve always felt that the classic Nintendo franchise was a more casual, young audience, Microsoft was more the shooter audience, and we were always the masses."

Wha
 

richiek

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Fixed.

When will you start talking about PlayStation 4?

PlayStation 3 is really just hitting its stride. And technologically, I don’t think it’s possible to provide any advancement beyond what we have. What we’ve seen from the competition is trying to add features that already exist in PlayStation 3. We invested heavily in that, we rolled a very heavy rock up a steep hill, through the launch period. But now I think that all pays off, and we’ve got a long run way behind it. So, I wouldn’t look for any discussion of a next generation PlayStation for quite some time.

I think there’s ground to be carved out for everybody. But I didn’t see anything about Nintendo’s announcement that said ‘Oh, we’d better get working on rolling out a new PlayStation here pretty soon.’

Our attitude is kind of ‘welcome to the party.’ If you’re looking at being a multimedia entertainment device, if you’re looking at high def gaming, that was 2006 for us.

This is pretty good news for Nintendo. Looks like the PS3 is gonna be in it for the long haul.
 

CzarTim

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I have a feeling the Vita is going to have legs. Especially if they can keep third parties interested.
 

Plinko

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Vic said:
"I’ve always felt that the classic Nintendo franchise was a more casual, young audience, Microsoft was more the shooter audience, and we were always the masses."

Wha

I don't necessarily agree with him on this, but we did hit a point where the common phrase used by the masses for playing video games changed from "playing Nintendo" to "playing Playstation."
 

bjaelke

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The Lamp said:
Isn't PS2 still selling? Wasn't PS3 released 6 years after the PS2 anyway?

Not sure if 10-year-cycle means "No new console until 2016".
I was merely referring to the product cycle. As we've seen with the PS2, they'll overlap each other.
 

The Lamp

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Now that I think about it, we're only half-way through that 10-year-life-cycle and I still feel like there's a multitude of PS3 games that are coming out and will be coming out. I can kind of see where Tretton's coming from--it kind of feels like, to me, that the PS3 is finally starting to hit full speed. Don't want to throw a fun party and then end it at 8PM, right? Maybe the PS3 can tolerate a couple more years of impressive software. But I wouldn't expect a PS4 announcement any later than 2013, maybe to release in late 2013/early 2014. That would leave about 2 years left for the PS3's "life cycle" with enough time for them to start the choo-choo on the PS4 train.
 

mrklaw

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Plinko said:
So either he's lying or Sony's next console isn't hitting for a few years.

I have a feeling that with Vita's (what I believe to be) massive success they won't need to push it out for a while.

He's lying.

They're focusing their marketing money on Vita launch and PS3 games. You think they're going to suddenly start saying 'oh we might have some info on PS4 for you next year'? No, PS4 doesn't exist because they need the home console message to be only about PS3.
 

Angry Fork

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Glad that PS3 is around to stay, I don't want to hear anything about next-gen consoles until after Versus is released.

And technologically, I don’t think it’s possible to provide any advancement beyond what we have.

Made me lol

Our attitude is kind of ‘welcome to the party.’ If you’re looking at being a multimedia entertainment device, if you’re looking at high def gaming, that was 2006 for us.

Ice cold.
 

Vic

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Man, after hearing Yoshida in IGN's Playstation podcast, Tretton sounds like a freaking PR soundboard.
 

mrklaw

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StuBurns said:
Six million PS2s? Who is buying them?

Brazilians, Russians, Indians?

edit: From a news article back in february when they announced 150m units sold
Sony says it expects sales of the console to continue, fuelled by ongoing demand in Eastern Europe, South East Asia, the Middle East and South America,
 

Ashes

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StuBurns said:
Six million PS2s? Who is buying them?

India alone is possibly going to be a bigger pie than the uk soon, or so they they say, through sheer population and middle class growth. I'm not sure though, but the world is big place, and not everyone is on the cutting edge technology line.
 

The Lamp

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richiek said:
Fixed.



This is pretty good news for Nintendo. Looks like the PS3 is gonna be in it for the long haul.

It's interesting because this might be the start of a new 2-generation cycle.

If the next Xbox and PS4 don't come out until, say, 2014...that gives Nintendo a 2-year head-start with new hardware. Will developers adjust to Nintendo's console and start creating new, crazy-looking games for it? Or will they hold back for the release of Microsoft/Sony's consoles before giving it their all, forcing Nintendo to hold up the platform by their own first-party offerings? Or will they try to juggle both? Surely, there's going to be a significant power-gap between the Wii U and the next Xbox/PS4 which will probably result in another batch of Xbox/PS4 games and Wii U exclusive games.
 

RPGamer92

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WTF at the interviewer calling Xbox "Hardcore" when for the past 2 years, MS has focused on the casual/family gamer. If anything, PS3 is the hardcore system right now.
 

Fredrik

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Don't care about the Vita but the PS4 talk is nice to hear. Don't want a new Playstation in another couple of years, feels like Sony has barely scratched the surface yet with the PS3, Home has barely left the beta state, second generation Move titles still hasn't released. I'll buy a Wii U at launch, no doubt about that, but the PS3 will most likely keep on being my main console at least until second generation Wii U titles starts turning up.
It's quite amazing that the PS2 is still around btw. How old is it now? 11 years?
 

SneakyStephan

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bjaelke said:
10 year cycle
Man comments like this always make my head spin.

Sony brought up the 10 year cycle idea at ps3 release when people asked them if they would keep supporting ps2 (after MS had buried xbox 1 immediately after xbox 360 release).
They said they would keep supporting ps2 for a long time to come (for sale in stores, repairs, services, games) to make sure it has been alive for at least 10 years after release.

THIS is the ten year cycle.

People need to stop quoting the 'ten year cycle' to support their own ideas of when a new console will be released, because that was never what it meant.

It doesn't matter if sony doesn't release another playstation for another 15 years or not, the 10 year cycle phrase from Sony has absolutely fuck all to do with it.

Get it in your heads.
 

Dipswitch

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PlayStation 3 is really just hitting its stride. And technologically, I don’t think it’s possible to provide any advancement beyond what we have. What we’ve seen from the competition is trying to add features that already exist in PlayStation 3. We invested heavily in that, we rolled a very heavy rock up a steep hill, through the launch period. But now I think that all pays off, and we’ve got a long run way behind it. So, I wouldn’t look for any discussion of a next generation PlayStation for quite some time.

Trenton's a smart guy - I don't think even he believes some of the BS he's spouting. Fact of the matter is, both of the HD twins are showing their age in one way or another. I do think they'll be last of of the gate with a new console, but work on the PS4 is well underway.

Sony will try and deny that as long as possible of course in order to keep the price of the PS3 artificially inflated.
 

StuBurns

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So in those countries, are new games coming out? Or do they just have the complete catalog ready? Presumably games weren't localized in those languages before the PS2 was released there, I know Brazil just got it a couple of years ago.
 

Hex

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I think it is the right approach to play down the talk of the PS4, because no matter what it will hurt sales of PS3 systems just as talk of WiiU will affect the Nintendo holiday and if any solid rumors of Microsoft's next system hit it would also hold weight.

I think Microsoft will also play it close to the vest and push their Kinect agenda as well as their other pushes as they should.