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Interview: Sony's Scott Rohde Talks PlayStation Move

After the PlayStation Move press conference, I sat down with Sony Worldwide Studios VP Scott Rohde to talk about his company's game development philosophy, the unsung features of Sony's new technology, and the arduous task of turning cynical hardcore gamers onto motion controls.

When Sony launched the PlayStation 3, the company got a lot of flack for not coming out with the big guns like God of War, a true Gran Turismo, or a SOCOM game. Instead you chose to develop new IPs like Resistance, Infamous, and LittleBigPlanet. As we're moving through this console generation we're seeing a lot games that publishers keep pushing –  like Tony Hawk or Guitar Hero – suffering from over-saturation. Was it a conscious decision by Sony to put some of its brands on the back burner to give them breathing room so they don't lose their cachet?

Good question, that's one of the best, unique questions I've heard all day. It's something that we're actually really proud of at Worldwide Studios. There's an element of truth to what you said about building new IP because it does keep some of our existing properties fresh. It's also because we think we have a lot of great, creative teams. Sony has a heritage of introducing new IP all the time, and I think it gets people excited. If a game gets too stale, then it's going to go away. But it also lets us build up excitement for stuff like what's going on next door [the God of War III launch event]. When God of War III comes out it's a big, big deal.

Let's jump to the topic on everybody's mind – the PlayStation Move. Reading forums and interacting with our readers, there seems to be an underlying sense of apathy about motion controls. What would you point to as a shining example how the Move may change the core gamer's preconceived notions?

I think that the game we're looking at across the street here – SOCOM 4 – the approach that we've taken with that game is that for those hardcore, skeptical, bitter gamers who say “ah, I've seen this already,” they can play this game the way they've always played it, on the DualShock. But on that same disc you're going to get a new control scheme. It's going to allow those people to try it and see if they like it better, and I'm convinced that some percentage of those hardcore gamers may actually like this controller better. You're also going to get a group of new people who perhaps were intimidated by the DualShock. So I think we have the best of both worlds there.

We've seen a lot of news about older titles like LittleBigPlanet and Heavy Rain adopting this technology as well. This this going to be handled via patch, a DLC add-on, or perhaps a new retail product?

It's something we haven't announced yet, but our teams are definitely looking at titles to see if anything makes sense. But in general, it's more of a forward-looking technology for us to enhance games that are coming out in the future.

One of the things I'm curious about is how the changing colors on the controllers. How does that work?

You're the first person who's asked me that and that's my favorite feature of the device. There's a bit of magic that's involved with the color. The developer has control over the what and when of the color experience. In addition to just “hey, I've got four people in the room, I need a blue, yellow, green, and red,” it can change. You can come up with game concepts where perhaps four people are standing there with the controller and they all shuffle and land on the color, and you have to react to what's on the screen based on what color lands on you. Or if you're playing a game that gives you the ability to cast spells, before you do so it could flash blue if you're going to cast an ice spell, it could flash red if you're going to case a fire spell. There's a lot of unique opportunities with that color sphere and people are just scratching the surface. Any game where it's being used as a shooting device, it makes sense for it to flash like a muzzle – orange, yellow, red – every time. Not every game is going to do that, but it's out there.

During the presentation you announced that there are three ways people can get the controller – standalone, in a bundle with the PlayStation Eye and a game, and packaged with a console. You're also trying to appeal to a very wide spectrum of gamer. Are there going to be different bundles that, say, target the family oriented consumer with a game like Move Party with one SKU, and target the hardcore gamer with something like SOCOM 4 in another?

To be determined, but you know how marketing folks work. I'm the product development guy, so I don't make those decisions, but those are all conversations in process. I'm sure there's going to be a wide variety, and closer to launch a lot of that detail will be shared.

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