The lights are on
2011 was one of Sony's best years in terms of first-party software releases. The company released many titles, such as LittleBigPlanet 2, Killzone 3, Uncharted 3, and Infamous 2. Sony also released its newest handheld, the PlayStation Vita, in late December in Japan. The Vita launches in North America and Europe later this month. We talked to the president of Sony's Worldwide studios Shuhei Yoshida about what the company learned from the Vita's Japanese launch and the mistakes they hope to correct this year.
Game Informer: I first wanted to get your thoughts on the PlayStation Vita launch in Japan. It started out pretty well, but every week it seemed sales dipped and dipped.
Shuhei Yoshida: In terms of sales, yes. But it’s within our expectation. It didn’t hit our highest expectations, however. From that standpoint it’s disappointing. But when you look at the market in Japan today, it’s a very strong portable market as you know, and the PSP is still very strong and lots of new games come out for it. So PSP is still very relevant. And of course 3DS had the perfect storm of top quality games for Christmas with the reduced price.
Considering all of that, with the numbers we have seen in terms of sell–through, I am very happy.
What have you learned from the Japan launch of the Vita that you might look to remedy for North America and Europe later this month?
There are two major differences. One is the type of lineup that we had for the launch. Games like Uncharted are not a big name in Japan. Hopefully it’s growing in awareness like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. It’s not like this game will sell a million units. Gamers in Japan want games catered to their tastes. From that standpoint we didn’t have a strong lineup for the Japanese market.
The second is the PSP. We’re advertising PSP on TV while advertising Vita. So it’s three portables in Japan.
I’m cautiously optimistic. We’ll have to see how the launch goes. In terms of what we have as a foundation as a platform, we’re envisioning this as a seven or eight year platform and are very happy with what we have today and can improve upon it.
Can you give any perspective on how the digital sales of Vita games are doing?
It’s a growing number. We are not specifying numbers, but it’s certainly higher than what we have on other platforms. Digital PSP games jumped. As more people find out how convenient digital games are on the system, my prediction is the ratio goes higher.
Do you think digital Vita sales will outperform retail sales in the Vita’s life?
If our digital platform becomes as strong as we are hoping to be, meaning lots of smaller games get created for the Vita market, I could see that happening within the life cycle of the Vita. If the majority of games coming to Vita are still console-sized games, the majority of sales will stay at the retail level.
There’s a lot of talk about Fumito Ueda leaving Team Ico and the state of Sony’s Japan studios...
Ueda-san has never left the team. It’s a change of his work status from being an employee to working as a contract. We discussed and made it more clear about his role and his creative input and how he works, but he hasn’t changed his presence; he comes to the office. It’s being talked about as if he left the game, but that never happened.
But in terms of the state of the studio in Japan, we have a new head of studio, Allan Becker. He’s been with PlayStation from the beginning. He founded Sony Santa Monica studio. I asked him to move to Japan to instill his philosophy of making games. He's also bringing these two different cultures together. He started in April last year as the head of the Japan studio and has already made a big impact.