The lights are on
What’s the latest on The Last Guardian?
It’s making progress. There have been technical issues and the engineering team is reworking it. It’s playable, but not to the level of when we can say it’s coming.
I feel one of Sony’s biggest software mistakes this generation was passing on publishing Demon’s Souls in North America and Europe.
Absolutely! Tell me about it! 100 percent agree!
How did it happen? Was it as simple as this game wasn’t going to sell? How involved were you?
In short, that’s what happens to any game. Especially games made in Japan since the majority of them aren’t relevant to markets outside of Japan. There are always processes between product development and marketing in U.S. and Europe. All things considered, it’s part of the issue of making games in Japan. The game development in Japan typically is made horizontally where all assets are made in parallel, so it’s difficult to figure out what the final state of the game is going to be.
The western style game development is typically a vertical slice. So in the very early process, the team tried to create a small piece of the experience that resembles the final product. What happened with Demon’s Souls was until very late in the game’s development, we were not able to play the game through. There were framerate issues and the network was not up and running. We underestimated the quality of the game and to be honest, the media in Japan did the same.
For my personal experience with Demon’s Souls, when it was close to final I spent close to two hours playing it and after two hours I was still standing at the beginning at the game. I said, “This is crap. This is an unbelievably bad game.” So I put it aside.
Luckily, third party publishers, Atlus in North America and Namco in Europe [stepped in], and it really became a great hit outside of Japan.
We definitely dropped the ball from a publishing standpoint, including studio management side. We were not able to see the value of the product we were making.
Did you learn from that experience?
Game development is a tough process. We start and stop many games. Some get made to the finish, but we have to make decisions. I hope we won’t make the same mistake again. I should have been more stubborn talking to marketing people here in North America and Europe.
Sony owns the Demon’s Souls IP. What are you going to do with it?
We never sell our IPs. Well, I should never say never, but it’s not our business. Our business is to grow our IP and we love Demon’s Souls. From Software is a very important business partner, so we’ll see.
I wanted to get your perspective on the sales of Sony first-party titles compared to say, Microsoft. Sony published many titles in 2011, but most didn’t sell as well as you probably expected. Microsoft, released one game, Gears of War 3, which outsold many of Sony’s games combined. How do you evaluate that? Is this just a marketing issue?
It’s a combination of many things. First, we have to be very honest about our games’ quality as well. We love our games, but we can point out many issues when you look at the titles individually.
Another thing is focus. When you have ten games coming out in a year compared to two or three, how much focus you get from our business and marketing side is very hard. From a portfolio side, we were very excited about the games we had last year, but we probably diluted support for each title.
Could you see Sony putting out fewer games?
It’s easy to say, “Yeah, let’s make three games a year.” But game development is dynamic. You cannot plan to do that. You already have to have a certain number of games in the pipeline hoping they hit in a certain year. We love working on new IPs. It’s really hard to predict when these games get finished.
It’s a challenge, but I think we could and probably should be focused on a smaller number of titles so each one gets the best support.