Can Sony Protect The PlayStation Brand From The Wii U?
Sony has always had a strong first-party studio system. One of the strengths of the PlayStation business has been that Sony has a robust array of game developers working on exclusive content, whether it’s The Last of Us, Beyond, or God of War: Ascension. According to Sony’s vice president of Worldwide Studios, Scott Rohde, the first-party studios are all given the autonomy to work on games as they see fit. 3D, PS Move, multiplayer or anything else is never forced upon them. And because he protects their interests, he’s known as the “Shit Umbrella.”
“This is another thing that I’m very proud of as part of Worldwide Studios and Sony. We do what’s best for every single game,” Rohde said at E3. “It’s simply not the culture at Sony to say, ‘OK, here are 10,000 initiatives. Everyone must do those things no matter what effect it has on all the games.’ Games come first. And that’s why all the great studios like Naughty Dog and Santa Monica, they’re going to help lead by example across all of our group and do great things. And if they don’t think something makes sense, then we’re not going to force it down their throat.”
“It’s my job to create a giant umbrella and protect the studios from that because the game is first. There’s a name for that. My nickname is the Shit Umbrella. And it’s very apropos,” Rohde said with a chuckle.
Indeed, one of the things that many have speculated was forced upon the new God of War is the inclusion of multiplayer. This just isn’t the case, if you ask Rohde.
“The game teams are everything and, of course, we talked about it within Worldwide Studios even back during the development of God of War 3. ‘Should we think about multi-player here?’ And the foundations of what is in Ascension right now, we started to build that during the development of God of War 3 because we wanted to do it right,” Rohde said.
“They tried very, very hard to make sure that they were crafting a multi-player experience that did not feel tacked on because it is totally standard and I totally agree with the sentiment across the industry that it’s a box that a lot of game teams check. God of War is a single player experience and they found a pretty neat way to turn this multi-player. It still has that whole God of War feel.”
With E3 shining a spotlight on Wii U, and Microsoft emphasizing its new SmartGlass technology, the idea of multi-device experiences is gaining prominence. We asked Rohde what Sony has up its sleeve, and predictably he pointed to the Vita as that second screen. In fact, Rohde believes it gives Sony an advantage over the Wii U.
“Because we have the Vita, I think we can do a lot of special things. And remember, that Wii U tablet doesn’t have a processor in it, so it’s got to be fueled by that box sitting under your TV. We can do some pretty special things that you’ll start to see on the floor this year and you’ll see more over the upcoming months about what you can do when you actually have a processor in the thing that’s in your hand as well,” Rohde stressed.
That’s all well and good, but every Wii U comes with that touchscreen game pad controller. Moreover, most Xbox 360 owners do own some smartphone or tablet to take advantage of SmartGlass when Microsoft launches it. Vita, on the other hand, is only owned by 1.8 million consumers thus far and it’s hard to say how many PS3 owners also own a Vita. Rohde believes this will pick up. It’s early days for Vita still, he said.
“It’s only been three months though, just three months. There are a lot of games on that machine and I think what we have to hang our hat on… every single person that actually picks that thing up absolutely loves it. If you’re a gamer and you pick up a Vita, you’re going to have fun. And you’re going to use it over a device like this if you really want a game,” he said, while pointing to an iPhone.
“So we’re going to continue to build on that momentum. We have a lot of good things coming. And some of the games that we have coming out in the near future, they do cross out into the mobile space a little bit. And I think that’s just – again, it’s natural. We’re not necessarily going to brand that as a technology, but it’s absolutely natural for games to do that. You see all the big third party publishers have been doing it for a while. You see hints of it from us and hints of it from Microsoft. That’s just going to continue to grow.”
Obviously the Vita’s price point has been a hurdle for some, but Rohde wouldn’t discuss potential price drops, only saying they always have discussion about what’s “going to be best for the consumer.” From Rohde’s viewpoint at Worldwide Studios, it all comes down to securing games and getting more third-parties on board. So how does he convince them?
“They see the games that have already been built and they’re pretty excited. Obviously we have a big first party stable of studios, so that’s the easiest answer. Those guys were – take [Vita Uncharted studio] Sony Bend, for example – those guys were beyond excited to work on the Vita and they helped me personally be an evangelist to all the third parties and other devs out there. Those poor guys, we used them to build a launch title and to go evangelize the system to everyone else and people are still genuinely excited about it,” Rohde explained.
Tying it all back in to Sony’s claimed advantage over Wii U, he said, “And when you start to see how you can cross over between the two platforms – look at two of the titles that are here at E3, PlayStation All-Stars and Sly 4, for example. Both available on Vita and PS3, and there’s some sort of interactivity across the board. Developers are interested in that kind of stuff.”