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Ask Sony's Phil Harrison About PS3 and Games 472

Posted by Zonk
from the everybody-be-cool dept.
During GDC Sony made an effort to answer questions directly from the gaming community, taking steps to put aside the problems of the past several months. Today, we have a chance to take another step in the right direction with the company. Phil Harrison, President of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios, has been the face of the PlayStation 3 here in the United States since before the machine launched. He's agreed to answer questions from the Slashdot community about the PlayStation 3, the console since launch, and their recent announcements about LittleBigPlanet and Home. I've linked a trio of other interviews he's done recently below, to give you an idea of topics that he's already covered. I'm sure there are plenty of questions we might ask that have yet to be put forward in a public forum. So - feel free to ask away. One question per comment, please, and keep in mind that Mr. Harrison is here to answer questions about the PS3 and games only; any other Sony-related questions are outside the scope of this interview. The highest-rated comments will be passed on, and we'll post his answers as soon as we get them.
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Ask Sony's Phil Harrison About PS3 and Games

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  • Sales (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wframe9109 (899486) * <> on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:22PM (#18404007)
    The NPD numbers for the PS3 have not been terribly impressive. Do you have any plans for improving these numbers, apart from staying the course?
  • by Sciros (986030) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:25PM (#18404061) Journal
    With a number of previously-PS3-exclusive titles having gone multiplatform, are there any efforts to prevent this from occurring further, or is it of little concern to SCE? That is, should we expect to see more PS3-exclusives go multiplatform?
  • In relation, price (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:26PM (#18404075)
    I'll be more specific -- is Sony willing to lower the price as an incentive to increase the number of units sold?
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <> on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:28PM (#18404115) Homepage Journal

    The PS3 has three major problems as I see it; lack of software, price, and lack of availability. The latter two of these three issues have been blamed on the fact that the PS3's Blu-Ray drive requires an expensive and scarce blue laser.

    Given the problems that seem to have come with Blu-Ray, does it still look like including the drive in the system was worth it? And if so, was it worth it for the PS3, for the Blu-Ray format, or for both? What steps are being taken to remedy the problems in price and availability?

  • 20gB PS3. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by !ramirez (106823) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:29PM (#18404123)
    Why is Best Buy discontinuing sales of the 20gB PS3?
  • by madsheep (984404) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:30PM (#18404127) Homepage
    Why should I shell out over $500.00 USD to purchase the PS3 when I can purchase an XBOX 360 and/or Nintendo Wii for the same price? Perhaps even buying the two of them and still paying the price of just the PS3. This is not meant to be a jab, just a legitimate questions.
  • by RyanFenton (230700) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:30PM (#18404129)
    I understand the strategy of never announcing price drops until they're imminent, but the PS3 is not even on many people's radar at the moment, because of the staggering price. The Neo Geo consumer hardware followed a similar price model. Are you even considering price drops on the PS3 hardware?

    Ryan Fenton

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:31PM (#18404155)
    @Mr Phil Harrison

    There is this old conviction amongst some that Sony's tried to kill sprite based 2D games and is reluctant to let them be published on Playstation consoles.

    Is there any truth to this?

    Does Sony have a "stance" against on sprite based 2D games on the PS3? Can a game like Odin Sphere be published on the PS3?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:31PM (#18404165)
    Is there a chance that the policy of restricting access to PS3 graphics hardware (via the hypervisor) could be revised to encourage us homebrew developers?
  • Re:Controllers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBCook (132727) <> on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:32PM (#18404171) Homepage
    Now there is a question I have. Why is it that it's the year 2007, the PS3 is a "High Definition" system, and costs $500-$600... yet still only includes the same composite video cables people have been using since the NES 22 years ago?
  • by maynard (3337) <j.maynard.gelinas@gmail. c o m> on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:35PM (#18404203) Journal

    Will Sony be offering up kernel patches and an RSX optimized OpenGL library for PS3/Linux?
  • Success of Bluray (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Itchyeyes (908311) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:39PM (#18404245) Homepage
    While the PS3 has struggled against the Xbox 360 and the Wii in the gaming arena, its success with Bluray becomes more apparent every day. Sales of Bluray have quickly surged past those of HD-DVD with the PS3 receiving most of the credit. How will the PS3's success with Bluray impact those who want a system purely for games, specifically in terms of cost of ownership?
  • by _xeno_ (155264) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:42PM (#18404283) Homepage Journal

    I was going to go with something snarky about the price of the PS3, but I've decided to instead make a more direct point.

    I don't have an HDTV. As I understand it, the major selling point of the PS3 is its new HD graphics. I currently have no plans on getting an HDTV. So, sell me on why I should get a PS3 given that I have a 13" CRT TV. Would it still be worth it? Will I still be able to play all the same games that HDTV players can? Or will I have to suffer unreadable text or HUD elements that are too small to understand?

    Or, can I hook up the PS3 output to my computer monitor using DVI? Right now I'm more willing to upgrade my computer monitor than my TV, so that might work for me, especially given that my TV is smaller than my computer monitor.

    Honestly, the lack of an HDTV is the largest reason I'm uninterested in the PS3 right now. There are other reasons, of course, but I'm sure that they'll be brought up plenty of times by other trolls. Uh, I mean, other posters. :)

  • Long Term (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MeanderingMind (884641) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:42PM (#18404287) Homepage Journal
    It has been stated many times that the PS3 is meant to last a full 10 years before being replaced with a new iteration of the Playstation brand. With the rate at which technology advances, how realistic is this plan?

    While the adoption of HDTVs is on the rise, the current market penetration is still a small fraction. Many aren't inclined or perhaps capable of acquiring an HDTV, which is required for the full PS3 experience. What reason is there to choose the PS3 for an SDTV when the visual difference from the competition is negligible?

    The PS3 is expensive, and at the same time is purportedly sold for less than it costs to make. Beyond the frequent debates over price drops and the formidable barrier $500-$600 presents to many gamers is a concern that the PS3 is ultimately doing more harm to Sony, specifically their bank accounts, than good. Is Sony prepared for the possibility that at the end of the console's lifetime, the PS3 will constitute a net loss?

    All three systems are currently in a drought when it comes to top-class titles. Whoever pulls out of it first might gain significant momentum. Does Sony plan to try to capitalize on the situation, or do they feel it is better to let the games come out "when they're done"?

    Many are concerned that while an interesting idea, Home will ultimately obfuscate the streamlined processes seen in other online services. How is Home addressing this concern?

    Killzone made another appearance at the GDC, after having been mysteriously absent from E3 2006. Why is news for this title so rare, especially after having been so crucial to the presentation at E3 2005?

    Those are my questions.
  • Rumble (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:45PM (#18404329)
    How long till there is a first party controller with "last-gen" rumble?
  • by Tikiman (468059) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:54PM (#18404423)
    Is there any possibility of letting an 'OtherOS' have full access to the GPU, allowing accelerated and 3D graphics for homebrew developers?
  • by Gothic_Walrus (692125) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:54PM (#18404425) Journal
    People on the internet and in the tech media in general have been raking the PS3 and Sony over the coals for probably a good year now, with a noticeable backlash directed towards Sony's PR department. You've taken a lot of fire as one of the main figures in Sony's PR campaign, and I can't count how many times I've seen your name brought up here or on Digg in a negative light. The consensus seems to be that Sony's got a lot of work to do to win over the gaming public.

    How, then, is Sony going to go about changing this mindset? There's still plenty of time to go from being viewed as the last place console to being a legitimate contender, if not the forerunner, but there's lots of ground to cover to do that. Are there any plans for this you'd be able to share with us, and any ideas on how long it might take before we see the PS3 in a stronger position than it is now?

    On another note entirely, God of War 2 seems to be getting a more favorable reaction than any of the PS3 titles released thus far. Any thoughts on why that might be?
  • In paticular, the Wii and the Xbox 360. As we all know sales of these two consoles have been above the PS3 in terms of numbers. As a gamer yourself (I hope) have you played either of these consoles and if so, what do you think about them? Anything they're doing right that Sony should adopt? Thoughts on where they're going in relation to your own console?
  • by 7Prime (871679) on Monday March 19, 2007 @02:59PM (#18404483) Homepage Journal
    What is your personal philosophy regarding the future of videogames as a genre? For example, where do you see games, in terms of social and cultural identification, 20 years from now, and how do you think the nature of the PS3 plays into the culmination of this overall vision?
  • by Ant P. (974313) on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:00PM (#18404497) Homepage
    Why does Sony consider it a good business move to alienate Europe with a half-year delay and neutered hardware, and why do you still charge more for this inferior product than the US or Japanese consoles?
  • by kinglink (195330) on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:01PM (#18404505)
    The PS3 has been identified by many in the industry as not being overly friendly to the developers. For instance the Ps3 takes up approximately 50 more megs than the Xbox 360, while containing weaker tools. The cell processor with it's independent memory has only stymied developers instead of made their life easier. At the same time this causes the consumers to have less games or weaker games available. The consumers are being asked to pay more for a similar system with more games available on it and the same as another system with their HD video attachment.

    Who exactly are you aiming the PS3 for? The Developers are having a hard time with it, the consumers are asked to pay a higher price for a machine that has been proven to be on the same level as the 360?

    In addition was there any consideration for developer buy-in before shipping the system?

    Finally will there be any work made to bridging the gap between what the consumer ultimately wants and are getting? The buyer of a PS3 wants backwards compatibility which is being removed from the European release and possibly future American release. The buyer wants unique games, they don't exactly demand PS Home, they don't need Blu-ray movies, why is the PS3's target goals so different than the PS3's target consumer's goals.
  • by molrak (541582) on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:03PM (#18404535) Homepage
    I spent $170 to play Katamari Damacy on the PS2. One of the strongest points of the Playstation platform has been some of the quirky and innovative games available on the PS1 and PS2. Some of the games I still play on PS1 and PS2 are those that focused on gameplay over story or random shooting (Bust a Groove, Hot Shots Golf, Katamari, Guitar Hero, Okami). Where are the unique, fun, creative games on the new Playstation platforms, and why don't companies take risks by creating low-budget, creative, and fun titles at a new system's launch?
  • by Firefly1 (251590) on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:06PM (#18404567) Homepage

    The PS3 has three major problems as I see it; lack of software, price, and lack of availability. The latter two of these three issues have been blamed on the fact that the PS3's Blu-Ray drive requires an expensive and scarce blue laser.
    With respect to the first problem cited above: it is my understanding that a major disadvantage for the PS3 is the simple fact of its 'killer apps' - for example, MGS4 - not being available until this summer. Which brings me to my question:
    Between this, and the manufacturing issues which were almost certainly known of well before launch, was there any consideration given to going for a 'Summer 2007' date?
    This, I believe, would have had the following benefits:
    • there would have been time to hash out the manufacturing issues;
    • the aforesaid 'killer apps' would be available from the word go to help move the system; and
    • the launch might well have coincided with summer vacation - lots of students with plenty of time on their hands, and all that
  • Gaming System (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sqlrob (173498) on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:08PM (#18404595)
    What are you doing to support the people that want a gaming system, not a home hub, something never to be plugged into a network?
  • by iplayfast (166447) on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:09PM (#18404605)
    I was pleasently surprised at all the different things a PS3 can do. It can play music, show videos, show pictures, play games.

    Why is it with 8 processors, it can only do these things one at a time.

    I'd like to start it playing music and display a series of pictures and/or videos. It would be useful at parties.
    I'd like to start it playing background music, turn off the music in a game and play a game, without listening to "call to battle" or whatever the track is, over and over and over.

  • by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro AT gmail DOT com> on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:12PM (#18404633) Homepage Journal
    One of the big things Sony touted with the SIXAXIS controller is the motion sensing technology (though I haven't seen it mentioned much in commercials). The debate over whether that was reactionary to Nintendo's Wiimote is a long debate, but it makes me curious- what other kinds of alternative gameplay mechanics have Sony toyed with for the PS3 controllers?
  • by sargon666777 (555498) on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:30PM (#18404857) Homepage
    When I bought my Wii I bought it knowing that the graphics would be bad, but the system was somewhat revolutionary due to the controller design. My question to you is why does the Wii need to be the only system with a innovative controller? Are you considering building an additional controller setup for the PS3 integrating those same (or similar) motion controlled features into your system? Granted this would be an added expense, but at least would offer the best of both worlds. And dont tell me the PS3 controller already has motion sensitivity; becuase, while it has motion sensitivity it can still not act like a pointing device.. which doesn't quite get it to the same level.
  • by garlicbready (846542) on Monday March 19, 2007 @03:30PM (#18404859)
    Do you envisige a Euro version of the console that includes the EE processor?
    From some of the rumours I've been hearing (BBC radio 1) quite a lot of individuals have canceled they're orders in the UK and instead opted for an American imports including the EE processor
    to avoid any conflicts with some of the older PS2 game titles
    (and yes I am aware that Sony will be punishing those individuals that choose to follow this course of action)

    personally I'm holding off for the time being until some form of comparison can be made between the 2 different versions of the console in terms of compatibility for the PS2 (and I'm pretty sure someone on a website - probably linked to from slashdot, will be running with this eventually)

    at the very least I would have liked to have seen some form of optional add-in board, even if it had increased the cost
    e.g. release the minimal version of the PS3 without the board
    and the max version of the PS3 (larger HD) with the board
    (although at the moment only the max version of the PS3 will be released in the UK I believe)
  • by NeoPaladin394 (1044484) on Monday March 19, 2007 @04:06PM (#18405333)
    Wow. How on earth can you take a candid view of a platform and call fanboy?

    "Oh look, it's someone trying to use the tired old 'hard teh program' BS. Give it a rest fanboy, that BS didn't work last gen, it isn't going to work this gen. Little Big Planet, Gran Turismo, Heavenly Sword, Lair, Ratchet and Clank...yep clearly PS3 developers are stuggling. Ha! Oh like to listen to x86 developers like Carmack and Gabe whine about how their old code doesn't run on the PS3...poor poor babies! "Waaaa!!! Teh PS3 is hard teh program!!!""

    If you want to drop numbers on how much of the processor/system is taken advantage of in these games, then you would have a point. You say because there are games out, the system is easy cheesy to write for? Uh huh. Windows has default drivers for my video cards--I don't assume they push my card to its limit.

    "Uh, ok..."

    The point was not how to take full advantage of the hardware. That's a given. To get HD quality, you need to drop the Franklins. The POINT is how common it is to find end users with the setup to take advantage of the hardware. We're talking numbers here.

    The BC issue is about the only voice of reason in your whole post, even though you try to play off the fact it was an issue to start off with.

    Before you fling around a word like "fanboy," I'd highly recommend you look in the mirror first.
  • Ask 1996-Phil (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The-Bus (138060) on Monday March 19, 2007 @06:39PM (#18407319)
    (I believe Mr. Harrison first joined Sony's SCEA branch in 1996).

    Phil, if you could go back in time and give professional advice to your 1996 self, what would you say?
    If you were to give professional advice to people interested in entering the industry today, what would it be?
  • Rumble (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MaverickUW (177871) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:06PM (#18407679)
    Rumble has been defined as a "Last Generation Feature" and that rumble and motion sensing do not work together by SCE (despite the existance of the Wii Remote). Now with the settlement of the patent infringement issue with Immersion, it seems set to have a SIXAXIS controller with rumble. If this does happen, how are you going to get past the perception that SCE cannot make up its mind about what it wants? Customers wanting rumble so adding it in for their sake can't be used as a valid answer since the impression has been given that customers don't care about rumble. Also, if you're going to do this, what about every PS3 owner who has a rumbleless SIXAXIS-- Will you offer a program allowing them to trade-up for the better controller?
  • by euxneks (516538) on Monday March 19, 2007 @11:42PM (#18410177)
    Obviously Sony places a great deal of value on the Open Source community at large, I mean, you (You as in Sony) are answering questions from people at Slashdot, and you've also worked closely with the Yellow Dog Linux group to create a stable release that runs natively on PS3 architecture.

    I'm just wondering what other sort of OSS initiatives are in the works? Can we see a scaled down graphics library with YellowDog for Homebrew Games? I think there is a huge amount of interest in being able to program your own games - I realize that Sony needs to protect it's interests and the interests of the larger developers out there, but don't you think the innovation with a smaller scaled down system would increase demand?

    An answer not combed through with marketing and PR speak would be preferable ;P

  • Re:20gB PS3. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by powerlord (28156) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:32AM (#18413209) Journal
    Nah, the 20GB PS3 has HDMI. The only things it doesn't have are the memory card slots (a regular memory card to USB reader should work), and the built in WiFi adapter (I *think* there are USB adapters, but if you need one anyway, just go for the 60GB model).

    Assuming BB are discontinuing carrying the 20GB models, I can only imagine that is because most people have been buying the 60GB model. Heck, in the XBox360 display at BB, there were ~50 systems, only ~4 were "Core". My guess is that people are getting used to larger Hard Disk sizes, and are not getting the "light" versions. Alternatively, Sony may be cutting back on supplying them also, since I bet most of the units that sold, outside of the initial run were the 60GB.
  • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:49AM (#18413387)
    Last year, you (Phil Harrison) stated that regarding the Xbox 360's emulated back compatability, updated through firmware updates, you "don't believe that was backwards compatibility" []. Now the PS3 is being redesigned with emulated back compatability [], which will be updated through firmware updates []. What has changed Sony's attitude to software backwards compatability in the past year?
  • by Lally Singh (3427) on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @10:45AM (#18414149) Journal
    The Cell's pretty straightforward with the tools given. You use a pthread-like library to give them code to run, and all your global variables are valid I/O targets for DMA. See this for an introduction: ml []

    Frankly, the programming's one of the reasons I bought a PS3. It just looks fun.

    As for what to run on each one, some things come to mind: physics, collision, particle effects, AI, etc. Some of them can be split up across multiple SPEs. Run them on a work queue of objects, or assign each a calculable subset, (e.g. SPE1 gets all the objects with an even ID #, SPE2 gets all the odd ones).

    Some people really hate getting multiple processors to work together on a problem. But, these people have a lot of problems coming their way, as more & more machines go that way. Hell the laptop I'm on right now is dual-core, and I doubt I'm alone in that fact.

If computers take over (which seems to be their natural tendency), it will serve us right. -- Alistair Cooke