The creation of the PS4 was unlike any other console Sony has ever produced, and Sony executives Masayasu Ito, Shuhei Yoshida and Hiroshi Ueda looked back at how it happened, and talked about the future (focusing mostly on the Japanese market) in an interview on the online version of the Nikkei Shinbun.
Ito-san explained that “399” was the most important number in the development of PS4. The price was determined first, and the specs of the console were solidified after that. “It was completely different from the development process of any of the PlayStation series in the past.”
He also added that $399 was the sweet spot that could make the difference for the popularity of the console. That’s why the PS4 development adopted a philosophy of “creative destruction” (meaning that all past concepts were effectively “destroyed”). It wasn’t like any previous investment as the company aimed for the ultimate cost reduction. That’s why generic components were used instead of the state-of-the-art Cell architecture included in the PS3.
Back in 2008, when the development of the console began, it was Kaz Hirai (Sony’s CEO) that decided that it would deeply involve game developers, and not only Japanese ones, but also western devs. That was a “bold change” from the old system that focused development in Japan.
Ito-san and Yoshida-san in fact explained that the ideas for many of the main features of the PS4 were born in the west. Share Play, for instance, has been invented by young engineers based in the US.
The process of game development was also made as similar as possible to PC development, in order to make things easier and to attract big PC publishers with the perspective of the volume of sales on PS4. Yet nurturing small and dependent developers was also important, and those were attracted by the ease of development and porting.
Unfortunately, not everything was perfect, and Ito-san mentioned that the struggling sales in Japan are the result of a miscalculation. Many believe this is because of the delay compared to the United States and Europe and to the shortage of games, but Sony is currently discussing internally more detailed theories on the what causes the downturn in domestic sales.
Ueda-san also explained that looking at how Japanese gaming is progressing, with the domination of mobile games, there’s a possibility that the same might happen in other parts of the world in ten years.
That’s why SCE changed its tune in Japan, truing to introduce elements outside gaming in order to resonate with Japanese consumers that love smartphone games. Ito-san mentioned that rather than competing against smartphone gaming, Sony is looking into how to include it.
Ueda-san revealed that Sony is considering to focus Japanese marketing on the PS4 lifestyle, with the whole family gathering around the PS4 in such a natural way that they forget about its existence. The combination with the camera and the network features of the PS4 is crucial to provide new services.
An example of that is a dance game that is filmed by the camera and can be examined by a dance teacher or enjoyed with friends, sharing the lessons. That way games can foster the creation of new communities.
According to Ueda-san the Japan and the west cannot be easily compared, and its necessary to enter Japanese homes in ways appropriate to the unique peculiarities of the local market. In addition to that, there will also be a strong collaboration with Sony’s other divisions, exploiting the properties in music, anime and movies.