Michael Ephraim From Sony Answers Your Questions

A couple of weeks back we asked you for questions – and now we have answers! Michael Ephraim, the Managing Director of Sony Computer Entertainment Australia, has taken the time to peruse over your questions and has gotten back to us with some great responses, which you can check out below.

Thanks for submitting your questions, and thanks to Michael for being such a great sport and taking the time to answer the difficult questions. Much appreciated!

The PSN is gradually evolving into a nice little place, but is there any concerted effort between Sony and local ISPs to come to an agreement on unmetered content? The video store, for example, seems to offer a good deal but I’m unwilling to pay an $50 on top of the store prices every month to recover my download allowance – Our market isn’t like Japan or the US, and since Sony is deliberately managed in regions couldn’t that be more accurately reflected?
Glad to hear you are enjoying the PlayStation Network (PSN). Beyond extending the great games content at Sony Computer Entertainment we have worked really hard over the past year to offer new services such as PlayStation Network Video Delivery Service, that offers movies on demand, catch up TV with ABCiView, and PLUS7 in Australia, and also, increasing the content offer on VidZone – adding VidZone TV, and also the recent addition of EMI to the service adding great names such as Coldplay, Katie Perry, David Bowie and Empire of the Sun to the service.

Importantly, with PlayStation Network we offer a free to join and play environment, where you also receive free system software upgrades that continually offer new service applications and content and keep your PS3 “future proof”; in the last year we have not only expanded games content, but offered this across TV, music and movies.

Our clear focus is on innovative technology, increased content and increased choice in how you want to consume it. Delivering more games and other entertainment on demand, means consumers are paying closer scrutiny to their broadband plans; not just the size of plan, but also speed. In Australia, while the broadband market lags other countries, each year we are witnessing an increase in household connections that offer download speeds that make video and interactive content a more feasible experience, coupled with this reduced caps and even “all you can eat” offers. So, while Australia still has a way to go in terms of broadband infrastructure, Australian consumers in the last year have been able to access much more competitive plans from internet service providers (ISPs) and this will continue to get more competitive with increased consumer demand, and increased access to content on demand .
So, our focus is on the technology, content and consumption choice. But we are always observing ISP usage and consumer demand when marketing our services and service expansion.

Will Skype ever make it to PS3, as it did the PSP?

Good question. Skype is still a popular and desired feature of the PSP experience, in addition to enjoying great games and now movies on demand. Our global development teams certainly take into account the relative desirability of the feature set, so consumer needs and technology innovation really drive the product development process. It’s impossible to look into the future but I would guess, like everything, it’s a possibility particularly with PS3 system software upgrade ability. For example, with PlayTV, we found that consumers were text chatting on the phone to make their viewing experience more social – so there is a new live text chat feature coming later this year. We have added more Facebook functionality to PS3 in the past year, and I recently read about the new alliance between Facebook and Skype – certainly the social space changes rapidly.

Cross-Game (voice) Chat has been something many PS3 owners have desired for years. Sony has briefly mentioned that it was being worked on in the past, and there were many rumours that it was going to be a part of the PlayStation Plus service. Where is XGC sitting at the moment, is it still in development, and will we ever see it on the PlayStation 3?
(Jim Neale)

At the moment we have cross game text chat and in game voice chat – so right now you can already voice chat when you are playing the same game. As with a lot of PS3 development, features are based on user requests – so we should forward this to our product team! In fact, as I mentioned we are seeing a lot more community and sharing features as part of our product development process.

Why do games cost so much – especially games that are digitally distributed?

If you look at every industry, not just the games industry, the same questions are asked by consumers. From a business perspective, there is a lot of complexity involved – from very volatile exchange rates, to taxes and duties, distribution and transit costs, marketing and operational costs, size of market and so on. We try to be as comparable as possible within these parameters, and in some instances Australia has sometimes been more competitive on pricing.

Do these jeans make my bum look fat?
(Harry Sachz)

Harry, that’s a relative question, and it’s difficult to tell from your post! What would Kevin Butler say?

Will the Move concept carry over to future PlayStation consoles, or is it a one-time thing?

PlayStation 3 has an amazing future proof capability, so I don’t think we’ll be looking at a new generation of consoles for a really long time. With PlayStation Move, we are also in it for the long haul – not just a living room sprint! PlayStation Move technology has evolved from our years of experience with the developing motion control capability – we invented controller free gaming with the PlayStation Eye on PS2 way back in 2002. The accuracy and precision of Move today means that we can develop a great diversity of games that both the core gamer will enjoy such as KillZone 3 through to social games for the whole family like SingStar Dance or Sports Champions. With Move, while the experience is great fun, we are taking this innovation really seriously. Developers are really responding positively to PlayStation Move too; because it’s not like you have to make a game specifically for that technology. In fact, it’s technology that is so accurate and intuitive, that can be integrated into your everyday gaming experiences, no matter what your preferred genre is.

I don’t own a PS3, but I’m very fond of the Kevin Butler marketing strategy. Given Australians general love of sledging, such a campaign would undoubtably gain traction here… does Sony Australia have any plans to use those adverts locally?
(James Mac)

We love Kevin Butler too. In fact, he is the one who I always say succinctly puts it when it comes to perfectly explaining the functionality of PS3 – that “It only does everything!” Because of the online world, and his appearance at our E3 press conference this year, Butler is really already a global phenomenon. In fact, I think he just got promoted and he is now VP of Everything. And boy, he blogs and tweets better than any other Executive I know. Where does he find the time?

Also, are there any plans to update older titles to support the Move controller? Can Sony give 3rd party developers more incentives to update their existing titles to make them Move capable? (Would love to play Borderlands, MGS4, Uncharted 2, Virtua Tennis, Flower, and even Ghostbusters with Move controls.)

As I said earlier, the technology is so good, PlayStation Move can be integrated as seamlessly into game play – almost interchangeably in some cases with your dual shock experience. Already Move features are being added, for example to titles like Heavy Rain and EyePet. We had some early Virtua Tennis 4 code in the office the other day that has both Move and 3D integration, and it is incredible. With the successful launch of Move around the world I am sure you will see more and more games updated with Move capability.

Why does the PAL (Australian) PS Store lag so far behind the US, Asia and Japan in terms of the breadth and volume of free and paid content? Australia has more in common with the US and the rest of Asia than it does with Europe – excluding the common PAL format. What’s preventing Sony from creating a unified (global) PS Store for non-interactive content such as themes, wallpapers etc?

Actually, the store content from games, to TV, to movies, to music is actually pretty sizeable in Australia. And we have some more applications coming to the PlayStation 3 this year that will add further to the content offer. A lot of digital rights content negotiations nowadays are by region, or in some cases just by territory, so having slightly different digital content on offer is pretty common.

Does Sony Australia presently have any plans to campaign for an updated classification system that’s better representative of target video game audiences?

Yes, we do this through supporting the industry body, the iGEA, which I am a board member of. The iGEA represents the industry on classification and other broader matters. In terms of the lack of an R18+ classification level for computer games in Australia, this is something that is really topical and has received a lot of attention – we applaud the initiatives of the people who are lobbying to address this, including individual consumers. There was a recent status report regarding public consultation about this issue, and it was revealed that over 70,000 submissions by the public were made to the government with approximately 98% of those people supporting having an R18+ classification. That’s a pretty indicative message from the public.

Big thanks again to Michael Ephraim for answering all of our reader’s questions!


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