The CEO and President of Sony Interactive Entertainment has declared the PlayStation 5’s launch lineup of games the strongest in PlayStation history and defended the publisher’s decision to charge £70 for first party software.
In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with the Telegraph ahead of the PS5’s UK launch, Jim Ryan also explained the company’s policy on cross-gen support for the PlayStation 4 and addressed the issue of console storage in an age of enormous digital downloads.
You can read Ryan’s ambitions for the PS5, description of the peculiar challenges of launching a console during a global pandemic, and thoughts on Microsoft’s subscription play in the part one of our exclusive interview.
Below, Ryan talks all things games and also tackles some of the more controversial issues surrounding the PS5, including pricing, storage and that divisive design.
As CEO of SIE, what’s your assessment of the PS5 launch line-up?
“I have spent a lot of time comparing it with what we've done in previous generations and I think the games that we have at launch, and the games that we have coming in in 2021, are by far the strongest that we've ever had, so I'm really happy with it.”
Demon’s Souls is the only one genuine first party PS5 exclusive though, if you discount pack-in Astro’s Playroom...
“But it's a Proustian delight!” [as referenced in the Telegraph's review of Astro's Playroom]
It is! Sony have been criticised for not launching the PS5 with an accompanying first party exclusive system seller, though. Is that a valid complaint?
“I think this launch lineup has been very well received. You can write them down and you can put them beside what we launched with on PS3, what we launched with on PS2 and PS1, and it is the strongest lineup across first party and third party. And the year that follows will be the strongest second year or second holiday season that we've ever had.
“I think the performance of our studios on the PS4 generation was great. But it's a little acknowledged phenomenon that virtually all of the great generation defining games that we published on PS4 came in the second half of the cycle - and that won't be the case this time round.
“So no, I don't accept the criticism and I don't think it's fair. And particularly in this very difficult COVID environment that obviously makes game development more challenging than would normally be the case, I think we've performed well and delivered a good and strong lineup. And what I hear from gamers and read from gamers is that they're happy with it.”
Some fans are disappointed at the number of ‘cross-gen’ titles (games which have been developed for the less powerful PS4 as well as the PS5). And that trend is set to continue well into the second half of 2021, with the release of highly anticipated sequel Horizon Forbidden West on both consoles. How long do you consider that trend lasting?
“The first thing to say is that our PS5 experiences or versions of these games are built from the ground up to take advantage of the PS5 feature set. So I think offering a PS5 version of these games for the PS5 community and then a PS4 version of these games to the PS4 community, I don't see what's wrong with that.
“We've got a community of PS4 gamers 100 million-strong. It would be wrong to walk away from those people too early. And they've been engaged with their PS4s this year under lockdown to a greater extent than at any point over the course of the cycle. They're using their PlayStations. They're happy with their PlayStations. Why would we stop giving them games?”
Can you confirm whether [the previously announced] God of War Ragnorak will be a PS5 exclusive?
“Sorry. I've got nothing to say about that today.”
Demon’s Souls has an RRP of £70 on PS5 - significantly more than gamers had been accustomed to paying for PS4 games. Do you consider that a fair price for a video game?
“Yes, yes, I do. If you measure the hours of entertainment provided by a video game, such as Demon’s Souls compared to any other form of entertainment, I think that's a very straightforward comparison to draw.”
A recent report by Bloomberg quoted sources suggesting Sony were considering an even higher price point for premium first party games. Will prices be higher in the future?
“I can say that that report that we were considering higher prices for first party games is categorically false.”
So [premium first party development studio] Naughty Dog’s next PS5 game will cost £70?
“I'm not making any predictions about anything that might or might not happen in the future. I'm saying that the reports about discussions that we considered higher pricing for first party games in this launch window were categorically false.”
Another aspect of the PS5 being criticised is its 665GB of available storage. Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War takes up almost one fifth of that on its own. Even basketball game NBA2K21 needs 114GB. Is this a problem for consumers?
“We're not hearing that. We'll obviously watch what happens as people unbox their PlayStations and start to use them. We think we'll be okay. We obviously are able to monitor hard drive usage on the PS4 microscopically and everything that we saw there indicates that we should be fine.”
Microsoft and Google are both investing heavily in streaming technology and Amazon Gaming is on the horizon too. Are such services a threat, and is that an area Sony needs to be in?
“Well we are in it, first of all, with PlayStation Now, so that would be the first point. I think deployment of the cloud at massive scale - and by massive scale, I'd say the sort of scale to which we achieve with our console businesses, and which we aspire to with the PlayStation 5 that we're just launching now - may happen. But that scale is unlikely to be delivered within the next year or two.
“But you know, we are active in the cloud right now. And it is an area that behind the scenes we’ll continue to invest a lot of time and a lot of energy in.”
Arguably the most controversial aspect of the PS5 is its design. It’s quite a big box...
“Yeah, I read your comments!”
Were you surprised by the mixed reaction to the PS5’s industrial design?
Ryan: “I was surprised in a good way. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion about that. And I completely respect that. But by the reaction and we obviously surveyed this fairly scientifically, the reaction was far more positive than negative.”
PS5 launches in the UK on November 19. Read Dan Silver's verdict on the console here.