Michael Denny on PS4′s philosophy, future & building something both developers & gamers want

I interviewed senior VP of worldwide studios Michael Denny following the reveal of PS4. Here we discuss the philosophy behind the new console, the controller, the lack of backwards compatibility and Sony’s future plans.

OPM You talked a lot about service, tech and ideas; how are you going to present PS4 to a more casual market?

Michael Denny So I think two of the other pillars we talked about in-terms of design were simplicity and immediacy. Even taking back a step from here, PlayStation 4 can still be enjoyed old school without an Internet connection at all. So it depends what level you want to use these feature sets at. So with ’simple’ and ’immediacy’ we want it so that everything is one button click away, for example. And ’immediacy’ takes down these barriers that can be frustrating to gamers between the player getting access to the content.

Playstation 4 can still be enjoyed old school without an Internet connection at all

The best example of that is not just the background downloading but being able to play digital content as it’s downloading for example. There are a lot of messages because there are a lot of features but that enriches the whole system. I think it’s the experience of them, when people get their hands on the device, enjoy the experiences, enjoy the seamless interaction of the social side of the play, the personalisation, the idea that we’re going to be able to recommend and give preferential content to people as we go along. I think all these ideas come together in the play experience and how you get to the games.

OPM Is the background downloading a response to the patching on PS3? One of the most common gaming tweets I see is people complaining about not playing game X because it needs an update.

MD I think you learn from every system you put out there and I think it’s a good thing to learn from what you do. I think from the outset when we started talking about the concept of PlayStation 4, as long ago as 5 years ago, you’re learning all the time; what improvements we can make? The controller’s an example, people are talking about the new features on it but sometimes people forget we’ve made improvements as well. The sticks and buttons are tighter for more control in the games. There’s less latency for example. Then you layer on the new features with the touchpad, with the share button, with the light bar etc. So it goes throughout the system that there’s going to be improvements, there’s a wish list from gamers out there, from PlayStation fans, so we sort that out then we add more as well.

OPM Why did you chose not to reveal any physical form?

MD There’s time for that to come. The idea of the event was really to explain to people our philosophy, our vision for PlayStation 4. That we wanted a very focused approach on the gamer. A very consumer-centric plan. And that was informed by getting great content on to it and to do that we had to consult with the development community earlier. I think that everybody now understands that: what we’re about, what we’re going to do. Of course from publication’s point of view to have the nice picture of the box as the stand out thing is a missed view but there’s still plenty of time for that later.

OPM The emphasis on streaming this and cloud that suggests a generation that’s more about games and people’s ability to get to them, rather than the Hardware. Is that the future? Is this is a transitional step towards a world where it’s about software and the access to it, rather than the box it comes in?

MD I think to have a successful new system you need great software, you need great hardware and nowadays you need a great network as well. All of them are important. The main message last night was about inside the box, rather than the physical look. Inside the box we’ve architected it in such a away as to give developers the best shot, the best way possible of creating truly great content. Because at the end of the day that’s what the differentiator will be.

To have a successful new system you need great software, great hardware and nowadays you need a great network as well

OPM So the message I get is that content is the most important thing now, as well as your ability to access it.

MD I think that’s right. I think that ultimately great content always wins the day. What we’ve had to be mindful of is that since we’ve launched PlayStation 3 the world’s moved on massively. Our consumers moved on massively as well – the way they want to consume their entertainment, and their content is something we’re very aware of. So not only do we want to build a system where we can get the best creators in the world to make the best games in the world but to give these different choices, these difference ways of experiencing that content as well.

PS4 controller

OPM How do you feel about leaks?

MD You know, that’s modern times isn’t it? That’s the Internet, the way things are. You get out of bed, you see it (groans) but you get on with it. There were leaks but you still have to come to events, have it pieced together and understand it. I think, someone having a picture of a controller that’s nearly the right one etc. It is of interest to people but not the full story. Its not in context of what we’re trying to achieve. Those things happen, you have to live with it these days.

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