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Interview with Adam Sessler

KHBBS

Adam and I talk about Sony’s strength’s, weaknesses, and 3D TV.

If you watch G4 then you know who Adam Sessler is. Whether it’s during X-Play, E3 Coverage, or Comic-Con, his witty, entertaining, and extremely articulate comments on gaming and the industry are a staple at G4TV. What you might not know is that besides being the Co-Host of X-Play, he is also Editor in Chief Games of Content. I had a chance to chat with him before Comic-Con, and wanted to get his honest, candid thought’s on Sony.

Sony has made some strides with console redesign, and a great ad campaign. Despite that, they are still in a fight with Microsoft. What are something’s you think Sony is doing well?

The one thing that Sony is clearly doing well is titles that are unique to the PS3, which are almost all coming out of Sony development studios or at least partnerships that are exclusive with Sony. I would have to say that if you’re looking at, sort of what’s happening on the Microsoft side with that and what’s happening on the Sony side, I think there is a lot more experimentation and innovation and a greater sense of breadth to those titles on Sony’s side. One of the things I have seen a lot from Microsoft is they have very strong franchises: Halo, Gears, Fable. But there is that point, where, where else can you go with them? What are you going to do to invigorate your base?

And I think obviously with the success of Uncharted 2, The Last Guardian is coming around the corner, Little Big Planet 2, it does star to look, that, they really have that great roster. I think the real issue is that it took so long for Sony to get to that point, that they are in this, real sort of dangerous game of catch-up. I don’t necessarily see Microsoft slowing down to the point where they can sort of close that gap, but I think in terms of Sony trying to reinvigorate just the brand of PlayStation I think there software line up is doing a fine job of showing a greater sense of refinement and breadth in I think their software line up.

Conversely Sony has also made some decisions, that, at times, caused people to scratch their heads. What are some areas that you think they are failing in?

Sony at the beginning of this console generation was coming off the PS2 which was wildly successful. It was the dominant console of that generation. I would have to say that there was a sense of entitlement to that position in this generation and I think it allowed them to make decisions that were really kind of devastating.

I think the big one has to got to be the price point for the PS3; they really misread the appetite of the market to have a gaming console at that level. They were also investing too much in to Blu-ray and when they tried to, sell this machine, bolt on the Blu-ray and on the Cell processor, the games kinda of got lost. And they were not being able to speak the proper language to the audience that they really had quite loyal to them through the PS2. Obviously, there was that horrific, press conference. Not the one where they showed the not completely real Killzone trailer, but the following one, where they suddenly pulled the Sixaxis out of nowhere, they’re doing that with Warhawk, Genji, I mean, really they were asking you spend $600 and they could not reproduce one true killer app at the launch of the console.

I think they still needed to go for another year of really getting beat up before they realized that they should not have that level of entitlement. Then suddenly you started to see the good software. But once again, in the video game industry when your dealing with these consoles, losing that year…

Really, if you look at the PS2, one of the best advantages the PS2 had was it had a year on both the GameCube and the original XBOX. They as a result lost that year to the XBOX360 and then they lost yet another year by not making a good case to the consumer as to why they should be buying the console. Now they seem to be more on track. Even at this E3 you get a small sense of scatterbrained messaging, but at the same time they do have the goods to back it up. I worry about pushing to heavily on 3D. Obviously Sony corporate has 3D televisions they want to sell at the end of the year, but they need to sort of keep their eyes on that core element of which is very very good game developer’s that are within the Sony family.

How do you see 3D gaming evolving in the long-term? Do you see it being viable or being somewhat of a niche market?

I think it’s wholly contingent on the sale of 3D televisions. I think everyone is really holding their breath.

The whole reason we have 3D gaming right now is because of these 3D televisions, and if the televisions don’t sell, 3D gaming is going to go away. I honestly cannot decide if people are going to…it’s a bad economic climate to try and convince people who may have only in the past few years picked up a flat screen television to pick up another. At the same time, there are early adopters who just can’t turn down some sort of new technology. And if there are enough of them out there that are willing to spend the money then I think you will see a slow progression in to more 3D.

I guess, having looked at the 3D games, I am less resistant to the concept of 3D gaming than I was initially. I have always been concerned that the 3D would take such precedence that you’re going to see the game design and gameplay actually suffer because it’s only important to have the 3D. Killzone 3, it was neat with that jetpack to get the vertigo effect, but I don’t know where you go from there. And I think, unfortunately as with motion control, your putting something in the hands of developers that they themselves, have not, sort of been wanting. Their desire is to be creative, and express something and do something inside of a video game. So it is, I think, still putting the carriage a little in front of the horse. I think every so often we will see one or two games and we’ll say “Wow, that was really cool”, but it does concern me that there is this sense of ubiquity that somehow all games need to be 3D in the future. I’m kind of crossing my fingers that people aren’t going to buy 3D’s so it becomes a moot point.

With our E3 coverage, following twitter feeds and stuff like that, wow, did 3D resonant very low with our audience. If 3D is going to catch on, it’s going to catch on with a more marginal group of technophiles who want the new thing. I don’t think there are core gamers who really think that something is going to happen with their gaming.

PSN+. People are split down the middle on this. Do you think Sony is doing enough to make it a viable competitor to XBOX Live?

No. That was one of the more dissatisfying parts of the Sony press conference this year.

I think that people were, because of XBOX Live, finally ready to go “Hey, I will spend a little money if I can have the level of reliability on my online service that I am getting out of Microsoft”. And the whole idea that your going to spend money just to that you can download in the background…they don’t seem to get it.

I don’t know if that’s because your talking about a far more multnational company between the US, Europe and Japan. They really need to just jettison what they have. Maybe they will do that with the next console, but that’s going to be pretty far down the line. With XBOX Live you pay for the service, but you get something that is quite reliable for the most part. I think also, when the strange thing happened with the clock inside of the PS3, while that wasn’t the PlayStation Network’s fault, it just unfortunately put another blemish on it.

There is no reason why they should not have a service that is on par with XBOX Live. That is where some real investment needs to be because multiplayer is such a big element in games. It really means a lot to game publishers because it does reduce the resale of certain game’s if it has multiplayer in it.

The PlayStation Portable has some great titles, Birth by Sleep is on the horizon, but it’s 6 years into the PSP’s lifecycle. Do you think it’s time for Sony to do a larger scale refresh?

Yeah. And I agree with you, there are some really fun games you can get on it. That handheld market is soooo different than the console market. Nintendo has it so wrapped up. I am not saying there is anything, ostensibly wrong with the PSP, although I would really like a second analog stick due to the types of games that are on it.

But I have to question the rationale of having another PSP when Nintendo, especially with the 3DS is going to so dominate that market that are you just throwing good money after bad?  And as we just said, when the PlayStation Network could use such a revitalization, is it better to invest there than in what really seems to be a losing race with Nintendo.

Cloud computing and downloadable content are on the rise. You also have apps like Hulu, MLB.TV and Netflix. Where do you see the PS3 evolving to over it’s lifecycle? Where should it go?

That’s a really interesting question…

With all of those services out there…it’s almost like keeping up with the Jones es’. There seems to be this expectation that we finally are moving our consoles in to something closer to a set top box. Back in the old days when I was at TechTV, that was supposed to be the end all be all and it just never seemed to happen. It finally seems to be happening with the consoles and it seems to be happening in a way that is not distracting from what is supposed to be the core purpose of buying the console which is for the video games.

I think that as consumers expect to have these services they should be on it. It’s funny, I don’t use stuff like that, I’m a little bit old school (laughs). But I don’t know if trying to create something new and different is really going to distinguish the PS3 from those types of services that are on the XBOX. I know that Microsoft announced their deal with ESPN and I just can’t tell if that is going to make a difference. Is someone going to buy the 360 for ESPN service and they have been holding out from buying anything because that hasn’t been made available to them? I think any aspect like that needs to happen in the next generation of consoles, and right now we are just getting the consumer adjusted to the idea that are multiple uses for your gaming console other than just playing video games.

I would like to thank Kelly for arranging and scheduling the interview and Adam for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us. If you ever wondered if he as down to earth in person as he is on TV he is.  I started off the interview by calling him Mr. Sessler and he said “No need, I am just a dood” 🙂

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