Patrick Seybold, Sony’s Senior Director, Corporate Communications & Social Media was kind enough to allow me to chat with him after Sony’s excellent showing at E3. Mr. Seybold and I discuss PlayStation Move, PSP, the impact of social media, and Kevin Butler.
Sony had an excellent showing at E3 and redefined what the PlayStation brand is all about. What are your thoughts on the incredible reaction those in attendance at the Shrine Auditorium had to those announcements?
We saw an incredibly strong reaction from attendees at the PlayStation Press Conference and I think it’s in large part due to the diverse and new content that we were able to share with the audience. Topping the charts was the upcoming PlayStation Move motion controller and an in-depth look into how we are leading the 3D race, with demos on the show floor that ranged from Killzone 3 in 3D to Gran Turismo 5 in 3D. And on the PS3 platform we started the year with huge releases such as MAG, Heavy Rain, God of War III, MLB 10: The Show, and ModNation Racers. The momentum will carry through as we have an extremely strong back half of the year line-up from both our first party studios and our publishing partners. Our digital entertainment offerings, which comes packed today with premium original content from HBO, and 23,000 movies and TV shows from all of the major networks and studios, was met with more good news with the announcement of PlayStation Network’s new subscription based offering, PlayStation Plus. All in all, it was a great show and I think everyone was really excited by the volume and quality of great new games and hardware brought to the forefront at E3.
The PlayStation Move could almost be likened to t he launch of an entirely new console, and so many more A list titles will be coming out before the holiday season across the product line. What are some of the challenges in gearing up for what is going to be quite a busy year in the coming months?
Yes, exciting times are ahead of us as we look towards the arrival of the PlayStation Move. When PlayStation Move launches on September 19th in the US, consumers will have access to a compelling line-up of motion-control titles that will appeal to both the casual and core gamers. We also have an incredibly deep line-up coming to PS3 and PSP, so the PlayStation brand will be broadly represented at retail and in consumer’s homes this holiday season.
As E3 demonstrated, the media and fans really identify with Kevin Butler, and those ad campaigns have really reached a whole new audience. What were your thoughts when you saw Kevin Butler make his appearance?
It was a great reaction and the crowd went wild when Kevin Butler appeared. Since launching the “It Only Does Everything” campaign last September, the public has really resonated with the messaging. The next few months it will be interesting to see how our core gamers take to the new advertising campaign “Step Your Game Up” for PSP and PSPgo. The focus is all about providing a deeper look into what makes a PlayStation Portable gaming experience more complete and enjoyable than anything else you’ll find on the market.
I couldn’t attend E3 this year due to scheduling issues, and a lot of people could not either, yet when you visit the E3 site in PS Home, you really get the sense of being there. Do you think this is something we can see moving forward? Might we see more virtual spaces in PS Home, like FEVA Stadium that really leverages the power of the PS3 against its competitors?
I am glad you liked the experience in PlayStation Home. It was very well received and with 250,000 visitors to the booth, it proved that people really utilize the PlayStation Home 3D virtual environment to connect with their fellow PS3 owners. You can expect us to do more of this in the future and while I can’t provide specifics on new spaces to be introduced in Home, you should keep watch because there will be more exciting spaces revealed throughout the remainder of this year.
Early on there was a lot of criticism against the PS3 for being too expensive, and for including technology that, at the time, appeared over-specced. Now all those early decisions are allowing the PS3 to offer experiences that aren’t possible on other consoles. Can you talk about what riding that wave was like, and how it feels to be where Sony is now?
We’ve always said that we are building a product that is future proof. We’ve been able to impress upon both our fan base and potential new customers that we not only have a serious gaming device, but we also have a powerful and unparalleled entertainment device that offers a wide variety of options for everyone – downloading content, photo storage, streaming music, sports, Blu-ray player, and now 3D. Consumers are responding and the PS3 has just surpassed ten consecutive months of double-digit year over year growth.
There were rumors swirling around about a PSP 2, yet Sony showed just how viable the current PSP is by having it take center stage and highlighting excellent titles on the way with a whole new ad campaign. Do you think this deep into the PSP life cycle it’s time for a refresh or does it have a few years left?
PSP is still going strong and has an incredibly deep pipeline of products in development. We already covered a bit about our new advertising campaign “Step Your Game Up” which shows our commitment to the product and to those fans that crave real full-length games. With big franchises like Metal Gear Solid, God of War coming to the platform this year, and new IP such as Invisimals showing off new augmented reality, PSP is still the best portable gaming device on the market.
Social media is a big part of how this generation gets its news and communicates. Your team has done an excellent job with this type of communication by having such an active community on the blog, the forums, twitter and is head and shoulders above what others are doing in the same space. What are the challenges in balancing so many different forms of communication and getting so many different people within Sony to participate?
Our PlayStation blog, the forums and Twitter have all helped us to get closer to our fans/customers. We have a constant interest to be able to utilize these social media tools to engage with the core user base, solicit opinions, provide intel and to course correct as needed based upon their input and feedback. Another good example of this is the PlayStation Share. We want to engage with those that use our products and know their likes/dislikes because that can only help us make a more targeted product. When you arrive at the homepage for Share it says:
Share is a place to formally submit your best ideas on how we can improve all PlayStation products. It’s also a place where you can discover and vote on other people’s ideas, as well as communicate with us and other PlayStation fans about how to bring great ideas to life.
We want to create the best products available and our customers and fans are a great source of ensuring we continue to have the best in class products available.
I want to give a humble thanks to Mr. Seybold for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with us and Mrs. von Esmarch for her assistance in coordinating the interview.