SPOnG recently managed to catch up with President and Group Chief Operating Officer of Sony Computer Entertainment Incorporated (SCEI) Kaz Hirai. This is the man charged with taking the biggest gaming brand on the planet through its most difficult period since PlayStation was unleashed upon the world over a decade ago.
Hirai’s task was made all the more difficult by dint of the fact that he took over from “Father of PlayStation”, Ken Kutaragi, just two weeks after the PlayStation 3’s launch in November 2006.
In this exclusive interview, Hirai - in a frank and honest manner - discusses the kind of topics usually airbrushed out of the picture.
Hirai’s in-depth media-training is evident during the first answer - though stick with the interview for a more meaningful insight into the inner workings of SCEI.
: How are you dealing with your new place in the wider games industry? Sony was the clear leader in videogames, and recently you’ve been thrown back into the mix with the other guys. How does that feel?
: We have three platforms we are in business with. The PlayStation 2, clearly still the leader, with the largest installed base and still leads ‘the pack’. We’re very excited about the PSP, a new model of which we have just announced and for which we got great feedback – for how light it is, how thin it is and also for the video-out capabilities it has and it has a great line-up of software titles – 140 just in the US.
And the PlayStation 3, we’re very excited about this holiday season, moving into the new fiscal year. We’ll have 200 titles worldwide, 120 of which will be available in the North American market, so we go into the holidays, we’re really going to be cooking on all cylinders with all three platforms and we’re really excited about going into the holiday season. I almost wish the holiday season was here now so we can really get in there.
: That’s a very partisan answer, if you’ll forgive me for saying so. We were really wondering where your comfort zone is right now. The environment in which Sony operates has changed and your position in the market has shifted. How are you adapting to this?
: I’m not entirely sure what metrics you would use to say that…
: The metrics of the…
: (Interrupts) Let me put it this way. When we started this business, we started from zero. We were a nobody. We had a zero installed base with the original PlayStation and we worked our way up from there. When we launched the PS2, the Dreamcast had a head-start and they had an installed base and we had to ensure we caught up and surpassed.
We’re in a position where we’re having to play catch-up here. The PS3 has been on the market less than a year in the US and Japan and, what is it, less than that in Europe? It’s difficult right now to say who’s where. Five years from now, ten years from now, you look back and can see what kind of business you’ve generated. So, clearly we’ve never started from a position of strength and we’ve always had to catch up with every generation of hardware that we’ve brought into the market.