We’ve published several excerpts from our interview with Phil Harrison talking about the PS3 hardware - but what of the machine’s software? He’s the head of Sony’s worldwide studios, so he should know a thing or three about that…
One of the most interesting things about the next-gen consoles is that they all give the option of downloading games from the network, rather than going into a store and buying them. They’re not the same games as you’ll be buying in boxes - instead they’re small, cheap, and sometimes very innovative games that are limited in scope but often incredibly good fun.
Of course, since all the consoles offer this option, it would be easy for all of them to end up offering the same stuff - and the PlayStation Store, which is accessible through PS3, will almost certainly share some of its range of retro games and the likes with its rivals. However, Sony is planning to make sure that PlayStation Store also has lots of interesting, exclusive games - and Harrison is the man spearheading that initiative.
“We announced an initiative from a worldwide studios perspective at GDC this year,” he explains, “as a call to action to the development community to encourage them to create games specifically for us, that we would fund, that we would publish, in the online sense of the word, and distribute online.”
In other words, Sony is - right now - paying for developers to come up with cool new downloadable games.
“We’re developing about 40 products that fit that strategy right now,” Harrison continues. “We showed the very first one of those, called flOw, at the Tokyo Game Show for the first time. That got a really, really good response.”
“My strategy was to encourage developers to push the machine technically, creatively, artistically - to innovate in lots of different ways. But don’t be restricted by ghettoising games into a particular genre, or a particular display mechanic, because what we’ve seen on other systems tend to be retro 2D games, and we’re pushing the 3D capabilities of the PlayStation 3. Plus, the fact that every PS3 has a hard disc drive means that we’re not restricted by the size of the download, and that has a huge impact on the kind of game design that you can do.”
Indeed, developers do seem to be particularly excited about this idea - and we know for a fact that in the UK alone, studios devoted entirely to developing PS3 downloadable games and new divisions of existing studios focusing purely on PS3 downloadable games have been set up in recent months.
Harrison confirms that downloadable games are definitely starting to take hold. “We’re seeing an emerging strength in developers creating games specifically for downloadable content,” he says. “We’re seeing that as a really interesting way of stimulating creativity, experimentation… And it makes me feel as excited as about the games that we saw at the beginning of PS1, when there was a lot of really interesting innovation happening in the marketplace. I think we’ll see that on PlayStation 3 as well.”