Here’s a belated interview with Phil Harrison by Steve Boxer, our man at GDC - taken from the Blogger’s Round Table debate.
On Game 3.0:
Phil Harrison: We wanted to establish the idea that, as an industry, we could unify some thinking into a statement called Game 3.0. It’s more about philosophies than directions, and we’re trying to give a label to some things that were happening in the industry anyway.
On parental controls on Home and LBP:
PH: Everything in Home and LittleBigPlanet adheres to the parental controls established on the PlayStation Network. In addition to that, any user on Home can quickly disassociate with any person on their Friends list. The concept of Home doesn’t change any of the consumer functionality that’s part of the PSN, anyway. Within the public spaces, there will be moderation and community management resources.
Q: Will the games on the arcade machines in Home effectively act as adverts for developers?
PH: That’s a great suggestion, and is where we hope that the arcade games will move to. We’re already working with some external developers on that front – as shown by the game Evac which was in the Home demo. We initially intended them to be Java-based, but we moved away from that to get better performance and technology.
On the size of the world in Home:
PH: With the public spaces, there are soft and hard caps. When you get close to the soft cap, it will spawn additional versions of the space, and we will have some logic that will group friends together.
On making money from Home:
PH: There are three revenue channels for Home: 1) object sales, 2) advertising and 3) b-to-b, where partner brands are embedded into the network.
Q: Will Home sell PS3s?
PH: I believe so, absolutely. It gives another reason to use the Ps3 every day, and it strengthens the relationship between the game creator and the user.
On the similarity between Home and Second Life:
PH: I think you’re way oversimplifying by suggesting Second Life and Home are the same. In Home, you get a character and a 3D world, and that’s where the similarity ends. Second Life does some brilliant things but with Home, we’re providing a service. Therefore, the tone of voice is what will differentiate it – Home is about entertainment, it has a game focus, and it’s about sharing with a like-minded community. We don’t give users the level of influence over the environment, behaviour and object definitions that Second Life does – it’s as secure as any other PS3 game. With some of the operating system protocols that are built into the Cell chip, it’s about as secure as you can be on a consumer device.
PH: Within the PlayStation Network, we’re building a robust grief inventory forum, where any type of complaint or issue will be monitored. One thing to remember about Home is that there is no collision between avatars, so there won’t be any physical griefing. And you can simply turn off people from your view if they cause you grief.
One cool stuff you could have in Home:
PH: The spaces in Home are virtual, so everybody could have the perfect view, download a better sunset or so on. We were discussing how, if you had a great view from the back of your apartment – the perfect sunset across a lake, say – you could get all your friends around, and buy a premium item – a perfect V of ducks flying in front of the sun. So while your view would be the same as your friends’, you could customise it in some unique and charming ways.
On the success of the Wii and DS:
PH: The number one selling games brand on the planet has been PlayStation for many years. PlayStation 2 is the biggest-selling console in terms of units and money on the planet. While a certain system grabs headlines, what matters is sales and long-term brand-building, with the PSP, PS2 and PS3.
Q: There’s a negative perception of the PlayStation brand now – how can you overcome that?
PH: By innovating with great software and services, and making the PlayStation platforms the highest possible value they can be.
Q: I was reading about the hacking of Blu-ray – isn’t it a quite early to hack it? How big a problem is that?
PH: It has not been hacked – there is no evidence to say that it has been hacked in any way, shape or form.
On games like GTA IV being non-exclusive to the PS3:
PH: I don’t believe the PlayStation 3 on its own would have had the installed base to justify that. As the installed base grows, you’ll see a change, as developers start taking advantage of the unique features of the PS3.
On when developers will start getting the best from the PS3:
PH: That was part of the motivation behind the PlayStation Edge we announced – being able to share our technology with the developers.
On the dismantling and downsizing of the E3 Show:
PH: Let’s look at what the old E3 became – there were huge numbers of people walking the floors who were not stakeholders in the industry. Our investment on booths, staff, security and so on was going up and up – it was like an arms race, especially the South Hall. I don’t see how anybody could do business in that environment.
Q: How long until Sony does away with retail
PH: Never – we’re not going to do away with retail. But a game that somebody buys at retail is the beginning of our relationship with the customer, not the end. I think retailers will be as important to the games industry going forwards as they are today. Maybe retailers could have loyalty programmes located in Home.
On whether you could use your Home avatar in games:
PH: Potentially, yes, but not necessarily in every game, as the skeletal, animation data and so on would have to be exported.