Page last updated at 13:06 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 14:06 UK

Sony looks to the long game

By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website, Los Angeles

Set of Sony E3 press conference, AP
Sony's press conference at E3 was a dazzling hi-tech showcase

At the E3 conference in Los Angeles, Sony has been preaching a message of stability and security for its PlayStation 3 console.

It is almost two years since the PS3 debuted and the company wants to project an image of control and strategic thinking.

Kaz Hirai, Sony Computer Entertainment's global president told BBC News: "We have proven time and time again that we have stable platform and one that we will keep in business for 10 years."

Sony's press conference on Tuesday was a dazzling set of flat panel screens and high-definition footage, and there was plenty of reassurance about the direction the company has chosen.

The message to gamers was that while there are great games out now, and on the horizon, it is to the future and the long game that people must look.

Title chase

Jack Tretton, head of PlayStation's US business, told the audience: "It took some time for mass market migration from PlayStation to PlayStation 2."

Pack shot of GTA: San Andreas
Top games such as GTA: San Andreas appeared years after the PS2 debuted
He reminded the audience that ground-breaking titles like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas did not hit the PlayStation 2 until four years into the machine's life.

So is this Sony's way of asking PlayStation 3 owners to be patient? Is the investment in a PS3 a deferred investment in titles that will one day be released?

Mr Hirai told BBC News: "We wanted to put things in perspective. We had a 10-year lifecycle for the original PlayStation, and the PlayStation 2 as well. The PlayStation 3 will be no different.

"It doesn't mean that all of the good titles are not coming out this year."

Mr Hirai points to forthcoming tiles like LittleBigPlanet, Resistance 2 and Motorstorm: Pacific Rift as evidence of the high quality games that are due for release.

"I think we have a great line up of titles; some titles do take longer to come to market than others."

The value proposition we bring with PlayStation 3 to consumers is clear
Sony Computer entertainment Kaz Hirai

On the face of it, PlayStation 3 has not had an easy birth. But sales figures for the PS3 are outstripping those of its predecessor at the same point in its lifecycle.

The console is on the verge of outselling the Xbox 360 in Europe, and the company is pushing into new markets like Latin America.

Casual games

Sony is also keen to point out that its PlayStation 2 is still a healthy part of the business, with more than 130 million consoles sold, and 130 new games due for release this year.

Nintendo may be the darling of the press right now, but Sony's combined business makes it a force to be reckoned with.

The company is also quick to point out that it has been successful with social and casual games long before Nintendo launched the Wii.

Mr Hirai said: "We have a great business in casual and social games. You don't get to an install base of 130 million PlayStation 2s if we were not able to appeal to casual gamers.

"We have been really able to engage those consumers, those casual gamers, and we're now migrating them to PlayStation 3, with Buzz or Singstar.

Screenshot from MotorStorm: Pacific Rift
Games such as Motorstorm: Pacific Rift are forthcoming for the PS3

"We've done that in droves with PlayStation 2, and we're now in a transition phase in bringing some of those onto PlayStation 3."

He added: "It's a very successful formula for us."

Sony's rival Microsoft boasted this week that the Xbox 360 would outsell the PS3 over its lifespan.

But Mr Hirai said: "We engage in a 10-year life cycle; if any other of the competitors are in same lifecycle then it's an apples to apples comparison.

"But based on historical data most of the other consoles go by the wayside after four or five years."

In other words, Microsoft may have the lead in year five when it launches new hardware, but look at the data in another five years and it may be another story.

For customers waiting for a price cut, Mr Hirai said the firm was very comfortable with its pricing.

"The value proposition we bring with PlayStation 3 to consumers is clear."


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