EGM: Congratulations on the big press conference. Seems like a lot of people came away from it pretty excited.
Kaz Hirai: Thank you. Thank you.
EGM: It was surprising how much emphasis you guys put on PS3 in the press conference. I thought there would be more talk about the current generation and PSP.
KH: Well, we wanted to just, you know, there was so much to talk about. So much to show and, you know... It was just...bursting at the seams. And you guys probably thought it was a bit long anyway; it turned out to be an hour and forty-five minutes or so. And that was after we tried to pare things down.
We figured, hey, this is the big news of the event for Sony Computer Entertainment. And, you know, through conversations like these we can talk about PlayStation 2 business and the PlayStation Portable business and answer any questions that way, as opposed to the usual me getting up there and talking about numbers, numbers, numbers. And besides, people, I think, start to expect that I'm just going to go out there, introduce Ken, and you know, everybody else will talk and stuff.
EGM: This probably won't be the last time you're asked, but is the spring release date worldwide, Japan, or...?
KH: We haven't decided which territory or territories, and we obviously haven't decided a date yet. We haven't set a price. Those things are things that we'll have to start discussing and taking a hard look at, really as we go back from this show.
EGM: When you talked PS3, there was a lot of pie-in-the-sky-type discussions, similar to what we heard when PS2 was announced. It seems like PS2 was over promised, with features like making the PS2 a home server and microtransactions never coming to pass. Are you going to be able to full everything you've discussed?
KH: Yeah, you know, we've been talking a lot about the online initiatives, and actually, I'm very happy with where we find ourselves, with the PlayStation 2's online initiative that we started, what is it now? Two and a half years ago, if I'm not mistaken? It was August of 2002...I'll have to check on that, but-the launch of the Network Adaptor. And we still to this day have the largest online community of registered users on the PlayStation online service. And we obviously want to move the bar forward, to bring in different kinds of transactions, and we still are looking to embark on those and introduce those to the consumers. But there are a lot of moving parts, and now that we've introduced PlayStation 3 into the equation-as well as PlayStation Portable-things are moving at a pretty fast clip.
What we don't want to do is put out something that is, for example, just PlayStation 2-specific, or something that we put out that consumers may or may not embrace, but even if they embrace, we need to ask them six months later: Well, now that this has PlayStation Portable conductivity, so we need to change things around or change service around, and come spring next year PSP is coming out so, sorry guys, we need to shift some things around or we're going to add functionality so everyone needs to upgrade. We want to stay away from that, because we believe simple is best. And I would much rather continue down the very successful path that we have, the online leadership with PlayStation 2 today as opposed to just rushing things out. And if that means that some people are saying, "Well, where's the microtransactions?" I mean, it's a valid question, but you know, there's a reason why we don't want to rush things out and that is because we have two other consoles now to kind of make sure that we bring into the fold as well.
Because what we don't want to do is make something specifically for PS2, or, as I said PSP, but we don't want to also do something specifically for PS3, the PS3 online world, and then you know shut out the PSP users and PS2 users as well, so...there's a lot of moving parts that need to be solved before we can bring out a comprehensive online program. And as I said, I want to make sure it's a comprehensive online program as opposed to "here's something for the next six months."
EGM: So would this be an Xbox Live-type service?
KH: Well, what I would like to ideally see is something that would serve the PlayStation 3 user, the PlayStation Portable user, as well as the PlayStation 2 users to the extent that they can take advantage of what the PlayStation 3 online world will be. Now, given the limitations, as compared to the PS3, of the PS2, they may not even perceive an advantage... Maybe there will be, I can't tell you right now. But the plan is to include all three, and certainly there's lots to talk about, exciting possibilities-especially for PlayStation Portable because it's got Wi-Fi built in to all the units that are out there.
EGM: Yeah, and like you say, if you're using it to access your PS3 not just in the room but outside in the world...do you have any examples of how you would do that?
KH: Well, basically, I liken it to accessing your Lotus Notes, when you're in Japan, that I would do. I just pop on my laptop, do the wireless, and I'm basically in my Lotus Notes. Not playing games, but you know, accessing my notes. It's similar to that but for entertainment content. It would be that you would take your PSP with you, to the other side of the world, for example, you'd fire up your PSP and through a wireless hotspot in Japan, you could get right into your PS3 and access a role-playing game or whatever it is, to continue doing what you're doing. Or, you know, access other content that you may have in your detachable hard disk drive or Memory Stick, so literally the PlayStation Portable becomes an extension of the PS3 that you have in your home.
EGM: A satellite and mothership kind of thing.
KH: Yeah, exactly. And when I say, "Well, think of your Lotus Notes," then a lot of people say, "OK, now I get it." But in an entertaining way.
EGM: PS3's supposed to include a number of extra Internet-related capabilities. Is it going to have a browser or a keyboard for surfing the Web?
KH: Well, it's got a USB port, so you can plug in USB keyboards if you like, or other USB peripherals. I've said this for 10 years now: If people think, if consumers think that "yes, I want to browse the Web," especially this time around, and it could be a different story, especially with the HD monitors that people have, instead of a standard-definition TV. If consumers say, "We want to browse the Web," you know, the conventional websites as we know them today, there's really no reason why we or some other software publisher can't come out with a Web browser.
I think it was always possible with the PlayStation 2, even with the PS1, you know, with some limitations... but at the end of the day, whether you're using the PS2 or PS1 or some other Web-TV devices, outputting the Internet, as we knew it or know it today, on a conventional TV, is not really a great experience. Now, as I said, things could be somewhat different because you can output to an HD device, and then yeah, you get that clarity as well. So again, I think that maybe there would be more people wanting to do that. And if there is, there's really no reason why we, or like I said, a third-party publisher would do that.
EGM: And then there's the hard drive, the detachable hard drive. I'm imagining that that will be sold separately?
KH: We haven't decided whether it will be sold separately or whether we're going to include one, and then sell additional ones...that's still to be determined.
EGM: Because the PS2 one didn't seem to do too well...
KH: Yeah, we [sold] -I'm not exactly sure, maybe about four or five hundred thousand, I'm not exactly sure-with Final Fantasy XI.
EGM: Do you think more developers would support the PS3 hard drive from the outset?
KH: I think it depends on, again, whether it's something the consumers will be able to take advantage of from day one, and if it is, then great. If not, then you don't want to straddle consumers with something that they're not going to be using for a while. And that was pretty much the strategy with the PS2.
EGM: How different will the final PS3 controller be from the one you unveiled? Is that just a mockup?
KH: The PS3 controller that we showed at the show is obviously a mockup. But yeah, fundamentally the design won't change. We may do tweaks here and there, but you can expect that fundamentally it's going to look like that. So, to answer your question, it's going to look different from the PS and PS2 controller.
EGM: Why the move to a different shape?
KH: Good question. [Laughter] No, seriously, I've not spoken to the designer on that, so I wouldn't be able to tell you one way or the other.
EGM: It supports seven controllers through Bluetooth, which seems like an interesting number. Do you know why you'd want to support seven controllers?
KH: Um, I would assume, and you guys may know this better, I would assume that it's that for Bluetooth, you can't have more than seven.
EGM: I see. I wondered if it was some kind of strange, you know, of a seven-player game. [Laughter]
KH: Seven-player game, yeah, exactly. Not eight, but seven.
EGM: Did you read the TIME article on Xbox 360?
KH: No, I have not. No. People have been talking about it, but I have not had a chance to read it.
EGM: We'll read you one little part from Bill Gates. He says "If there's anything confusing about Sony's thinking, it's when will they get their act together on the equivalent of Xbox Live." Is this something we're going to see, then, with PS3?
KH: Again, you know, they seem to really put their eggs in the online basket, which I guess is one strategy. But I think especially with this generation of hardware-not PS3, but PS2-I've said from day one that online is not the be-all end-all. It's a great experience. It's a very important thing that we embark on. That's why we took it very seriously and grew it to the biggest number of registered users. But we also don't want to lose sight of the fact that it's all about great content. It's all about making sure that you continue to grow the installed base of your hardware, making sure that you continue that dialogue and relationship of the brand with the consumers that you've established over the past ten years of leadership. Those things are the other important ingredients that come in to making sure that you can take everybody to the next generation of hardware.
So talking about online is great-like I said, I'm not belittling it. But there are other important aspects that one cannot forget to ensure success to move on and transition to the next generation. So having said that, as I said, I've said this before many times as well: Online or broadband connectivity, whatever you want to call it, is kind of like air conditioning in a car. It was nice to have back in the '60s. Now I don't think you can find too many cars without air conditioning. So whatever final form that we decide to take, online is going to be an integral part of the PlayStation 3 experience, and by extension, PSP and also PS2 as well.