This year has been horrible because it has made one of the greatest pleasures in life, staying at home glued to the TV, into something obligatory and, therefore, hateful. ‘The good thing’ is that we have caught up with the Netflix series and with all those video games that we had pending. The console has been the great winner of the confinements.
We spoke with Jim Ryan, CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, about what it’s been like to launch a new game console, PlayStation 5, during a global pandemic.
What a coincidence that Sony launches a new console also this year, the highly anticipated PlayStation 5. But 2020 spares no one, and although it has been a good year for the home entertainment industry, the launch has been very complicated: “It has been very difficult For a few moments, we even ask ourselves, “Are we going to be able to do it?”
The speaker is Jim Ryan, CEO since 2019 of Sony Interactive Entertainment, the branch of the Japanese giant dedicated to video games and under whose seal the PlayStation and its exclusive titles are designed, manufactured and sold, such as’ God of War ‘or’ The Last of Us’.
The PS5, as it is known everywhere, hit online stores on November 19 and its reception has been colossal. VGChartz’s early estimates point to more than two million units sold in its first two days. Good news for Sony, bad for its users: it was impossible to buy one unless you already had a reservation for months and it has been sold out since then. “The demand has been much greater than the supply,” says Ryan.
The CEO of Playstation is aware that there are not enough consoles and that this has annoyed many consumers. Will there be enough PlayStation 5 to give away this holiday season? He does not know, he does not answer, but he comes out well: “I am aware of how important the Three Wise Men are still for you.”
Knowing about our tradition is no accident. Before being the ‘boss’ of PlayStation at a global level, it was at a European level. And although he now spends most of his time in California, when the Covid began to strike, he was clear: “I returned home, to London, without a moment’s hesitation.”
Hence, he knows first-hand that Spain is one of the great PlayStation markets. So much so that he jokes with our language: “I know you call it ‘La Play’ to shorten it. And I like it a lot, because it seems to make it synonymous with the game, with playing”.
Ironically, our country has been one of the last to receive the console. “First of all, let it be clear, that I am European and I love Europe, but the distribution lines are somewhat more complicated than in the US and it takes us longer to get things out of Japan.” At least, the wait has not been as long as in the past, something that the manager points out: “When we launched the first PlayStation in Japan, it did not arrive in Europe until after nine months”.
Designing and manufacturing a device that has to reach millions of people in 2020 is a challenge, to which we must then add the organization of marketing and distribution in stores. “Everything has been different, everything is stranger, but by taking a positive attitude and going calmly, we have succeeded,” says Ryan.
He also points out that it has been particularly complicated because they have launched two versions of the console: a digital one at 399 euros and another that also has a disc player and costs 499 euros. But Ryan is quick to point out that “the only difference between the two consoles is that one reads records and the other doesn’t.”
But the future seems to be digital and the video game industry is at the forefront in this regard, especially in countries like ours: “Spain is a market in which the acceleration of this transition between physical and digital format has been enormous. In 10 years, the penetration of digital games has been immense. “
Although stores remain “great allies”, in the words of the executive, Sony has been building a digital environment for years with payment services such as PlayStation Plus or PlayStation Now. The first is a fee to play online with friends that also gives away games on a monthly basis. The second, a kind of Netflix for video games that allows you to download or stream a selection of titles. “If you buy a PS5, become or already a Plus subscriber, you will have direct access to 20 foundational PS4 games,” says Ryan.
This is something important: for the first time, being able to play the games of the previous game console is essential for the next model. PlayStation 4 games can be played on PlayStation 5 without problems, although Ryan wants to be honest: “I think there are only ten games in the entire catalog that are not compatible.” Important information for the father-grandfather-uncle who has to buy the new console: they can save or sell or give away the old game console without fear.
But he doesn’t consider looking back to be the best when a new console launches. That is why PS5 has launched with three exclusive video games, among which is ‘Spider-Man: Miles Morales’, an adventure starring the famous spider-man. “Our strength is in great stories, we want to tell great stories, and I think Spider-Man is a demonstration of that.”
At a time when games like ‘Fortnite’ triumph, which function as a service and never end, PlayStation continues to bet on productions that seem out of Hollywood, with human characters and a story with a beginning and an end. “In a few months, more games will arrive, like ‘Horizon: Forbidden West’ or ‘God of War'”.
Being able to play these new video games is one of the great selling points of the new console, along with its greater power, its better performance and together with the new controller. The so-called DualSense is an ace up Sony’s sleeve, as it vibrates in a unique way and is a factor that differentiates it from its competition. “There will come a time when the game that doesn’t make heavy use of it will not be competitive,” says Ryan.
As a consumer, however, he is aware that spending will be the key factor, especially in times of crisis. “Spain is a market in which the price is something that is always taken into account”, and perhaps this is why there is a cheaper version: “The digital version is at the same price as PlayStation 4, with the difference that it is a lot More powerful”.