Sony’s Jack Tretton downplays idea of “the last console generation”

CEO of PS4 maker says opportunities are the best in decades for console makers, only getting better.

Sony's Jack Tretton

It’s to be expected that Sony Computer Entertainment America president and CEO Jack Tretton would be optimistic about the future of the console business on the eve of the PlayStation 4’s launch. In explaining to All Things D how he tried not to worry too much about what competitors like Microsoft were doing, Tretton suggested it was the best time in decades for anyone to be in the console making business.

“I respect anybody’s approach to the business, but at the end of the day, you’ve gotta be laser-focused, and can make yourself crazy trying to react to what the competition is doing,” Tretton said. “I’m not naive enough to think that we’re going to own every consumer. Some people are going to gravitate toward our platform, some people are going to gravitate toward others. Some are going to stay behind on existing generations, and some are never going to buy it at all. But it’s much better as an opportunity for a manufacturer today than it was five, 10, 15, 20 years ago, and I think it’ll be better going forward.”

Earlier in the interview, Tretton was asked to respond to those who predicted the coming generation of consoles would be the last one. He disagreed, saying the things people see as threats right now–tablets and smartphones–are actually additive to the game industry, and not succeeding at the expense of consoles.

“It’s funny, I’ve heard about the ‘last console’ since 1986, and only because that’s when I entered the business,” Tretton said. “I’ve managed to ride the ‘last console’ wave for the last, what is that … 27 years or so? There’s a reason the console came about: Sitting in front of a big-screen TV on a couch with your friends. To get the immersive depth in gaming and to get the social experience of sitting around the living room, we’re not going to huddle around a tablet. We’re not going to huddle around a smartphone. I think the technology will come a long way, but you’re still trying to build a console, ultimately. You’re trying to get it closer to a console.”



Tretton: “The lowest priced system isn’t always successful”

SCEA boss plays down the importance of PlayStation 4’s price advantage


Sony’s Jack Tretton doesn’t believe that the PlayStation 4’s price will be decisive in the outcome of the next generation, arguing that there are more important factors at play in winning over the consumer.

Speaking to Bloomberg, the SCEA president claimed that the PS4’s one million global pre-orders represent “just a fraction” of the actual demand for the console. However, while Tretton believes that its release in November this year will be the biggest launch in Sony Computer Entertainment’s history, the $399/€399/£349 will not be the deciding factor in who emerges as the victor.

“Obviously you’d like your competitor at a higher price than a lower price, and I’ve lived on both sides of that spectrum,” he said. “I think, ultimately, the gamer looks at 10-year product life-cycles, they look at the software offerings, they look at the value proposition. The lowest priced system isn’t always successful.”

The Xbox One will retail for $499/€499/£429, and the gulf between its prices and those of its rival is widely seen as the most significant competitive difference that remains following Microsoft’s various policy amendments. Public perception of Xbox One has improved dramatically in recent weeks, and Gamescom has been largely positive for Microsoft: it detailed its policies around indie self-publishing, announced a deal that will see FIFA 14 bundled for free with Xbox One pre-orders, and the exclusive Titanfall looks likely to be the most admired game at the show – just as it was at E3.

Certainly, Sony is clear about where the battle-lines have been drawn, shifting its focus away from its home territory – where PlayStation platforms have traditionally launched first – and towards Xbox strongholds in North America and Europe.

“[PlayStation 4’s launch in] Japan is to be determined,” Tretton said. “It’s obviously a really important market for us – it’s the home market – but the battle for next generation hearts and minds is being waged in the west right now.

“Historically, we’ve launched in japan first, so this is a pretty big change for us, but it’s indicative of where gaming has the most heat right now.”



Jack Tretton: “The Battle for Next Generation’s Hearts and Minds is Being Waged in the West Right Now”

console war

With both the PS4 and Xbox One set to release on the same month in most of the Western world, it’s clear that this November is going to be one of the most exciting months in the history of gaming.

SCEA’s Jack Tretton told Bloomberg that the PS4 will be “far and away the biggest launch” SCE’s ever had, saying:

[To give] a sense of the pent-up demand, we announced that we have pre-sold over a million units worldwide, and that is really only a fraction of what the actual demand is, but we’re going to be out in over 30 countries by the end of the year, so that’s indicative of the fact that it’ll be far and away the biggest launch in our corporate history.

Japan, however, may not get the PS4 this year, so Bloomberg asked Tretton why that was. He replied:

Japan is to be determined, it is obviously [an] extremely important market for us, it’s the home market, but the battle for next generation’s hearts and minds is being waged in the west right now, and I think it’s a recognition by us that this is the market we want to lead with.

Who is winning the battle, and who will win the war? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



Tretton: PlayStation Vita’s Got a Dedicated Fanbase, It’s Just Not Big Enough

Growing pains

While it’s now host to a pretty strong selection of games, the PlayStation Vita is still struggling to garner the commercial success that it probably deserves. Hardware numbers are catastrophically low, and it’s failing to secure big third-party brands as a result. Despite this, SCEA president Jack Tretton believes that there’s still a big market for the device – irrespective of the growing dominance of smartphones and tablets.

“If you’re really going to change the industry, and you’re going to do something that people are going to remember you for, then you’ve got to take a few risks,” the straight-talking gaffer told IGN in an episode of Up at Noon. “It seemed crazy in 1995 to go up against Nintendo and SEGA, and release [the PSone]. Given smartphones and tablets, a lot of people are now asking, ‘Why do you want to have a dedicated handheld?’ We always thought that there was an opportunity, seeing as not everybody can be at home all of the time, to try and deliver a high quality experience with dual-analogue sticks and a great screen. And I still think that there’s an audience for it.”

Tretton reckons that there’s good reason to believe that the system will rebound, too – even if the platform holder has got its work cut out. “The thing that has me encouraged about the Vita is that the people that have bought the console really enjoy it – they’re very happy with it, and they’re buying a lot of games,” he said. “I think that I said at E3 that owners buy around ten games on average, so we’ve got a dedicated fanbase, it’s just not big enough right now.”

The executive continued that connectivity with the PS4 could boost the handheld’s prospects in the future. “I think that the connection to the PS4 and the ability to play remotely on your Vita will get a lot more people interested in the system, but there’s clearly a lot of work still to be done,” he noted. “We knew that we were going into a really difficult market [from the outset].”

During the interview, the likeable suit took the opportunity to reiterate that Remote Play between the PS4 and Vita will work on launch day, which is definitely an exciting prospect. Still, the handheld is in a bit of a strange spot at the moment, because it genuinely is bursting with solid content. The problem is that while the software in the pipeline is certain to appeal to existing owners, there’s nothing really on the horizon that’s going to prompt prospective buyers to purchase the machine.


Xbox chief Don Mattrick leaving Microsoft

Sources have told AllThingsD that Mattrick is close to joining Zynga, possibly to take the role of CEO.

Don Mattrick

Although the news is not yet official, Kara Swisher of AllThingsD is reporting that Don Mattrick, Microsoft’s head of the Interactive Entertainment Business, is on his way out. Citing “multiple sources close to the situation,” AllThingsD says that Mattrick is close to joining social games firm Zynga. In fact, Mattrick may be working in close partnership with Mark Pincus, becoming the new CEO (apparently meaning Pincus would take another executive role at the company).

“While it is not unusual for a founder to give up such power, it certainly underscores Pincus’ commitment to reviving Zynga,” says Swisher.

Although there’s been much talk of management reshuffling and overall restructuring at Microsoft, this move does not appear to be part of that plan. Of course, it’s easy to assume that Mattrick is moving on following the major heat that his Xbox division took after severely fumbling the ball at E3, allowing SCEA boss Jack Tretton to enjoy a massive PR victory. The Xbox One policy reversal may have helped calm the waters, but Microsoft clearly has much PR work to do still in navigating the stormy next-gen seas. Whether Mattrick’s moving on is at all related to the Xbox One reception is unclear at this point.

The word is that the news could be officially announced today after the markets close. We’ll keep you posted.