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Why Sony did the opposite of Microsoft on used gamesIn the battle for gamers' hearts and minds, Sony Computer Entertainment of America CEO Jack Tretton explains why he thinks the company's new policy on used games is a winner.
-You made some fans tonight when you announced that PS4 would be able to play used games and that players would be able to trade, loan, keep their discs. Why did you decide to make that decision as opposed to going to rent that Microsoft took given that they had made that and that's the competition? Why was that important to Sony? -Well, it's our 4th generation of hardware and we've had a great relationship with the consumer and I think they've responded with tremendous loyalty. It's obviously a model that works well for them and why change something that isn't broken as far as we're concerned. -Was that something you gave some thought though? Did you go back and forth at all in terms of considering whether or not you might go that route? -Well, I think there's always a debate in the industry about the effects of the aftermarket. I remember many years ago people thought rental was a threat. People would rent a video game, they'd play it, they'd finish it and they never go out and buy it, and I think at recent years people have perceived that used games might be a threat, but I think there's also a position that says number 1, it adds to the value for the consumer and their price they're willing to pay for a new copy of the game. Number 2, it pumps new dollars into the ecosystem for the consumer. It actually puts them in a position to spend more on games if you give them some value for a game that they're done with, and we all know that consumers don't have unlimited dollars. So anything that keeps them in the ecosystem we think is good for gaming. -Did you expect that kind of reaction though? -I really did. I think that people have spoken very, very loudly when they're not happy and when they are happy. So I don't know that I expect it to be vocal at the press conference, but I know the news would've been extremely well received, but it's obvious that people have very strong emotions about it. -The emphasis on entertainment that we saw tonight, you're Sony so that's to be expected, but why is that important and what will it mean for the consumer's experience with the PS4? -Well, I mean I'd like to think that we brought entertainment beyond gaming into the fray right way back in 1995 with the original PlayStation. At the time, the ability to listen to your CDs on the same device that you play games was a novel concept and obviously we really had a big hand in the adoption the DVD with PlayStation 2 and then with Blu-ray and PlayStation 3 and the ability to just stream all the different partners that we brought without having to pay an additional fee was something I think really resonated with consumers, and Netflix is a perfect example of a service. It's really ubiquitous. It's on just about every device, but to be the number 1 stream device is a testament to the fact that the entertainment consumer is on our platform and they not only play a lot of games. They listen to a lot of music. They watch a lot of movies. They go to a lot of concerts, buy a lot of music. So they're very, very valuable consumer for Sony, and I think that's another key point. People look at the success of a generation based on the number of pieces of hardware you sold. What's important is that people are still playing it and what they're doing with it. I mean we feel that quality is more important than quantity if we had to make a choice. -A specific launch date for PS4. We heard holiday season, but can you tell us more specific than that and if not, why not? -Well, I think the honest answer is that you don't know where your production yields are gonna be until you go into production and you see the type of numbers you have. You don't know what the ultimate demand is gonna be and we're trying to roll this out on a worldwide basis. So we wanna do it right as opposed to sprinkle a unit here and a unit there. So we've got a lot of evaluation to do, but in my mind holiday means in the holiday season, but to be more specific would be speculative and quite frankly I think if you have an opportunity to get it before the end of the year whether you get it in October, November, or December is somewhat irrelevant because we hope it's something you're gonna enjoy for the next 10 years and beyond. So a couple of weeks one way or the other won't make too significant a difference. -A lot of people are pointing out that younger players are gaming on smartphones, tablets. Of course there's the PlayStation Vita, but what are Sony's plans to keep up with that trend, with that mobile gaming trend? -Well, the beauty in working for Sony is there isn't a business as it relates to entertainment in the gaming choices that you just mentioned that we're not in. We make tablets, we make smartphones. We have PlayStation mobile. We have games available on the tablet. So I think the entire ecosystem is growing, but the misnomer that I think some people miss out on is they assume that as people gravitating from the console to a smartphone or a tablet, I think it's the exact opposite that people are coming in to gaming through devices like smartphones and tablets and ultimately they migrate their way up the ecosystem, but the audience for the console is stronger than it's ever been. I mean we believe that there are more consumers out there that have interests in the console initially than we'll be able to manufacture. There's a huge pool of consumers to tap into and we're excited to bring PlayStation 4 to them. -What will be possible that wasn't possible before thanks to PS4? -I think as the technology grows, the ability to make the experience more and more immersive to really evoke emotion, to make people scared when they're playing and excited, mad, and to really get in a relationship with the characters just like they would with a movie or a TV show and I think we've reached the photo realism element that you can tell a story that has the depth that will actually leave somebody in tears, you know, at the end of an experience and that's something that you know is very, very difficult to envision many years ago and why people felt the gaming was a toy because it was something that, you know, they couldn't relate to. Now gaming is bigger than box office and movies combined. So clearly they were mainstream entertainment and people get that it's an art form, and I think the technology and the creativity and the development community has allowed us to rise to that level. -Do you have a favorite among the games that you highlighted today? -Well, you know, the amazing thing is like working in an ice cream parlor that you're surrounded by it. So I have a new favorite all the time and it really depends on what time. But the game I'm probably most excited to play right now is The Last of Us. I mean that just looks incredible but as soon as I sink my teeth into that, there's a whole list of other games I wanna jump into and I love the indie games. I mean they're great experiences as well. I mean great gameplay is great gameplay. -It's kind of interesting integration of Hollywood into the game. Is that something you see what you're trying to where you're trying to you know with the relationship Sony has, is that something you're trying to do more of? -Well, having been around the industry for a long time and having devoted my career to it is great to see this evolution in the relationship with Hollywood because it used to be when they were making a movie, somebody said hey we should pick up some licensing dollars by making a video game that will come out after the movie's out and it was really the stepchild if you will of the movie relationship. Now it's the exact opposite that the creative juices and the creative games that are being created are turning in to big budget movies, the games and the movies are being made side by side a lot at the same technology is being used and where it might have been an embarrassment for a lead Hollywood actor to be involved in a video game they seek it out. Now I think the same is true of the music industry. People wanna be on the soundtrack of a game because they know it can really propel their band. So again proof points for the health of the industry that Hollywood and the music industry flocked to gaming and that's a big change from the way it was you know just 10 or maybe even 20 years ago. -And because of that shift did you think it's bringing more gamers into the, you know, bringing more people to gaming because they're seeing you know oh, you know, maybe they're Ellen Page fans, maybe they you know star in Juno or something like that? -Yes. I think it brings people in a number of different ways. I think the key is just to demystify it. I think people look at a controller and they see all those buttons and they say I'd never be able to control it, and that's one of the things that I think we owe a debt of gratitude to smartphones and tablets because it's a real easy interface, but once you get used to it and you demystify it a little bit, you know, you're not so intimidated by the controller. So like I said earlier, you migrate up that system, but I think you know the key is to bring something that catches people's eye and they say, you know, what is that? I'd like to check that out and you know characters like Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe certainly add the relevance and the credibility that a non-gamer, you know, certainly would be drawn to if they weren't a gamer already. -You're never too old to game? -Never too old to game.