Sony was quick to pat itself on the back for passing five million PlayStation 4s sold more than a month earlier than it predicted, and now that the fiscal year is over there’s more to celebrate. As of April 6th, Sony says it has sold more than seven million PS4s worldwide, covering more than 72 countries/regions. Games are moving too, with 20.5 million sold in stores or as downloads since launch, while players have already punched that Share button over 135 million times. We’ve had multiple updates on Sony’s stats since the last time we heard specific worldwide numbers from Microsoft, which seems to still trail in the hardware sales race — we should know more about the situation in North America after the NPD reports for March come out tomorrow. Despite relative radio silence on sales, updates on the Xbox One have added a number of features to its software recently, and Sony has revealed the PS4 will get a big update with external drive support, HDCP off and more soon. A post on the PlayStation Blog claims information on that is close by, but for now gaming fans (bored of Infamous: Second Son / Titanfall) can focus on what’s really important: which system moved more units.
- PlayStation (@PlayStation) April 16, 2014
The three weeks out of every month that Shuhei Yoshida’s in Japan, he has the same routine every day. He wakes up, opens a tablet, and gets back to work on PlayStation consumer feedback via his favorite interaction tool: Twitter. The man who heads Sony’s PlayStation group is incredibly, perhaps detrimentally, accessible on social media. It’s not his job, but a role he’s taken on. “It’s my personal time, but since lots of people tweet to me, I’m doing this almost official customer service,” he says.
After 20-plus years working on PlayStation, Yoshida’s beyond overqualified for customer service. He’s been with Sony’s PlayStation arm from its creation, and helped shepherd franchises from idea to mainstream norms: Gran Turismo, Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted. The list goes on.
Yoshida spoke with PlayStation 4 lead architect (and other game industry legend) Mark Cerny last evening in California, where he detailed his storied history in the game industry.
Before we get to that, though, it’s important to establish that Yoshida is an incredibly prolific gamer. He owns two of every game console. Why? So he can play Japanese and US games alike. He also says that he’s been banned from Nintendo’s MiiVerse social network. Twice. “The first time was because I had my Twitter account in my profile and that’s against the rules,” he says. “The second time is because I wrote, ‘I love PS.’ You’re not supposed to promote a commercial product in MiiVerse, so they correctly interpreted ‘PS’ as ‘PlayStation,’” he says with a laugh.
Life Before Sony
Prior to joining Sony, Yoshida flirted with studying physics and the work of Einstein, but his dad quickly shot that down, pushing him to a more practical major. So in college he studied economics and business — when he actually went, that is. He says that in Japan, business students don’t really attend class, and that the four or five students who would, took notes and shared them with everyone who wasn’t there. He spent six months working in Australia at the time, and when he got back to Japan he had all the answers to the tests waiting for him. “In my senior year in Japan, I didn’t go to any classes at all.”
Immediately after graduating, Yoshida joined Sony. In hindsight, his reasoning is a little selfish, though. Because his dad more or less forced him to switch majors, he wanted to get out of the country. “I wanted to run away from home as soon as possible because of that,” he says, half-joking. “When I say this, it might sound incredible… but I was thinking, ‘maybe Sony will make games in the future and when they do, I’m going to join that group.’”
Sony being an international company helped Yoshida make his decision, too. The firm sent him to study at UCLA for two years, and only then did he finally start learning about business principals like statistics and microeconomics. Since he was getting a paycheck, Yoshida had the resources to spend time traveling around the Western states and even Europe during summer break, when other students were typically working.
After graduating, he traveled back to Sony HQ in Japan where he spent nine months working with the PC group on a project that was ultimately cancelled. He bounced over to the corporate strategy group after that. It was here that he met then-Sony chairman Ken Kutaragi and work on the PlayStation began.
The formation of Sony Computer Entertainment
Sony Computer Entertainment, Yoshida says, started in Japan as a joint venture between Sony’s hardware division and its music wing. In the team’s early days, it approached signing and curating development teams much like it would a band — something that Parappa the Rapper mastermind (and J-pop singer) Masaya Matsuura loved. The scrappy PlayStation team had a lot to learn from the game industry, Yoshida admits, but it wanted to create something new at the same time.
“We believed that a game could become entertainment for everyone,” he says — not just kids. “The reason the company was named Sony Computer Entertainment instead of Sony Game Company or something like that is because we believed that games could be bigger than they were.”
Four years later, SCE had all of Japan’s major publishers signed on to make games for the platform. Yoshida explains that the big thing for the market was getting the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises on PlayStation, but after he’d achieved that goal he lost interest a bit. “What’s next? We got all the support from the industry, where do we go?” he asks. It was then that he moved from business development to a producer role on the product side.
The Birth of Crash Bandicoot
If it wasn’t for Nintendo, Crash Bandicoot might have been too difficult to play. Yoshida says that one of the benefits of being new on the scene was that Japanese publishers were keen to pass wisdom Sony’s way. The Mario-house “really helped others” by using test feedback generated from consumers play-testing in-development games. “As soon as I moved into game production, I was the heaviest user of the (testing) group,” he says.
Up to that point, Cerny says, his Crash Bandicoot team was making a game for seasoned gamers like themselves and it was too difficult for the average consumer or kid. “You (Yoshida) were not familiar with games, so you thought you had to do testing,” Cerny says. “We were familiar, so we thought we didn’t have to, ironically.”
Cerny taking his input seriously and using Yoshida’s testing more made Yoshida “so happy,” he says. One of his associate producers would count every player-death and send it to Cerny, who’d then realize where a checkpoint should be added. “We started to think about difficulty. Are our games something consumers play?” Cerny asks. “The idea was you had to find real consumers, study their real behaviors and report back in.”
Working with “The Father of PlayStation”
Yoshida spent 10 years working under Ken Kutaragi, and he admits that without him that PlayStation wouldn’t have happened. Humbly, Yoshida says that without Kutaragi, he wouldn’t have a job, either. “I have nothing but respect for what he has done for me,” he says. At dinner once, Kutaragi turned to him and said that he knew Yoshida didn’t necessarily like him, but he knew that Yoshida liked working for him because he could do exciting work as a result. “I said ‘yes, exactly.’“
Working with Kutaragi was incredibly difficult, Yoshida says, because he could do an immediate 180 in terms of what he wanted. On the engineering team, trying to predict where he might alter direction was “a very difficult job,” Yoshida says. “Every week his direction and instructions could change.”
Also tough was that he struggled to give compliments to coworkers. “I was complimented by Ken twice!” says Yoshida. “When I say this to my colleagues, they say ‘twice? That’s a lot!” Those flow much more freely from Yoshida. “For me, giving a complement is free, it’s like a smile from McDonald’s,” he says. “But still, we all love Ken.”
Working with Kutaragi was incredibly difficult, Yoshida says, because he could do an immediate 180 in terms of what he wanted.
After Kutaragi’s sudden departure in 2006, Yoshida felt threatened by internal conversations at Sony that questioned the need for its worldwide studio team’s existence. After consulting then-chairman Akira Sato, he pitched Kutaragi’s successor Kaz Hirai on leading Sony Worldwide Studios. A few years later, work began on the PS Vita and PS4 — with direct involvement from Yoshida’s army of developers.
Enough digital ink’s been spilled about the partnership between developers and the new PlayStation hardware team, though. What’s notable in this story is that Worldwide Studios went from teetering on the brink of extinction to becoming the backbone of Sony Computer Entertainment in a few short years.
Sean Buckley and Ben Gilbert contributed to this post; Image Credit: AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian.
Next-gen console price wars have officially hit the UK, and they’re getting serious. Going one better than their US counterparts, British retailers have slashed the cost of the Xbox One Titanfall edition by £50, with both Amazon and Asda currently offering the bundle for £349. For those keeping track, that means you’ll get an Xbox One and its most popular game for the same price as a standard PlayStation 4. Microsoft originally charged £429 at launch, but dropped its recommended retail price to £399 around three months later. The PS4 may still have an slight lead over its rival in terms of sales, but with recent price reductions and the appearance of weaponised mechs, Microsoft will hope it can begin to reverse that trend.
Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida loves that Facebook bought Oculus, says it helps validate PlayStation’s efforts
“I woke up that morning and saw the announcement,” Shuhei Yoshida tells us, remembering the day Facebook acquired Oculus VR. “And I was like, yeah!” Yoshida laughs and thrusts his arms in the air like an excited child. “For me, it was a validation for VR.” As head of Sony Computer Entertainment’s Worldwide Studios, virtual reality (and Sony’s Project Morpheus) has become important to Yoshida. He wants to see it, as a medium, to succeed.
“We meant to validate Oculus by announcing Morpheus, and the Oculus guys knew what we were working on. I think they were waiting for us to make the announcement, so it would be Sony and Oculus together,” he explains backstage at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. “…but now Oculus being acquired by Facebook is helping to validate our efforts.” It’s big-picture thinking. Yoshida already liked the idea of Sony and Oculus calling attention to each other’s efforts, but adding the Facebook name to the mix broadens the duo’s exposure. “More people will know about VR!”
Oculus being acquired by Facebook is helping to validate our efforts.
Zuckerberg’s vision for the purchase intrigues him too. “Mark said be believes VR can be the next platform after mobile,” Yoshida said. “That’s big thinking, and kind of excites our thinking.” Sony’s team has already been exploring uses for VR outside of traditional gaming, he explains, but nothing as broad as Zuckerberg’s statements. “We’ve thought of doing virtual travel or something, but talking about a new platform? What does that mean?” Yoshida says it’s given him something to think about.
Of course, a broader platform for VR means the technology will see more use — and that technology still has several usability hurdles to conquer. “VR of the past, including our own prototype, has been very difficult to use in terms of getting headaches and becoming nauseated,” he said. “Those early prototypes had larger latency and the positional tracking may not have worked as well. I feel really sorry for people developing VR stuff! They have to test it! With the kit we have now, what we demonstrated at GDC, I think its the first time we can really provide developers with something and say, you can use ours, and you’ll be alright.”
Sony’s been talking to medical professionals about overcoming simulation sickness, Yoshida explains, and wants hardware to be comfortable and usable without adjustment. “The Oculus DK1 has lots of adjustments available, but the Morpheus just works, the optics design. We’ll continue to improve it.” Eventually, the company wants to create guidelines for how old users should be, and how long they should use it for, but it’s not quite there yet. Even Yoshida admits he hasn’t spent extended periods of time in virtual reality, usually keeping his sessions at under ten minutes.
The Oculus DK1 has lots of adjustments available, but the Morpheus just works
Yoshida’s plan for building those guidelines relies heavily on collaboration. “We need to share knowledge,” he explained. “We can’t just make the hardware, it’s the game applications that need to be designed well. We need time for developers to experiment and find the killer application, and at the same time we need to learn how VR applications should be designed.” Providing the Morpheus dev kit to developers, Yoshida says, is the first step.
The PlayStation Move has been called a lot of bad names. It’s the PlayStation peripheral that’s least used by game devs, least purchased by console owners, and least spoken of by Sony itself. Some of that sentiment’s been turning lately, ever since Sony showed off Project Morpheus a few weeks ago and demonstrated what an impact something like Move has on virtual reality immersion (the controller works for both PS3 and PS4). And the guy who heads up PlayStation’s worldwide game studios, Shuhei ” Shu” Yoshida, says Move is responsible for far more than it’s given credit.
“This project was one of the very first hardware projects formed with three groups: the software engineering team at SCEA, the hardware engineers at SCEI in Japan, and the Worldwide Studios team making games using the motion controller,” Yoshida told attendees of a presentation tonight at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. He and PlayStation 4 lead architect Mark Cerny explained that this trifecta was the first in a string of major collaborations: PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, and now Project Morpheus.
The Move was originally called the “Y-con” (we’re checking on the spelling). Cerny highlighted the name on purpose: it’s representative of the trio of groups coming together on a single device. Three points in a Y, three groups at Sony — thus, the Y-con. Sony R&D engineer Richard Marks may be the man debuting new PlayStation peripherals (he’s based at SCEA), but his team’s work is the product of a collaboration with the folks actually making the games.
More than just three groups coming together, it was three groups at Sony working as one. It signaled a change from the previous approach to hardware in the gaming world. Yoshida offered an example by contrast: PlayStation 3′s Sixaxis controller.
Yoshida: I was managing the west development group at the time and I get a call from a product manager in Japan, like, three weeks before E3. And she told me that we should know that the new controller we’re developing, it has motion sensors in it. And I’m like, Oh, okay, great! So, look at that!
So she said, “We have a prototype we’ll send you, so can you make something to show at E3.”
Cerny: So they’d managed to develop a new controller without ever involving the person who made games for a consumer.
Yikes, right? Thankfully, the concept of “Y” solidified as time went on, and now we’ve got great devices like the PlayStation 4 and Vita to enjoy as a result. It won’t change our opinion of the Move’s lacking software library, but we can’t say we won’t look a bit more fondly on the poor old Move as the years roll on.
Voice-controlled gaming isn’t quite as easy to pull off on the PlayStation 4 as it is on the Xbox One (that Kinect comes in handy), but Iridium Studios is out to prove that it’s no big challenge. The developer has revealed that it’s bringing its crowdfunded squad strategy title, There Came an Echo, to Sony’s console. As on the PC and Xbox, you can order your team around using little more than your voice. While the gamepad is very much usable, it’s not completely essential to finishing your mission.
The game’s voice system isn’t elaborate. Whether you’re on the PS4, PC or Xbox, you’re using canned (though expandable) commands to get people moving. However, that also means a consistent experience across platforms. And no, you won’t need a PlayStation Camera to get the full experience — the earpiece that came with your PS4 will do the job.
As to when you’ll get a copy? That’s the tricky part. While Iridium explains to us that development has been “remarkably easy” on the PS4, including early voice programming, it isn’t certain just when the game will reach the PlayStation Store. The PC version’s planned October release on Steam (with support for Intel’s RealSense voice technology) takes priority. There’s a chance that the PS4 and Xbox One editions will come out at the same time, but the studio says it’s willing to delay their launches if necessary. In the meantime, you can always check out the trailer below.
If you’re EA, how do you build up hype for EA Sports UFC — a license-based fighting game where players will largely know what to expect? You promise them Bruce Lee, that’s what. Yes, PS4 and Xbox One gamers will get to pit the Game of Death star against the UFC roster despite a 41-year gap separating the two. You’ll have instant access to Lee if you pre-order, and he’s otherwise unlockable. EA justifies this by contending that Lee is the “father of mixed martial arts;” that sort of makes sense given Lee’s style and Judo knowledge, but the inclusion stretches the definition of MMA (and, arguably, taste) to the limit. If you’ve ever wanted to know how Jeet Kune Do fares against Brazilian Jiujitsu, though, you now have a good reason to look forward to EA Sports UFC‘s release on June 17th.
Filed under: Gaming
Source: EA Press Room
Fans of online role-playing games haven’t had much to do on the PlayStation 4 so far, but that’s all changing today. Square Enix has just opened up Final Fantasy XIV‘s PS4 beta test to everyone; from now until the morning of April 7th, you can battle monsters and ride Chocobos just by grabbing a free download from the PlayStation Store. This new beta phase runs on the same servers that PC and PS3 players use, so you should get a feel for real-world gameplay involving thousands of other adventurers. FFXIV doesn’t officially arrive on the PS4 until the 14th, but don’t fret about having to wait another week to play again — if the game enthralls you so much that you’ve pre-ordered (or already have an account), you can start playing on the 11th.
Filed under: Gaming
Source: Square Enix
Though Xbox One sales may be slightly behind that of the PlayStation 4, it looks like game broadcasting is taking off at a much quicker pace on Microsoft’s new console. In the first week of availability, 108K Xbox One owners took to Twitch to broadcast games; the same number was reached on the PlayStation 4 after 25 days of availability. This is largely due to Twitch broadcasting launching alongside the PS4, whereas broadcasting didn’t function on the Xbox One until early last month — resultantly, millions of Xbox One consoles were already out in the wild, whereas the PS4 had to be physically purchased and brought home before users discovered the glory of … mostly safe for work broadcasts. It also didn’t hurt that the Xbox One had its first major exclusive game, Titanfall, launching alongside game broadcasting (we even got in on the fun ourselves). Regardless, it looks like game broadcasting is proving more than just a passing fad.
You might say the day is never really done in consumer technology news. Your workday, however, hopefully draws to a close at some point. This is the Daily Roundup on Engadget, a quick peek back at the top headlines for the past 24 hours — all handpicked by the editors here at the site. Click on through the break, and enjoy.
Mark Zuckerberg’s social network turned 10 this year, so we took a look back at its design changes over the course of the decade. From profile redesigns to quarterly News Feed tweaks and open betas, constantly adapting aesthetics to catering to user habits has been a driving force for Facebook for quite some time.
Earlier today, the White House delimited its new proposal that places control of bulk phone call data with the telecom companies, not the government. If approved, each carrier will continue holding on to records for 18 months, but could be “compelled” under court order to cough them up.
The Turkish government has struck again, this time banning YouTube in what appears to be an attempt to remove videos that contain evidence of political corruption. At this point, the restriction is active on several ISPs and continues to roll out.
After quite a few leaks, Microsoft officially outed its Office for iPad offering. Those curious to try it out will need an Office 365 subscription in order to opt in and OneDrive for cloud accessibility, making it an optimal choice for those already invested in Redmond’s wares. Click through for all of the details in our full review.
You also might like:
Filed under: Announcements