As the title suggests – Sony has lost a member of staff. Not just any old staff member though, Mr Harrison was in fact the president of the company’s game development arm. He joined the company before the release of the original Playstation and has left after fifteen years of service.
No reason has been given about his departure but Kaz Hirai, Chief Executive of Sony’s game operations, will take over from Harrison until a suitable replacement for the post is found (frankly Mr Hirai san, if you’re reading this, I’ll be happy to take up the post even if I don’t have an M/A in video games).
Phil Harrison is in fact one of the great names of UK gaming, if just because he is in fact a UK citizen. He took up his last post with Sony in 2005, after a long and illustrious career working in various departments. However, he was also president during the launch of the Playstation 3 – arguably not a huge success and certainly nothing in comparison to the launch of the original Playstation back in 1994.
Of course, the PS3 has had some incredibly tough competition, what with the Xbox 360 coming out long before the powerful console and the very accessible Wii proving to be more of a hit (even than the console manufacturer Nintendo) expected. However, Sony is now seeing some success thanks to games such as Devil May Cry 4, Uncharted – Drake’s Fortune and Call of Duty 4 – Modern Warfare.
More than ten million PS3 consoles have now been sold around the world and profit has now been reached for the first time in two years for Sony’s game division. This was reached through cutting costs and an increased global demand through carefully managed price cuts (as well as, no doubt, the demise of the HD-DVD format making the PS3 exclusively the cheapest Blu-Ray player on the planet).
One thing that Mr Harrison did mention about Sony was the frustration he felt toward some of their strategy, which he revealed at the Game Developer’s Conference. He had the following to say:
“Our Japanese colleagues said that there is no such thing as social gaming in Japan – people do not play games on the same sofa together in each other’s homes. It will never happen. And then out comes the Wii.”
This highlights two things – exactly what makes Sony great and also what makes it so poor. How can a company’s strength also be its’ weakness? Well, it’s the sheer single-mindedness of the company that will grant it either success beyond imagining, or poor performance indeed.
Strength in Clarity
What do I mean by having strength in clarity? Well, whilst Jaguar had produced a ridiculous console that still used cartridges, as had Nintendo with the N64, Sony went in another direction. A console that used CD-ROM, had two ports, played CD’s and offered an interesting small form-factor was released (the PS One was an even smaller console).
To put the release of the Playstation in perspective, it was released in 1994. By 31st March 2005, more than 102.49 million consoles had been sold, making it the best selling console ever made. With the right marketing and some excellent games (with Gran Turismo selling more than 10 million copies) it was literally the console for everyone.
A single-minded vision created the Playstation. Sony saw what Nintendo and Sega were doing, capitalised on the best bits, and took a risk to bring out a console, something they’d only formerly discussed with Nintendo and which probably spurred on the birth of Playstation.
Single-mindedness Crushes Imagination
As Phil Harrison’s comment highlights, Sony didn’t believe in gaming that would involve the whole family sitting around the TV, taking turns, laughing and having fun together. Whilst I’ve made no bones about the Wii not being for me, the fact that the Six-Axis responds to your movement tells me something – Sony saw that they missed a trick here. I’m still not sure that the two consoles are in direct competition (the demographic for a buyer of a PS3 is very different than the purchaser of a Wii.
Okay, so the PS3 isn’t taking off in a massive way yet – especially in comparison to the Playstation above. However, there are now more gamers than ever. We’re literally all over the world, connecting every day. We talk more. We listen more. Perhaps Sony will do the same in the future. Whatever happens, I’d never write the company off and I still expect something special from games like Metal Gear Solid 4 offering something very special indeed.