Kaz Hirai Interview May 2008
Our latest 1-1 chat with Sony's global PlayStation boss on everything from farm animals to PlayStation 4.
By Adam Doree
As if Kaz Hirai taking full control of Sony Computer Entertainment and relocating to Tokyo a year ago (and, as he previously revealed to us, travelling back and forth to see his family in California) was not daunting enough, in the time since we last met with him he has also assumed responsibility of Worldwide Studios - Sony's internal network of game creation houses around the world - following Phil Harrison's departure.
Back in 2006 we spoke with him in Tokyo about the uneasy launch of the PlayStation 3, and then again last year in Los Angeles in probably his first interview as global president of SCEI about the company's challenges and changing fortunes. Yesterday in London, we once again secured some of Hirai's valuable time, in his first and fullest interview of the brand new "PlayStation Day" event, which we (and Sony) hope will become an annual date on the games calendar.
Remarkably, Hirai seems unfazed by the increasing demands put upon him and, if anything, appears to be taking it all in his stride. If going by sales numbers revealed yesterday by Sony, which showed neck-and-neck sales with Xbox 360 in about half the amount of time, it looks like the sweeping and rapid changes implemented by Hirai are already paying off. In addition, the software line-up is looking highly promising.
Executives like Kaz Hirai are media-trained up to their eyeballs, so as always, I used certain Jedi mind tricks to get him talking about everything from farm animals to PlayStation 4.
Kikizo: So, you arrived just this morning in London from Tokyo?
Hirai: Yes I just got here, but actually from San Francisco.
Kikizo: Oh, I thought you would have come direct from Tokyo.
Hirai: Well I go home once every month; so three weeks in Tokyo and a week back in Foster City.
Kikizo: I see. So let's jump straight in. The last time we spoke, Phil was still at the company, and I know your responsibility now includes Worldwide Studios. I am wondering how you have adapted to that change - would you maybe hire someone to replace Phil? I mean he has been referred to as "Sony's Miyamoto". That must be a big responsibility for you to take on, in addition to your role as President.
Hirai: Well, it is, but I think at the same time, largely because of the organisation that we set up at Worldwide Studios, and Phil's contributions, I think there are a lot of people in the studios who know what needs to get done, from a firstparty perspective. And there's a lot of creativity that's being fostered, as you can see in all the firstparty games that we have presented. So I think that it's all coming together very nicely, and obviously looking after the studio[s] full-time is something that is going to be a bit of a challenge for myself. So, we'll see how we move forward with the organisation, but I think the Worldwide Studio has really come together nicely, and the product that's coming out as I said before, is looking very good as well. So things are heading in the right direction.
Kikizo: One thing I was curious about from someone who is now in charge of Worldwide Studios... from talking to a number of in-house developers, they have commented on the asset sharing that takes place, sharing tools and resources, in order to make development more efficient. I know that efficiency is something that is sort of top of your agenda. I mean to my eyes for example, the London course from GT5P is blatantly straight out of the Getaway videos from E3 2005 and TGS 2005 [links to each here and here] - it would not make sense to replicate that authenticity twice over. Can you comment on this strategy?
Hirai: Well I think the asset sharing comes more not in the creative assets, but more along the lines of the technology sharing. That is being done a lot more aggressively amongst the various studios we have throughout the world. Also, shared resources, like for example - getting down to real operation issues like firstparty QA, that sort of thing - can also be a shared resource. Also infrastructure for online games - that sort of thing, again each individual studio doesn't need to make its own investments; that can be a shared resource. And just generally the core technology, those are the things that really get shared, and not so much the creative assets as you say.
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Kaz Hirai Interview
Kaz Hirai Interview (May 2008 - audio only)
Kaz Hirai Interview
Kaz Hirai Interview (July 2007 - audio only)
Kaz Hirai Interview
Previous interview with Kaz Hirai (Sep 2006)
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