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Interview: Sony Computer Entertainment Australia’s Managing Director Michael Ephraim on PlayStation 4’s first year

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Stevivor recently traveled to PlayStation’s Play Fest 2014 event in Sydney and had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Ephraim Managing Director Sony Computer Entertainment Australia and New Zealand and talk about the PlayStation 4’s first year and what lies ahead for PlayStation.

Leo Stevenson, Stevivor: PlayStation 4 has now sold 13.5 million units worldwide as of September 2014 and holds the title of fastest selling console in Australia of all time. Is this something you anticipated?

Michael Ephraim: We priced it for mass acceptance first of all and I really think that we’ve brought a lot of innovation to the console. We’ve opened it up a lot. People are always saying “What about mobile gaming and what about tablets? And as you would know a couple of years ago they were ringing the death knell for consoles. I think our company listened to what was going on out there, talked to developers and talked to consumers and have made PlayStation 4 inclusive with people’s lives and how they play games.

I’ve got four children; they’ve got their PlayStation, their tablet and their phone. They’re texting friends and now they can do all of these socially connected activities right there on the PlayStation. That’s one thing. The content for PlayStation has been fantastic as well. Working with our third parties with games like Watch Dogs and Destiny having exclusive content on PlayStation and our first party titles like Bloodborne coming out, PlayStation really appeals to gamers. Then with SingStar we think we have a franchise that is loved in Australia. In this country we’ve sold a million microphone sets and it has an 88% brand recall, which is one of the highest title recalls full stop. That brings in the whole family audience and it does so with innovation because now you don’t need a mic because you can download the app to your phone and use your phone to queue up playlists and the like.

We didn’t expect this kind of success and we’re really overwhelmed by it and proud of it, but PlayStation has always had a very strong brand heritage and I think that played to people upgrading to PlayStation 4.

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Stevivor: When I was young my mum would say to me, “stop playing the Nintendo” regardless of what I was doing or playing and now I think that that generic term for video game is PlayStation. PlayStation is synonymous with videogames. Is that you feel at Sony and is it something you’ve strived toward?

Ephraim: It’s great to have the generic term for gaming be associated with your product and to strive for that you have to have all the functions in place and it would be a lofty objective. I think what we strive to do is deliver a system that people can embrace and use with other things like Android phones and iOS phones. It’s relevant. PlayStation 4 is a very relevant device and it’s still the best way to play high definition games on a big screen TV. Mobile and snack gaming is great because it’s opened up the total addressable market, but then PlayStation 4 has embraced that snack gaming market with indie games.  We’ve embraced the longevity or extending the life of a Blu-ray Disc with season passes and downloadable content. It was a combination of many things that has made PlayStation 4 so popular.

Stevivor: The PlayStation family has become almost like a living organism now with many tentacles spreading out and reaching a huge audience across multiple markets. We have PS3, PS4 and Vita as well as PlayStation TV and the Sony Xperia. There’s also Share Play and the possibility of PlayStation Now coming to Australia. With this eco-system in place, what’s next for PlayStation? What can we look forward to?

Ephraim: PlayStation Now is one of those things. Streaming of content in other categories; music and movies is coming. Music is there already and movies are still on the way and I think PlayStation Now and streaming games won’t just be streamed to PlayStation consoles, they could be streamed to any device. That opens up the eco-system even more. We plan to build on the non-game entertainment content and there are upgrades to the system all the time to improve what it is capable of like the new DLNA functionality. I think, as you said, we have an eco-system that spreads across almost every digital device around. Now we need to continue to enhance the services that people can access and continuously improve it.

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Stevivor: We saw in the trailer that Uncharted 4 has been set for 2015. Can we nail that down any closer?

Ephraim: (laughs) We don’t know, that’s the honest answer. We’re very excited about it and I think that title will be massive. It’s a very popular franchise; in fact it’s our number one first-party franchise. Even the games that have appeared on other platforms and are being redesigned and reimagined for PlayStation 4 are going to do extremely well. Grand Theft Auto V for example, I think is going to be very popular and franchises like that coming on board PlayStation 4 are very exciting. Of course Uncharted will be the highlight of the year for us though.

Stevivor: In your own personal view, what are you looking forward to most in 2015 from PlayStation?

Ephraim: What we’d love to do is bed down this new innovation, eco-system and get out consumers more involved with digital content. 95% of PlayStation 4 owners are connected to the PlayStation Network. On PlayStation 3 the number was slightly lower at about 80% and 95% is massive. We want to build on that connected network and reward our PlayStation Plus subscribers. We want to build that PlayStation community and have people connecting, going online and playing online. We’ve launched so many things in the last 6 months that now aside from new content, the focus for 2015 is to bed down and have people exploring all of the social functionality and connected features of PlayStation 4.

Stevivor: Thanks for your time, congratulations and good luck.

Ephraim: Thank you very much.

Stevivor was flown to Sydney as a guest of PlayStation Australia to attend the event and preview upcoming PlayStation titles.