Lauren Goode

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Seven Questions for Sony’s Jack Tretton, Following the PlayStation 4 Event

In case you missed it last night, Sony announced — but didn’t exactly unveil — its latest videogame console, the PlayStation 4.

But while the gaming hardware was notably absent, consumers did get a glimpse of some key upcoming game titles, as well as Sony’s plans to offer cloud gaming, more integration with PS Vita, and even some concept games that use Sony’s motion-sensor device, the Move.

AllThingsD sat down with Jack Tretton, the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, to discuss the future of the gaming console — as well as why Sony didn’t show theirs last night — and Sony’s strategy of “doubling down” on its hardcore gaming audience.

I think it was Sony’s Andrew House who said right off the bat that the living room is no longer the focal point of gaming. Can you further explain this idea and how it relates to the future of the console?

My interpretation is that the living room used to be the only place that gaming lived. Now it’s the primary place, but it’s not the exclusive place. So I still think that sitting on the couch in front of the TV with a powerful console like PlayStation is the nerve center of the experience, but it doesn’t end there — it extends out into the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on smartphones and tablets and dedicated devices like Vita. It’s a little bit scary if you’re a core gamer, because you feel like if you go to sleep, you might miss something.

A good portion of tonight’s event was on game titles, not as much on cloud streaming, mobile or entertainment. Is Sony PlayStation doubling down on its position with hard-core gamers?

Well, I think the console has evolved beyond strictly gaming devices. People expect multimedia capabilities, and that’s certainly a given. But what we’re all about, in our DNA, is the gaming and the gamers. You buy [PlayStation] because you’re a gamer and you enjoy playing games, and you use it for other purposes, but we’re first and foremost about that core gamer that eats, sleeps and drinks the gaming.

I think there are more gamers today than there have been ever before, and the core is really strong, and loyal.

But at the same time, at least in the U.S. market, Microsoft has had the best-selling console for many months in a row now, and they’ve taken a media-heavy approach. What’s your thought on their strategy?

We look at the market in worldwide terms, and every market is extremely important to us. The facts are, we debuted the PlayStation 3 at $599, which was an extremely steep price barrier for a lot of consumers. And we debuted a year after Microsoft, but on a worldwide basis, we’ve sold the same, if not more, devices. I think we’re at 77 million sold right now — it’s basically splitting hairs. Despite all that, our message has been extremely well-received around the world.

Plus, if you look at multimedia services, we’re the No. 1 streaming device when it comes to Netflix, not Xbox. They’re trying to — I don’t really know what they’re trying to do. I’d rather not comment on their strategy. But we’re trying to say we’re all about the gamers and, by the way, there’s multimedia out there. I think the people who tuned in to see this live streaming event, from all around the world, were watching to see the gaming.

Will the new console cost $599 to start?

I certainly hope not. I think we’re very proud of what we delivered with the PlayStation 3 in terms of technology, and that we were able to enhance the features while still reducing the price to $249. But I think our goal with this is to debut at a more consumer-friendly price. But we haven’t made any final decisions about what the price will be at launch.

Why didn’t we see the new console today?

I guess when I think about the console, you open it up, you look at it, you certainly look at it when you insert a disc, but for most people, it’s behind a cabinet or on a shelf somewhere and you spend all your time looking at the screen. And we wanted to show people the screen. There will be multiple opportunities to share the look of the console between now and the launch. We just didn’t choose this first event as the time to show it.

But is it ready?

I mean, we’re certainly capable of showing playable game content, but we don’t have a mass-production box that we can bring out and pull out. That’s still in development in terms of final specs and design.

It wasn’t a big surprise today that there were some cloud-gaming announcements, given Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai. But cloud gaming, especially when it comes to graphics-heavy stuff, can suffer some technical difficulties. How does Sony plan to manage that?

I think that all credit goes to Gaikai, and all credit goes to Sony for recognizing the strength of Gaikai and acquiring them. We’ve cerainly had cloud storage, but Gaikai seemed to be well ahead of anybody else that we saw, and were doing things we didn’t think were possible. So I think the acquisition allows us to do things that are more in line with consumer expectations; allow them to play the games they expect.

And PS4 can play those games. I’ve certainly seen it done that every game we’ve ever published, up through PS3, is playable with no latency. I don’t know if we’re saying we’re at that stage yet, but we think we can get there in the near term.

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