By 16 October 2012 | Categories: interviews



Dos-Santos Mario

Sony may not have had the easiest of years globally, but according to Mario Dos Santos, the chief executive officer of Ster-Kinekor Entertainment - which is responsible for the PlayStation brand locally - PlayStation 3 (PS3) players have plenty to look forward to in the months and year ahcead. Ryan Noik sat down with Dos Santos for a frank and lively interview at this year's rAge gaming expo.

Dos Santos addressed a range of developments on the PS3 front, ranging from the release of the new, slimmer PS3 and the PS Vita, to exclusive titles and new intellectual property on the horizon. With this, he made a solid argument as to why the PlayStation system's fortunes still look promising.

Refreshing and revitalising

The undeniable theme that emerged during our interview centred around the revitalisation of the PS3 system. This is perhaps most evident in the release of the new PS3 SuperSlim, which is some 50% more compact than the original PS3, and 25% smaller than the PS3 Slim.

Along with refreshing the look and feel of the console though, Dos Santos explained that the new console's primary benefit lay in its greater power efficiency as compared with previous iterations of the console.

However, this theme of revitalisation didn't end with the hardware. Rather, Dos Santos explained that users can look forward to a number of bundle deals that will be forthcoming. These would include Need for Speed, Uncharted and Gran Turismo bundles, as well as an Epic Mickey 2 bundle which will come with the Move controllers.

Additionally, Dos Santos teased that the company had a number of promotional plans for the holiday season ahead, elaborating that Ster-Kinekor Entertainment would endeavour to make "great offers available for the consumer." Mentioned in this regard was the upcoming latest addition to the Call of Duty franchise, which traditionally has been one of the holiday season's large gaming attractions.

On the Vita, and why it hadn't been as widely adopted as was originally expected, Dos Santos likened it to a similar situation that the PS3 was in when it was first introduced to the market, with consumers balking from the price. However, he reiterated that titles such as Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified and Assassin's Creed: Liberation for the Vita will go a long way to re-energising the Vita's appeal.

With the PS3, a strong and solid line-up of exclusive titles certainly helped it become more widely adopted and hopefully the Vita will echo the PS3 in this regard. However, no mention was made, at least not at this point, of an imminent pricecut for the handheld system, which certainly could not hurt its chances of wider uptake.

Festive season, interrupted

Dos Santos pointed out that it may well be a challenging quarter ahead. While typically November and December are meant to be the gaming industry's strongest months from a sales perspective, this year is apparently quite unique, as several titles are missing the November/December release period altogether and instead launching in the first quarter of 2013.

This has prompted some concern, as typically users tighten their belts and recover from their spending over the holiday period. Dos Santos admitted that the game industry had also experienced a bit of a contraction of late, a trend he attributed to the consumer generally being under pressure due to the economic environment, as well as a lack of compelling software.

While the company may have little control over the former, the latter factor is already being addressed. Dos Santos elaborated that God of War: Ascension, PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale and the family friendly Wonderbook: Book of Spells, which is based in the Harry Potter universe, are just a few of the exclusives that players can look forward to in the near future which Ster-Kinekor Entertainment was excited about bringing to market.

Where art thou, new IP?

However, a no less pressing concern was the fact that there were fewer AAA titles being developed than previous years, and there seems to be a prevailing tendency of the gaming industry to hedge its bets on sequels, rather than develop new, unproven intellectual properties (IP).

Dos Santos explained new titles presented a challenge for any developer, as a wholly original title was seen as a big gamble. When contrasting this to the proven sales of an existing franchise, it certainly becomes understandable why studios may tend to play it safe by sticking with a franchise they know sold well in previous years and has a chance of meeting, if not exceeding those same sales rather than taking a risk on new IP.

Despite this, there were still fresh new offerings being released into the market. Dos Santos pointed out that he was watching the release of Dishonoured quite carefully. The game, which was released in the US subsequent to this interview and is due for release locally on the 12th, has been garnering widespread praise from international reviewers.

Additionally, while some new IP, such as Fuse, was coming from Insomniac Games, Dos Santos admitted that the studio's decision to develop for multiple platforms was a concern and would undoubtedly have an impact. While independent, Insomniac Games has to a large extent previously concentrated on PS3 exclusives, such as the Ratchet and Clank and Resistance franchises.

Potential and promise

Amid the concern and the consternation, Dos Santos still believes that there is plenty of promise in the PS3 ecosystem, with the biggest potential coming from Sony's PlayStation Network. This, he pointed out, offers a common ground for the casual and the hardcore player.

Additionally, it further offers an opportunity for digital downloads to address the all too critical price factor, by making available titles that are free from the costs associated with shipping physical products and thus passing on the saving to the end user.

However, Dos Santos further made mention of the fact that Ster Kinekor's classic line of games included titles that were being offered at an exceptionally competitive price. For example, he pointed out that titles such as Uncharted could be bought for as little as R200.

Commenting on the forthcoming Nintendo Wii U, Dos Santos added that he welcomed its arrival, as any growth in the market was good for the industry as a whole.

To the point

Despite the concerns and the shake-ups, the gaming industry is never boring or staid. Instead, amid the noise and excitement that permeated the Coca-Cola Dome as rAge once again came to assault the senses, Dos Santos' closing words - that it was "a particularly exciting time" - could not have been uttered in a more apt place.


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