Interview: Ray Maguire, MD of SCE UK

SCE UK boss Ray Maguire discusses E3 2008 and looks forward to Christmas this year
SCE UK boss Ray Maguire discusses E3 2008 and looks forward to Christmas this year

Continuing our series of interviews with top bods from the three console platform-holders, who dominated E3, we managed to catch up with Ray Maguire, UK managing director of Sony Computer Entertainment.

As relaxed and jovial as ever, Maguire picked as his highlight of Sony's E3 performance a more strategic, rather than product-based point, centred on the imminent arrival of the 80Gb PS3:

"Jack Tretton, in some detail, showed how the PlayStation franchise is operating on a series of ten-year cycles."

Which, of course, is unusually long in the throwaway world of consoles. He continued: "He showed the PlayStation operated for ten years, and how the PS2 is still alive and well, albeit in different territories at this point."

Kutaragi-san's PS3 gamble

"The gamble that Ken Kutaragi took with the PlayStation 3 was to put in a high level of technology, so it has been a bit slow to market in some respects, but we're now seeing how people are starting to understand how the technology works."

"Historically, the installed base of any hardware platform has been proportional to its great gameplay, but also very attached to the RRP. That was the second part of Kutaragi-san's gamble, as that hardware made the machine more expensive. But now we're in the second part of the PS3's cycle, and since the price came down, there has clearly been an uplift."

"We'll go through the next part of the year without a price-reduction, but we're committed to introducing the 80Gb PS3 here on August 29, and the £299 price-point remains. That's why we're short of stock at the moment – production of the 40Gb PS3 has stopped."

PS3's Christmas big-hitters

You may note that Maguire was careful not to rule out a price-cut in the run-up to Christmas, although that probably reflects more on his innate sense of caution than the likelihood of such an occurrence.

One feels that only an extraordinarily lacklustre sales performance over the Christmas period would even bring about a price-cut early next year, given that Sony really needs to reap those economies of scale and claw back some of the money it has lost by selling the PS3, effectively, for less than cost in the past.

And, as Maguire is at pains to point out, that's unlikely to be the case, as Sony has some big-hitters lined up for this Christmas. He singles out his (and every PS3 owner's) most anticipated title: "When Jack Tretton went through his figures, he did it using Sackboy on a skateboard, to show that anyone can create content in LittleBigPlanet, even it's based on dull figures."

Oh dear: now that the boss has started to do presentations in LBP, does that mean everyone else will have to follow suit?

"Maybe I'll have to do them in SingStar. Or perhaps in mime."

Legendary marketing muscle

Presumably, Sony will be swinging its legendary marketing muscle into full effect for LittleBigPlanet – which really does look like a potential genre-inventing classic -- when it comes out in October?

"There will be some splashy stuff – Sony will spend across quite a few titles. It will be a bumper end of the year, with LittleBigPlanet, MotorStorm: Pacific Drift and Resistance 2, followed by Killzone 2."

One thing that was conspicuously absent, however, was PlayStation Home – any more news about when that might surface? "Not at the moment. But you might want to see if we do anything at the Games Convention in Leipzig."

Another recently vexed question for Sony is the matter of exclusive games – Microsoft possibly came out with the most stunning news item of E3 with the revelation that Square-Enix's Final Fantasy XIII, much touted as a PS3 exclusive, will now also come out on the Xbox 360 (despite Japanese consumers treating the Xbox 360 as if it was plague-ridden).