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Q&A: Pearce On SOE's Game, Chat, Media Marketplace Solution

Gamasutra quizzed Nathan Pearce on the newly announced Station Launcher, which will feature downloads of all of Sony Online Entertainment's games, integrated friends lists for inter-game chats, and future plans for PC and PSP distribution of movies and TV
During Sony Online Entertainment’s first Gamer’s Day, SOE demoed a new e-distribution service that allows gamers to digitally download MMOs published by Sony Online Entertainment. At first glance, the Station Launcher sounds like Sony Online Entertainment’s take on Steam, but it does more than let people download a trial version of the Matrix Online. In fact, Sony Online Entertainment is pulling their brands together, enabling cross game chat and starting a movie download service. Gamasutra spoke to Nathan Pearce, creative director for Sony Online Entertainment, about the new service. Tell us how the Station Launcher fits into the total Sony Online strategy? Nathan Pearce: We have a big brand called the Station [including] Station.com, a Station Launcher, Station Pass, Station Access and lots of Station properties. The latest one is Station Launcher, an e-distribution client that you use to log into, purchase and download just about every Sony Online PC MMO. How many gigabytes of data do you download in Vanguard for instance? NP: Gosh. I don’t know off the top of my head, but I think it’s four DVDs worth. It’s a lot of data. Do you think people are ready to download twenty gigabytes of data? NP: Overnight I think they could, pretty easily. People do that now surreptitiously (laughs), illegally, they are certainly willing to go through the pain of downloading that much data. If you really want to buy a game, it takes less time to buy it over the Station Launcher and let it download overnight and install than it would if you were to go to BestBuy.com, for instance, and buy it from them and have it shipped to you. It takes several days in that case and it’s going to take overnight in our case. It sounds like one new feature the Station Launcher is adding is that you can communicate with friends from different games, using the launcher itself? NP: Yeah, it goes even a step further than that. It pulls all your character’s friends lists into one big friends list, all together. Also it tells you where those old friends are now and which games they are playing now. If you have an old friend in an old game and he’s now playing a new game we tell you what new game he is playing, but we keep his new name secret from you because you won’t recognize him right? For instance, he was Gandalf in Everquest and now he plays Han Solo in Star Wars. Well if we told you Han Solo was playing Star Wars, you wouldn’t know who that was because the guy you made friends with was named Gandalf way back in the day. It shows you all of your old friend’s names, but only shows you what new game they are playing now. What if you knew a Gandalf and a Han Solo in both of those games? NP: He is going to show up twice. I remember you saying you can communicate with people through AIM and ICQ with the Station Launcher, too - is that still planned? NP: That is a future feature. It’s not going be for launch later this summer, it’s going to be after that in a phase two launch. We have already talked to AIM and by that we also get ICQ integration. We also talked to Yahoo! and got their permission and gotten XFire's permission to integrate them as well. If you’re in Everquest, you can send IMs straight through? NP: Yes and it’s not any kind of overlay system either. It’s going to be straight from the chat system inside Everquest. Now it will be a little easier for you to ALT+TAB out and use the Station Launcher to talk to that person, but there will be a way for you to go straight from the chat window in Everquest out to the Station Launcher through to somebody in XFire for instance. Let’s say I’m playing Star Wars Galaxies and I want to use the [actually now removed] /pizza command in Everquest 2 -- can that carry over as well? NP: (laughs) No, that won’t work. The pizza command is kind of a game specific... well... no it won’t work. Sorry! That’s got to be a future feature. I want to be able to order pizza every single game I’m playing! NP: OK, we probably could.. maybe we can get that to happen. I’ll have to write that down on my suggestion list. That could be a cool use for that. You guys could announce it right? 'Now /Pizza Works From Everywhere,' right? (laughs) Sony Online's also talked about downloadable content like movies and music from Sony being available through the Launcher, too? NP: Yeah, that’s the plan not only from Sony, but from other movie studios and music studios as well. The future plan is to offer movies and music through the launcher and attach them to your Station account. You buy the rights to a movie and it’s attached to your Station account. You can watch it wherever you log into your Station account. It’s not just one device or limited devices, it’s wherever you are you can watch it. Is the movie going to be streaming from a server or is it going to be stored locally? NP: It will be stored locally. It will be authenticated against your Station account. You’ll have to log in to view it, but it will be a secured asset on your hard drive. If I have a movie on my desktop and I want to watch it on my laptop, would I have to download it again? NP: You would, but you wouldn’t have to pay for it again. That’s the plan. Do you have any idea about the prices for the downloadable movies yet? NP: No, that’s a bit too far off into the future for that. Are there any plans to make this work with Sony’s LocationFree Player? NP: That is on the long term plans. LocationFree TV, that would be awesome to do that. It would also be nice if you could download movies on your PC from the Station Launcher and play them on your PSP. NP: That’s on the short-term plans already. We have a version of Launcher where it recognizes when you plug in your PSP into the PC. You can download a movie straight from the internet through the Launcher straight to your PSP without it ever having touched your PC. There is no version on the PC, if you don’t want it to be. It can download straight to your destination device like your PSP. Are those movies going to be automatically formatted for the PSP? NP: That’s right, you’ll be able to download whichever format you want. You want to watch it on PC its one format, if you want to watch it on PSP it’s another format. But, you’re not going to have to buy the movie twice? NP: That’s right. Since you’re going to be able to download movies, what is going to happen to the UMD format? NP: The movies are big, right? There is a storage capacity limit, so UMDs will still be a good way to watch movies. Are there any plans to bring over TV shows kind of like the Xbox Live Video Marketplace? NP: Yeah, Sony has a lot of TV shows that it can pump over this network. We own a lot of IPs in the TV area, including Seinfeld. What is the time frame for the Station Launcher? NP: The time frame for what I demonstrated over here, which is just games and friends, is late summer. Movies and music is sometime after that. It is going to be a pretty big endeavor, so I don’t have a release date for it, but it is going to be a good time after summer. Are there any future plans to integrate the Station Launcher on to the Playstation 3? NP: It’s not going to stop at the PC.

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