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SCEA's Steinberg On 'Future-Proofing' A Ten-Year PS3

SCEA marketing VP Scott Steinberg has been talking to Gamasutra about keeping Sony's consoles relevant for ten-year life cycles -- a steep directive, but possible? He explains how Sony is "future-proofing" the PS3 with a little help from Blu-ray and the P
Sony's touted its ten-year plan for the PlayStation 3 often enough that it's clear the company's determined to bestow its current console with the same long lifecycle enjoyed by its predecessor -- but as the PlayStation 2 is an exception in console history, it's a daunting objective. Sony Computer Entertainment of America product marketing VP Scott Steinberg is charged with making sure all three of Sony's current gaming platforms fulfill the 10-year lifecycle plan, orders that come straight down from the top. "Our motivations and ambitions, of course, are to continue on all three platforms," Steinberg says as part of an in-depth Gamasutra interview. "The ten-year strategy is ingrained in all of us. [SCEA president and CEO] Jack [Tretton] has brought that to all levels of the organization." A veteran of Sega during its Genesis era, Steinberg has had an expansive role with Sony since he joined last September to head up both hardware and software marketing. PlayStation 2 may be already most of the way through its planned decade, but the lifecycle of the PS3 must be considered newly begun if it's to reach its goal -- and the hardware marketplace is unarguably much more competitive now. In Steinberg's eyes, the PS3's "future-proofing," as well as the balance of its media and gaming capabilities, are what will give the system its legs, as the company plans a "roadmap" of firmware updates and added functionality for the machine. Steinberg's assertion that part of the PS3's value lies in its potential to expand and evolve aligns with CEO Howard Stringer's past statements on his company's newest console -- in 2006, Stringer commented, "The price of the PS3 is high, but you're paying for potential," a statement that rankled some gamers who were more interested in immediate returns on their dollars. Sony would rather update a platform than introduce a new hardware iteration, Steinberg says. "We do not have a planned obsolescence strategy," he says, pointing to the PSP as another example. "Whether it's Skype or some other peripherals, it's not just a dumb terminal that lies secluded and isn't enhanced with all the recent technologies and opportunities." Unsurprisingly, he also sees the Blu-ray Disc format as a significant competitive advantage. "Blu-ray is bigger, and Blu-ray games are going to be the biggest games in the industry," he says. "I think that feeds into [gamers'] choices as well. ...I think there are a lot of great 'a-ha's that consumers are going to find with music, and the movie store. ...You buy it for a gaming machine, but it delivers on a value proposition." Sony also hopes the past will help usher in the future -- Steinberg sees Sony's ubiquitous PlayStation 2 as something of a Trojan horse. "Every million units of PS2s we sell in 2008 is just a great opportunity for us to upgrade as they get closer to HD households," he argues. "The HD curve is spectacular, and the conversion is happening, so we see that as a natural marketing campaign."

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