Tuesday 14 August 2007

Live blog - Sony - Beyond Social Gaming

Jamie Macdonald: Good morning everyone. VP of development of Sony Computer Entertainment at World Wide Studios.

This morning will be a collaborative effort with Paulina Bozek (Singstar Franchise), Paul Edward (Playstation Home).

There is a large untapped market for entertainment experiences for groups of friends and cross generational groups. The term at the time I used was parlour games for the 21st centuary which now seems impossibly quaint. In contrast, but at the same time, we were also working on the very first playstation online titles. Football and Socom. These took the traditional view of online gaming at the time and worked incredibly well in its way. There was no sense of community or extended social network, and also no commerce. It did tell us that competition was an incredibly important part of the social experience.

Users now are not just passive users of creative entertainment but they now expect to be able to customise content. They are also more receptive to a commercial relationship as well.

The 4 Cs. Community, competition, creativity and commerce.

Game 3.0 focuses on the 3rd C, creativity.

(Paulina Bozek talking about Singstar) The last time I was at EIF, Singstar was a brand new game on the PS console. Its a social game with mainstream appeal. Since 2004, we have sold over 10 million units.. Over 300 million songs.

Singstar has always been very highly localised. We are releasing Singstar Bollywood, which we are very excited about.

The major inovation on the new platform is the Singstore. This is completely by My Singstar online. Very much engaged with the 4Cs.

Its very much clear that there have been some big media industry shifts recently. Players are be coming creators, and a lot of products that are actually tools. 57% percentage of media executives sited user-generated content is the top threat to media and entertainment industries (April 16 Accenture survey).

As games creators, we have to tried to respond to and embrace these wider trends. The online community platform we have built is an extension and a direct response to what is spontaneously happening already: users are already uploading photos and videos of their Singstar parties to you tube and flicker.

Competition is really what makes Singstar work offline: its about the dynamic of player participation.

These days, players are becoming co-creators of their experience. For us, the most important part of customisation (= creativity) is choice. The number one feedback we have is that the selection of songs we publish with each Singstar. Our ambition is to release with 100s of songs and add more than 50 songs per month.

Few people disagree that digital distribution will be the future of music industry. The death of the album and rise of the single. My play list is king. The itunes effect is an a la carte menu and in essence is an unbundling of content. Users do not want to pay for what they don't want.

Itunes is reportedly selling over 1 million tv downloads every week. Again viewers are choosing what they want to watch and when.

Singstar is at its very heart is a mainstream social pick up and play game and we have no plans to make it a deeper next generation experience. For us, unbundling the track listing and let the player choose. We now focus on a broad selection and allow the player to customise and personalize their experience. Online is a major part of the strategy.

We need to ensure that we meet the expectations of consumers. The delivery platform is really important. Part of the success of the ipod and itunes marriage is its accessibility and simplicity. The Sing store is completely integrated into the game. Many of the audience is not comfortable with the controller, which is why this was done.

In many ways, music games are leading the way in unbundling and customisation.

To complement the singstar we have built My Singstar online. By using a USB camera, we have made it possible to allow users to upload videos online. There is a major trend of lip sink videos. Credited to Numa Numa video, which has been viewed 14 million times. The second most popular viral of all time. And over 10,000 people have created their own versions of numa numa.

[Shows cut together clips of lip synching from youtube]

Over the course of Singstars lifetime, people are constantly sending us photos and videos of their singstar parties. There are already over 3000 singstar videos on you tube alone. People are already identifying themselves as singstar fans.

We realise not everyone is willing to upload their performance. We all recognise that there may be a small part of the community participating in creation, but the rest of the community is interested in what the community is creating.

Its not just important to create features about producing, but for features that are about consuming this content. Participation by rating, recommendations, comments, top 10 lists are really important. We have to learn how to harness the collective community to judge the content that is produced. Its no longer about prepackaged media contents, its about personal preferences, recommendations from books to trips to individual people.

(Peter Edward - director of PS Home platform group) There'll be no revealations about home technology today. However I will be sharing a little about the vision of home.

[shows GDC 2007 video]

Ultimately users will be able to purchase real world items from within home to be delivered to their doorstep. Home is a evolving platform, we don't know where home will be long term. In the longer term, once an engaged audience is there, there are revenue opportunities for all, including end users.

Being an evolving flexible platform, there are three keys groups: users, games and non-game brands.

For the user, the value of home is all about being able to share the experience with their friends, both gaming and non-gaming brands. Its about having a safe, reputable environment run by a trusted brand in which they can feel secure about making online transactions.

Community is all about communication with other users. In the longer term, we'll be implementing a fully featured social networking experience within home.

It is crucial that home caters for the competition component for users, by launching into the multiplayer game of their choice and by configuring the multiplayer experience they want for that game.

Home provides almost infinite variations in customising your character, and customising your apartment. In the longer term, users will be able to share other content that they have created: photos and videos themselves and user generation content tools such as their own t-shirt designs. We'll also be giving out tools to allow scripting, java minigames and so on.

Having a trusted safe platform, using the PS store interface which in the long term will be replicated in 3d.

By maintaining contact with the users for longer, publishers will be able to learn more about the desires and requirements for the user. Community focus with the IP, the game will be launch able directly from the game location within Home, and hosting of community forums.

Casual arcade and minigame experiences can be incorporated within the home platform, and users being able to launch directly into online experiences within the game. The ability to host tournaments and special events will allow maintaining interest in the game.

Publishers will be given asset creation toolsets to provide compelling and exciting experiences for the user. Publishers will be able to offer downloadable items: clothing, furniture using the already established playstation wallet and micropayment systems immediately. In future, full games can be sold within the game. Opportunity for revenue sharing with users to encourage placement of advertising within their spaces.

[battery problems on the PS3 controller they're using to control the presentation]

Home offers the opportunity to non-game brands. The connected PS audience traditionally has been quite difficult to get access to and is a demographic that is highly coveted. A virtual online experience is something brands have already experienced, but PS home doesn't contain the same kind of risk as the wilder west online experience. Longer term, web and mobile delivery will be incorporated into the home environment.

Initially, competition is all about sponsorship. Longer term, custom events. Branded spaces, objects, furniture and clothing.

[lots of pictures of redbull sponsership of various real world events]

Longer term, PS home will be a sales channel for physical goods. Home will be able to link into additional fulfillment changes and real world retail channels. YOu'll be able to buy a virtual item and then have the real world item delivered.

The level of ambition for home is high. "Home will be the most richly populated, most profitable virtual world, used every day, by every Playstation3 user" (quote from slide)

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