The PS3 on a Built-to-Order format?
Q: Increased use of network capabilities would entail the hard drive unit playing a greater part. Aren’t the capacity options rather low, at 20GB or 60GB, for this?
Kutaragi: I consider the PlayStation 3 a direct incarnation of the [personal] computer. A computer does not run a program directly from the CD-ROM drive; it is downloaded to the hard drive first. The PlayStation 3’s hard drive will likely be used in a similar manner – in a cache-like function. Some users will definitely run out of hard drive space, depending on how they use their console. Such users will have the option of purchasing larger-capacity hard drives. We may be releasing 120GB drives by next year or the year after that. Differences in hardware specifications should be seen simply as differences in configuration for that particular PlayStation 3 unit, not as a difference in version. As the PlayStation 3 is, as I mentioned before, a [personal] computer, we might even want to offer it on a BTO (Built-to-Order) basis, customized to the needs of each and every user. The hardware components have been designed in a modularized format with this possibility in mind, based on a concept which is entirely different from those used in household appliances or conventional game consoles. We allowed for expandability, opted for a standardized interface, and chose what parts to use just as we would have if we had been designing a computer.
Q: Of the many game titles that were presented at the announcement, is there any that you would recommend in particular?
Kutaragi: They all have their merits, so it’s hard to choose just one, but I’m particularly pleased with the card-based game, “Eye of Judgement”. That title radiates potential. Not only does it use the “Eye Toy” camera to read the various cards, it uses the cards to express an entirely new world. This holds many possibilities for application. It is, of course, enjoyable enough as a card game in itself, but I believe we could open up new horizons – unreachable with the PlayStation 2 – by applying that idea in new ways. The current camera is a VGA unit – think of the possibilities if we could use an HD camera, or what we could accomplish by having the camera read something other than a card. What if a child placed a random, unexpected object in front of the camera, triggering the game to display something wonderful, as if by magic?
Q: Your planned shipping schedule is 6 million units worldwide by the end of March, 2007.
Kutaragi: We are planning a monthly production rate of 1 million units. We have secured the parts required to reach this mark. This has been verified, so we should be set to go, barring any major oversights.
Q: Does that include the “Cell” semiconductors?
Kutaragi: No worries there. We began the manufacturing process last year (summer 2005), and now have plenty of them – enough to sell on the street, even. We’re hoping to provide servers using Cell’s on our side of the network in the very near future, so the more we have, the better. What was actually more troublesome was securing the generic parts required. As the economy is strong now, we had a hard time securing all the necessary parts to meet a 1 million unit / month quota – passive components, RAM, hard drives, circuit board materials, and even plating alloys.
Q: Why did you opt for a simultaneous worldwide release for the PlayStation 3? Will a 1 million units / month schedule be enough to cover a single area, let alone the entire world market?
Kutaragi: It should be enough. 1 million units a month, 12 million units a year. We aren’t expecting the initial rush of sales in Japan to be that strong.
Q: Wouldn’t product availability for the first few months following launch be more important than the yearly output? Shipping numbers for the PlayStation 2 in the 4 months following its launch surpassed 10 million units for Japan, the U.S. and Europe combined. If the PlayStation 3 sells at a similar rate, you will be faced with a shortage. For previous launches, you evened out this difference in initial sales speed by setting different launch dates depending on the area.
Kutaragi: Actually, I’m looking forward to facing that dilemma... But now that we’re in the era of networking, and now that the world of the PlayStation has widened, I believe it is no longer acceptable for us to limit our initial launch to a certain area. We did give the Japanese market head starts of 1 year for the PlayStation 1, and 6 months for the PlayStation 2 – yet today, the world should be considered a single entity. It is important that we launch quasi-simultaneously. We have spent plenty of time considering and evaluating our framework, from logistics to production. If we had been able to pull off a launch this year in spring, we could have launched in Japan first, and moved on to the rest of the world. But our users have waited long enough now – asking our non-Japanese users to wait any further would be out of the question.