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Sony’s Susan Panico on the Move, 3-D Gaming, and the Future of the PlayStation Network

We talk with Susan Panico, the Senior Director of the PlayStation Network. She tells us about the state of PSN and the new PlayStation Plus service.

Gran Turismo 5

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Kevin Ohannessian: What’s your favorite thing at E3 this year?

Susan Panico: Tomorrow’s my day to walk the show floor, so I’ve only seen our booth. I have to say being a long-time Gran Turismo fan that I am really excited to see GT5 come out and show want one of the best technological teams we have, what they can do with the technological prowess of PlayStation 3. I think it’s going to be a game changer. It’s a really great game.

At the press event, Sony’s main announcements were Move and 3-D support. I was surprised there was nothing about bringing either Move or 3-D to the basic interface or to Home.

It’s an innovative, bleeding-edge technology we just kicked off. There is definitely an opportunity for different areas of the business to take advantage of 3-D technology, where it makes sense for the right consumer experience. It’s probably a little early to roll anything out. And we should probably take a look at how Home can take advantage of Move. I haven’t thought about too much.

At the press event, you also launched PlayStation Plus.

We are always looking at how we can continually evolve the PlayStation Network and our digital services and it just made sense for us, when we were looking at a subscription service, to really understand what types of things the consumers are looking for, what they are willing to pay for. We put together a service package that sits on top of PSN and offers a suite of services to our hardcore gamer, that gives them a great value where they can get free games, discounts on the PlayStation Store, access to concierge-type services, get early invitations to betas, early demos, early purchases on games. And added convenience through features like automatic downloads: You can have patches, firmware updates, demos, or videos pushed directly to your PlayStation 3, so you don’t have to think about it. We provided this choice that gives a lot of great content and features to the gamer that wants a little bit more out of their PlayStation Network experience.

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PlayStation Plus

What about the inevitable comparison to Xbox Live Gold? What makes them different?

I don’t really see them being a direct comparison, other than they are both subscriptions. The way I look at PlayStation Plus is, you go out and buy a car and you might the sports package because you want some tires that perform differently for the kind of driving you are going to do. That is how PlayStation Plus provides a different choice for consumers in how they want their content, experience, and features. Where as PSN, is still free and still provides you with online gaming, access to Netflix, and other services like MLB TV. All those things still remain free.

Another announcement made was Tester season 2. Are there other PSN shows coming?

There is nothing I can announce, but original programming is a really important part of our long-term strategy. We need to create content you can’t get anywhere else. We started with Pulse and Qore, that are much more informational, but still entertaining. Then we moved into Tester. It totally makes sense for us to keep widening that content strategy for things that still appeal to a 90% male demographic in that 18 to 35 age range. There are some stuff in the pipe, but that is all I can say. I think there’s a lot of programming opportunities from some pretty big hitters in the Hollywood space, that want to take advantage of the PlayStation 3 platform and the PlayStation Network. There are some fun things cooking.

Susan Panico

Any additional thoughts on PSN?

We’ve been around for a little over three short years, where competitors in that space have had a much longer head start. We very quickly capitalized on the marriage of innovation and entertainment, drawing upon our broader Sony heritage, and legitimizing gaming as a form of entertainment. And got consumers looking at PlayStation 3 as the center of the living room, and giving them so many more things to do in one place. I can play a game for three hours, and when I am frustrated or tired, slide over on the cross media bar and go into Home, maybe find out from someone how to beat a boss. Or I can go over to Netflix and stream a movie, or go on the video delivery service and rent one. There’s so much to do in one place. On the PlayStation Store we’ve had a billion downloads to date; 70,000 pieces of content on there, nearly half of the content you can’t get anywhere else. Just a lot of great ways to entertain people on the TV screen, or take it out on your PSP. We just added MLB TV, we just added HBO content, which has been wildly successful with our demographic. We’re just trying to provide that total comprehensive entertainment experience in one place. And we’ve been doing a good job of keeping that momentum up.

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For more with Susan, read the E3 post on Art in Gaming.

Stay tuned for more interviews from E3.

About the author

His work has also been published by Kill Screen, Tom's Guide, Tech Times, MTV Geek, GameSpot, Gamasutra, Laptop Mag, Co.Create, and Co.Labs. Focusing on the creativity and business of gaming, he is always up for a good interview or an intriguing feature.

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