'Bring back Crash Bandicoot? I definitely wouldn't close the door on that'
Andrew House has overseen the development of PlayStation for over 20 years. What does the next 20 hold, asks Rhiannon Williams
Published 14/07/2014 | 11:03
Let it be known to frustrated parents everywhere that even one of the most powerful men in the computer games industry struggles to maintain total control over his living room.
"When I was living in London, my son and I would end up competing for time on the PlayStation 3 because I wanted BBC iPlayer and he wanted Call of Duty," Andrew House laughs.
The CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment is in Brighton to speak at the annual Develop conference, where PlayStation is celebrating entering its 20th year.
Born in Wales, he began working for Sony Corporation in 1990 in corporate PR, before volunteering to join PSX, the secret project behind the very first PlayStation console. Given the extraordinary success of the original PlayStation, which has notched up over 102 million unit sales since its 1994 launch, it's fascinating to learn of the stiff opposition he faced at the time.
During his keynote speech, Mr House touched on how his then boss lectured him on how a games console could 'never be a significant part of Sony's business’.
"There were champions of the product as well," he reflects, "But there was a significant view that this was not something Sony should be doing, and a limited view of the potential for what that could be."
The faith of the PSX team paid off, and PlayStation is now in its fourth incarnation. But in a world where people rely so heavily on multi-functionary devices like smartphones, is there still a place for games consoles? To put this into stark relief; while the PS2 sold over 155 million units following its 2000 launch, the PS3 six years later sold only 80 million, while the PS4 has sold around 7 million since November.
Mr House maintains that while the rise of mobile gaming does pose challenges for dedicated handheld devices, it has also allowed the games industry to go back to its roots.
"We're now seeing very small teams creating the quirky and the different again," he says. "If you talk to many of those developers, they’re looking to stretch their creative legs with more complicated interfaces and deeper, more immersive experiences. They tend to look to the console as the next outlet, and I look at it almost as an A&R function in the music industry - we’re finding this great new talent that’s coming out of mobile and PC and connecting them with a new audience."
With "mind-opening" virtual reality headset Project Morpheus in the pipeline, it’s an exciting time for PlayStation. Morpheus is likely, he says, to offer short, compelling bursts of gaming within the living room, but also has the potential for location-based gaming, where you can "be somewhere else, be someone else."
While rival manufacturer Nintendo has recycled many of its most successful characters and franchises, including Zelda, Pokemon and Super Mario time and time again, PlayStation has left some of its most beloved games unvisited. Will we see a Crash Bandicoot or Spyro the Dragon revival anytime soon?
"This is very dangerous ground," Mr House laughs. "In concept, it is something we've been thinking about and discussing, and this is a shift for us. We've started to say that maybe there isn't anything wrong with going back and looking at characters that people still talk about, that were a big part of either their childhood or their youth. I definitely wouldn't close the door on that."
For now, the game he's most looking forward to is Victorian-era shooter The Order, due for release in the spring. If he can wrestle the controller away from his son, that is.