It’s been a long day, but Yoshida-san is all smiles. Always cheerful, he laughs as we enter the room. We exchange pleasantries and even some tokens of appreciation for what he’s done for the gaming community. To some, he is simply a Japanese Businessman. To us, he is a big reason why we can call ourselves gamers.
He is a gamer himself. “Gamer / President” as emblazoned on his calling card, with a colorful splash of Concrete Genie as the backdrop. Gamer first, President second.
He is also one of us – someone who enjoys playing games, interacting with fellow gamers, and talking about games.
The only difference? He is also the president of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios for Sony Interactive Entertainment.
“Yoshida-san, I’ve watched the commentary about God of War, Cory Barlog said that you were one of the first people who played and hated the God of War. What happened there and did you offer any suggestions that ended up in the final game?”
Everybody breaks character and laughs.
“Yes, so what happened was during the development build of the game, when I played that game, there are lots of things that were not working – the framerate was an issue, AI was an issue, some animation was an issue. Pretty much the game was simply incomplete… The team knew what was needed to be done but considering the time left for the launch, it was a really scary moment for me to look at the status… But after that, the team did an amazing job to make one of the best God of War games. Actually, I’ve been involved in God of War series from the beginning but last year’s game is my favorite God of War game in the end…”
Yoshida-san then continued to explain how teams should approach making a really big game and the challenges that come along with it. If you’ve watched the God of War documentary, it is known that Santa Monica Studio had to cancel a project which led to the GoW team taking in more resources than they needed at the moment.
“That was the timing I was given the controller. Actually, I demand controller everytime I visit the studio.”
Yoshida-san is very hands on and it has led to success. Much of Sony’s first party titles have received critical acclaim and while majority of it is due the talent and hardwork of the development team, what people fail to see and consider are the business decisions that also happen behind the scenes.
It was only fitting that the next question, from yours truly, touch on the subject of first party studios. With games such as Horizon Zero Dawn, the Uncharted series, and Marvel’s Spider-Man, the PlayStation has made a living off of the wonderful work from their first party roster.
“Santa Monica Studio is one of the more successful first party studios that you have. Are you actively looking around for more studios that you could acquire to beef up your first party roster?”
“The answer is no.” Short and sweet, while laughing out loud as if to poke fun at the question.
“When you look our history of acquisition, the last acquisition I think was media molecule. Guerilla Games, Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch, and Insomniac, always we have the history of working together as developer and publisher and had successful IP’s created together… We have a really strong relationship and good business and desire to continue that relationship, so we kind of formalize the relationship. That’s what happened with Insomniac, the same way. The history goes back to Spyro the Dragon in 1998, so more than 20 years we worked as developer and publisher… So it’s not like I’m looking at great games and I want this company, that’s not how we approach it.”
I did not expect that, to be quite honest. On the other hand, competitors have been acquiring studios left and right but with Sony being the benchmark when it comes to first party exclusive games, it really does go to show that some things cannot beat trust and the history that goes along with it.
We proceed to the next, also first party related…
“Many of Sony’s first party games this generation have been regarded as some of the best games this generation… Can you tell us a little bit of how you manage to maintain such a high quality of first party titles?”
The main critique about these SIE exclusives is that they are mostly, if not all, single player experiences. We then proceed to the next question, something that I’m sure everyone was thinking of as well.
“The most popular games today are simple battle royale games like Fortnite and PUBG, and they are easy to pick up and quick to finish. So, do you see a shift in the type of gamers today and how are the games that Sony is making changing to meet this new expectation?”
Yoshida-san pauses for a bit, but does not break character. He answers promptly.
“I strongly believe that, and I think many people in the industry believe also that there has to be a variety of games, all different kinds of games in the industry, and people want to play story based single player games… making a game is not easy, and making a great game is super difficult, it takes a lot of talent and hard work and chemistry of the team… And every team is different, it’s not like Naughty Dog is great at making [just] action adventure, they should be able to make like a racing game or fighting game… We don’t push our teams who are making amazing games in one genre to do this free to play battle royale game because that’s what is selling now, we don’t do that… So that’s the change we accept and understand and encourage our teams but it’s not like we have to chase the trend…”
At this point, it’s amazing how one thing led to the next, with answers that I was not expecting but definitely eye opening. Talking with someone like Yoshida-san does that to you. With years of experience under his belt, we stand to learn a lot from the conversation but at the same time, I feel that he also learned quite a thing or two from the young ones in the room.
The recent trend in games have been either remakes or remasters, some better than others. Yoshida-san is no stranger to the possibility of doing just that to some of the older games which he produced himself. A recent rumor sparked a huge conversation about one of the most beloved PlayStation RPG’s receiving a remaster and who better to answer and give confirmation that the producer himself.
“You used to work in the Legend of Dragoon project so now there’s a rumor about the game being remastered, what’s your comment on that? Are you happy to see the game again?”
“Legend of Dragoon.”
“No, we have no announce…”, his answer getting cut off by a small laugh.
“But there’s a rumor about the game getting a remaster…”
“Oh, is there?”
Laughter then explodes around the room.
“We have just finished development of MediEvil, that’s a remake, so it’s a beautiful game… You’d be surprised how modernized we made the game because the original game was a bit too simple from a current standpoint… Other remake we did was Shadow of the Colossus, that was a beautiful game, it looked like a brand new PS4 game… I was the original producer of Legend of Dragoon and because the game was like Final Fantasy 7, we had 4 discs and pre-rendered movies, it will take a huge effort, so it’s not going to be easy even if we try…”
So, was it just me or did Yoshida-san simply shoot down that rumor? If you’re still reading up to this point (as you should), then sorry folks, the rumors will remain a rumor. I love the Legend of Dragoon as much as the next guy but what can you do when the producer himself is unsure?
“One of the controversy that surrounded the PlayStation brand in the past year is censorship… is PlayStation gearing towards a more family friendly brand or is there a change in policy inside Sony?”
Pretty good question, I don’t like my Senran Kagura or similar games censored.
“First of all, we as a company and platform, we respect the developers vision, but in each country there is a rating system… In different country, different rules and what’s been happening is because of the internet and youtube and the streamers, in the past games release in one country and didn’t cross the border to other countries in terms of people to see… This day, everything is on internet… everyone can see every other country’s games just by looking at streaming or youtube, so we are more sensitive about this content being viewed… Our basis is the country’s rating system and it’s a great system that we participate and respect but certain contents sometime we adopt a global standard, so that’s our approach.”
Rules are rules, yeah?
The mood took a turn, so I try to bring it back to something lighter.
“You have such a big library of first party games, is there any one of those games that you feel very close to? Like a personal connection, maybe you like this game better than the other?”
Yoshida-san laughs at the question. What’s funny, I wondered, maybe he didn’t want to choose favorites?
“Sometimes I get asked what’s my favorite game that I’ve ever been involved in, I always answer that it has been Journey as my favorite, favorite in terms of how I was so moved by this team that they have less than 20 people making this small game that you can play in 3 hours, but can get the people’s heart moving. When the game got the best game of the year award and all kinds of awards, 3 hours game beat all other triple A titles, Jenova Chen did a speech talking about he received a letter from a girl that lost her father and in order to overcome the loss, she played the game and Journey is about human life, that helped her come back to her life.”
I can tell that we all didn’t expect that story and even the answer but one thing we may all agree on is that Journey is a fantastic game that everyone should play at least once. It’s 15$ on the PS Store for those wondering.
“… If you could bring back one of your favorites from the past, which would it be and why?”
“There are certain games that people would ask me all the time. Like, Legend of Dragoon is one popular one, Socom is a popular one, PlayStation All Stars is a popular one, and few people likes Ape Escape and actually I was a producer of the very first title… So in terms of how deeply I was involved in making any games that we have made, I could say Ape Escape I was most deeply involved in so in that sense, I have an attachment… It would be interesting to see Ape Escape being remade like Crash Bandicoot.”
Next thing we know, our time was up. To be honest we could have continued talking about games with Yoshida-san but being the President of WWS as you may have heard of, he had other appointments that he had to attend to.
It was quite the eventful afternoon. With TGS2019 in the books and countless game announcements over the past couple of days, a lot of people will remember all the updates about the FF7 Remake, or maybe even other games like Death Stranding. For the 5 of us in that room (where it happened), what we will remember about TGS is the afternoon we spent with a simple gentleman who likes his games as much as we do ours. Not as the president, nor as our childhood hero, but simply as Shuhei Yoshida, gamer.
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