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Shu Yoshida reflects on 25 years at PlayStation, and the difficulty of hardware transitions


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On the PS1's success, the move to PS2 and the shift in Sony's types of games:



And amidst that rabble of games there was a new adventure game from Fumito Ueda and Team Ico, which found itself suffering from technical difficulties on the original PlayStation. "I moved development from PS1 to PS2," Yoshida recalled of the project that would become Ico. "Sounds familiar, right?"


The transition from PlayStation 1 to PlayStation 2 was an eye-opening process for Sony. "We had no idea how the industry went about it," said Yoshida, whose teams were busy finishing up the original Ape Escape for PlayStation 1 before they were split up to work on smaller projects - one of them being Fantavision, a slim if enjoyable puzzle game that was one of the few first-party games to accompany the PS2's launch, a move that came in for some criticism at the time. ""It's not my fault!" joked Yoshida. "At least I had one game - it was all the other producers that didn't!"



By the time of the PlayStation 2's western release the line-up was bolstered, and throughout its lifespan Yoshida oversaw a shift in emphasis towards western games from US teams such as God of War and Naughty Dog's Jak & Daxter series. It was a fruitful time for PlayStation, though it all threatened to unravel with the arrival of the PlayStation 3, a machine that was notoriously difficult to create games for.


That small crisis led to the formation of a new team within Sony to help create a new team dubbed ICE - which stood for Initiative for a Common Engine - in order to help smooth development, and it led to a shift in philosophy at the company as Ken Kutaragi moved aside to make way for Kaz Hirai. "That was a huge cultural change," said Yoshida. "I met very big resistance when shifting people to this one common engine.


On the PS3's development troubles.



"Ken [Kutaragi] was such a brilliant engineer - the team that worked for Ken was so motivated, he was a great motivator. Maybe he was using video games as a stepping stone to realise his vision and dreams - he wanted to become the next Intel or something. He always approached developing game systems, up to PS3 - they work on a system just by themselves. And we weren't given access until it was done. He had trust with the developers - whatever he made, the top developers would be able to work on them and understand them. He didn't see the need to involve game developers in the design of the system - that's how the PS3 was made. And you know how successful it was."


The shift to Vita/PS4:



Yoshida headed back to Japan, helping the studios work more closely together as Mark Cerny worked on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 projects - and in the latter example, the shift towards working with developers and soothing development has helped make it a success, its sales ontrack to eclipse the PlayStation 3 this year.


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