September 4th, 2013, 00:16 Posted By: wraggster
Meet the man that every UK games retailer has on speed dial
Sony Computer Entertainment
Sony Computer Entertainment is a Japanese videogame company specialising in a variety of areas in the...
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Fergal Gara is VP and MD of UK and Ireland at Sony Computer Entertainment and he's just about to face his first console launch. He's had experience of retail before with nearly six years with Asda, but the PlayStation 4 puts him firmly on the other side of that fence, marketing a huge product launch at his erstwhile colleagues and contemporaries.
GamesIndustry International sat down with Gara the morning after Sony's Gamescom press conference to talk about the PlayStation 4's success in the pre-order market so far, why Vita is still an essential part of Sony's offering and why it's an emotional time to be a console manufacturer.
Q: Sony as whole seems to have been very open about the details and features of the PlayStation 4 from very early on, was that a conscious decision?
Fergal Gara: For me that goes all the way back to February 20 and Mark Cerny who said it was a five year project in listening to developers in particular: what did they need to make life easier, to get the toolkit that gave them the most creative scope? And therefore it's been a project of opening up and embracing the development community, big and small.
I think what you saw last night was a great, rich example of the sheer breadth that comes out of having such a policy. I think we just further underlined the points that have been there since February really, of which there are more and more examples. It's great to see that diversity, we want to be the ubiquitous home for gaming, gaming for everybody and that means every kind of user, every kind of gamer, but also every kind of developer.
Q: It does feel that with this console launch Sony have got things right. Is that how it feels internally? Do you feel confident?
Fergal Gara: There's nothing better in any form of business than when customers are rewarding you with their custom and it's absolutely true to say, particularly since E3, that gamers have been rewarding us with their commitment and their pre-orders. That does have a motivational effect on the team so people are more chipper, they're more focused, they're more upbeat and it is fantastic that the key strategies that have been laid out and planned way back, we've been able to not deviate from them whatsoever. It does feel like we're getting a lot of things right and that's helping the teams be even more motivated and even more focused on doing the best job that they can.
Q: Pre-orders must help when you're making deals with publishers and developers too?
"Success is contagious, but we don't allow ourselves to get smug or complacent"
Fergal Gara: Success is contagious, and it does feel like a lot of things are clicking into place now nicely, but we don't allow ourselves to get in any way smug or complacent. But yes, we're feeling confident and that's a good place to be.
Q: You've announced the release dates now - why that particular timeframe and was that always where you were aiming for?
Fergal Gara: Yes. The release target window has been there or thereabouts for a very very long time. What's happened in recent weeks is that confidence on the production side of the equation has grown as units have started flying off the production lines. Now we can start to allocate the volumes and calculate the volumes needed by region, by territories, so that's allowing us to communicate the date with greater confidence.
Q: Do have any idea how many units have been allocated to the UK?
Fergal Gara: Yes, but I can't share it with you I'm afraid.
The only thing I would say is Andy [House] quoted a number last night for pre-orders, in fact he quoted a low end number, he said 'in excess of.' What I will say is that the UK represents a significant proportion of that, we're talking unprecedented levels of pre-orders that we haven't seen in 20 years in this business.
The pre-order phenomenon is a reasonably recent one, or certainly growing in recent years - but it does mean that demand is well ahead of our expectations as they were earlier in the year so our internal conversations are now all about securing volume to maximise the number of gamers we can satisfy on that day one or close to day one. It's a problem but it's a good problem to have.
There will be some frustration around it and we know that we'll have to do our best to satisfy the demand and outside of that manage the frustration that may result if we're not able to meet all of it immediately. It's a good problem to have but a problem, and we don't like to let anybody down.
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