E3: US PlayStation Chief Addresses Hack Attacks
Jack Tretton has been in an unenviable position for the past month-and-half.
As the president of Sony Computer Entertainment America, he is one of the most recognizable personifications of the PlayStation brand – but throughout the extended drama surrounding the hacker attack that resulted in the theft of personal information from over 100 million accounts, he has been forced to sit on the sidelines and remain silent. At this year's E3, though, he's finally getting a chance to address the situation.
At the company's pre-show press conference, he injected some much needed humor into the situation, saying "My friends who are reporters say there's nothing their editors like more than bad news. So, to all our esteemed members of the press, I say: You're welcome." It deflated the tension and when combined with his own apology for the anxiety the situation had caused customers, it allowed the company focus on its upcoming releases.
But Tretton acknowledges that biting his tongue before this week wasn't always easy.
"There's the person and there's the job," he says. "And sometimes the two aren't completely tied together. You have personal opinions and a corporate structure you have to work through."
While Sony was widely criticized for its handling of the crisis, Tretton says PlayStation traffic is already back to 90 percent of its pre-intrusion levels. And he expects to surpass the old numbers before the end of the year.
"I think network traffic in general is fluid," he says. "It has everything to do with new games or services. I honestly believe we'll not only get back to levels prior to the outage but we'll exceed those in time. That will be a combination of restored faith, but probably equally affected by having compelling content."
Though hackers continue to attack other areas of the company, the PlayStation arm hasn't been invaded since the initial attack. And while Tretton says the company remains vigilant, it's focusing on future challenges – specifically the launch of its upcoming next generation handheld system, the PlayStation Vita.
The Vita has been getting a good reception at E3, but could face an uphill battle in the fight to win over consumers. Like the Nintendo 3DS, it's a dedicated gaming system, a field that has been particularly affected by the success of the Apple iPhone.
While the system hardware is comparably priced, games for the Vita are expected to fall in the industry range of $30-$40, significantly higher than the $5 and less most apps cost.
Nintendo president Satoru Iwata lashed out at the model earlier this year, saying "Until now, there has always been the ability to make a living (making games). Will that still be the case moving forward?"
Tretton says he's not quite as concerned about the situation – noting that quality typically wins out, even when it costs more.
"If I open a movie theater next door [to a theater] and start charging 50 cents per ticket, but I'm showing you things I filmed with my camcorder, I don't think it's a threat to the theater charging $13 per ticket," he says. "It's about people having reasonable expectations. I don't think we're training people to pay $5 for games. … The cream always rises to the top."
As for competition from Apple (as well as free social network games), Tretton says he believes the debate over their impact on the gaming audience has been focused on the wrong issues.
"For every consumer you lose to a table or smart phone, there are three consumers that became interested in gaming in a simple form," he says. "And those people might be able to be migrated into a sophisticated gamer. … We look at that as being the opposite of a threat, but an opportunity."