MCV sat down yesterday with representatives from Sony to discuss Playstation First and the push to get people creating for the Playstation 4.
The interview comes alongside the news that Sony Computer Entertainment Australia has selected the Academy of Interactive Entertainment as its partner for the Playstation First program locally, sending out PS Vita dev kits to its Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra incubator studios.
"The opportunity to work with the Playstation suite of platforms ensures our students are getting industry relevant skils," said AIE Director of Business Development and Marketing Neil Boyd. "The students are eagerly anticipating the access they will get to this leading platform."
MCV interviewed SCE Australia Director of Sponsorship, Promotions and New Business Steve Wherrett and SCE Europe Head of Academic Development Dr Maria Stukoff.
So how will Sony's support for Playstation First directly impact students?
SW: The Teams that are interesting in developing for PS Vita will get dev kits as part of the AIE Incubator program. From there, it will roll into year one and year two as part of the curriculum. We'll kick it off with the incubator program as it's all very new to these guys, then we'll broaden it out from there.
MS: It's about fostering talent – the next generation of Playstation savvy developers. What I mean by that is that the next generation is in education right now. They're the ones with hopefully new ideas, creative aspirations and want to make breakthrough technology and bring new innovation to the platform. We're very interested to nurture this talent.
And what's the next step after ingratiating students with Playstation Vita dev kits?
MS: We want to make it easier for them not only to develop but to publish with Playstation. The reason we chose to work with AIE is that not only are they providing Playstations into the curriculum, they also have an incubator program where they learn about business development and business planning, how to pitch their ideas, understand their audience development.
That means that they'll become the next development community in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne to really make the Australian game development industry really bouyant again.
What kind of support can budding developer expect outside of the provision of hardware?
MS: Through Playstation First, when you work on our dev kits, you're registered just like any other developer, which means you have access to our dev support portal. Through that, there are a lot of forums about development, technical support and general information about things people should look out for, for both lecturers and developers. It helps people become kind of third party account managers.
SW: On a local level, we'll be involved throughout the year. At regular intervals, we'll come in and see where they're at, perhaps offering some input and feedback. We'll pull people from our marketing teams in so they can pass on advice about the games they're creating, and help out along the whole production.
Is this a deal Sony is striking exclusively with the AIE?
SW: We want to work with the AIE initially. They've got campuses here, Melbourne and Canberra. We've got a really good partner in them, and certainly for at least the first 12 months, but the idea would be to expand. It's right to say that any education institution needs to apply for the dev kit program and give an expression of interest.
MS: For us right now, AIE is our flagship. It's also about trialling how the Australian local community feed into this and how we can grow those relationships. We've had some conversations with QUT and Qantm in the past – we have various programs under the Playstation First banner. In terms of a Playstation partnership, it's only AIE for now.
Once this part is done, AIE can also take charge more directly in the education in gaming debate, run workshops, use their incubator to spawn a developer cluster with developers outside the AIE more generally.
Why have you chosen to start this program with the PS Vita?
MS: We're at a point where we want to champion the Playstation Vita right now because it provides a good skill base to move into next gen with Playstation 4. What's exciting about that is that some of the software tools and libraries on Vita are very similar to those found on Playstation 4. There's a much smoother transition going from Vita into 4 than it would've been with Playstation 3, which has often been accredited to having a very high entry level.
This is about making actual games, where you really need very highly tuned and highly focused skills, and at the same time, we want to make sure that with those skills comes the quality of the games that we do.
Once we move into Playstation 4, we want to have a whole generation of first, second and third year students already creating for the Playstation 4 environment.
The key to Playstation First is that this is not about game development generally, this is about console game development. And that's where you need this more vocational training. This is where studios need to come in, focusing on game design, mechanics, audio etc – this is a much broader learning environment we're giving with Playstation First.
Do you think this kind of education can have a positive impact on the local indie development community?
MS: One of the great ways of futurecasting for the next five to ten years would be for these graduates to have not only the skill base but also the understanding of what Playstation is about in terms of the quality, our portfolio, what drives our innovation. All of them coming together could even create a new Playstation studio just like Media Molecule did.
This little burgeoning indie scene might drive to become a major part of the Playstation 4 in Australia.
Thank you for your time.