Kazunori Yamauchi is a name synonymous with fast cars and loose women. Okay we were lying about the 'loose women' bit, but the genius behind the Gran Turismo series is acknowledged as one of gaming's true greats and the hours of pleasure we've had test driving his creations over the years have been pure automotive joy.
Well as you probably know it was the PlayStation's tenth anniversary recently and to celebrate, the Polyphony Digital president was caught in the headlamps and quizzed about his love affair with all things PlayStation. We'd love to have grilled him in person where we'd have asked some pretty probing questions about the lack of fluffy dice and burberry seat covers, but needs must etc, so start your engines and it's over to you Yamauchi-san.
When you first started working in the games industry did you ever think it would be as big as it is now? And when you first started playing videogames did you ever imagine they could be this cool?
Kazunori Yamauchi: No I did not expect the game business to expand the way it did, nor did I think games would be considered "cool" when I first started playing. However, when we started the PlayStation format, our most important objective was to make games a cool thing. To think that has been accomplished brings a feeling of great satisfaction.
What have been your favourite PlayStation projects to work on?
Kazunori Yamauchi: That would have to be having been part of the start-up team for PlayStation. Software strategies, hardware design, or details of the designs of the controller were all decided by this small group. My family runs a cram school, and the students helped us by being the first testers of the PlayStation controller, which was then still in development. Hardware teams and software teams worked closely together in a family-like atmosphere to help the PlayStation project move forward.
With the advent of PS3, are there any concepts that have you've been dreaming about for years that, with the new technology, can now be brought to fruition?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Though difficult to explain in detail at this time, perhaps I can share the possibilities in an abstract way. The PlayStation 3 is the first piece of hardware allowing photo-realistic computer graphics, and is the first game hardware that can perform calculations for physics simulation to the level of our satisfaction. With a matrix of such elements, a new world of entertainment is about to unfold. This is the beginning of a world, different to that of what we have called "games" up to today.
Where do you see the future of gaming, what areas do you think will change in the future?
Kazunori Yamauchi: I see the future of gaming changing, as it shifts away from packaged products, to service via network. This will vary from casual and open loosely coupled services, to more tightly coupled services for MMORPGs.
Do you feel we've had the 'golden age' of gaming, or are we seeing it now?
Kazunori Yamauchi: I feel we are seeing it now. However I don't think the industry can continue linear growth in the form we see today. Rather, I would think the dynamic industry structure will change form as it continues to grow.
If you could transport yourself into a game which one would it be?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Gran Turismo. I would then be able to drive 'till I die.
What's your funniest PlayStation moment?
Kazunori Yamauchi: This was back in 1999 when we had GT2 showing at E3. As always, we worked until the very last minute at the Polyphony Digital studio in Japan to prepare the demo version for the show. Qualities we had hoped for were difficult to achieve, and I remember spending 100 hours in the development room prior to departure, with no sleep at all. I started sleeping the instant I was seated on my plane to LA, and did not wake up until we had arrived. I didn't even take advantage of the seat reclining, nor go to the restroom throughout the flight, and I cannot recall take-off and landing either. I had warped from Tokyo to LA in a blink of an eye.
Describe, in ten words or less, what sums up PlayStation for you?
Kazunori Yamauchi: PlayStation is not just a platform, it's a movement.