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Sony's Fergal Gara on PS Vita launch: 'We're seeing encouraging signs'

SCE UK's managing director on early sales, price cuts and future plans

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So presumably a big programme of PS Vita game releases is now the top priority for the rest of the year?

Absolutely. There are a lot of big-name PS Vita titles already announced or on the schedule - the likes of Resistance: Burning Skies and LittleBigPlanet, and massive third-party franchises that are coming to PlayStation Vita later in the year, such as FIFA 13, Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed. And those are just the ones we can talk about.

The PS Vita had a massive marketing budget - is that more or less spent now, or will it be sustained throughout the year?

Zoom

We kicked off the TV campaign only five days prior to launch, so it was pretty tight and a pretty big bang. It's not only about broadcast TV of course - there's a media campaign. And let's remember where the majority of our audience live - they spend a big part of their lives online, so capitalising on what we do through online media and online promotion has been a very important part of the plan.

But we have plenty more budget to go, and conveniently for Sony, we're moving into the new financial year at the end of March, so we will be backing PS Vita significantly in the next financial year as well.

And presumably PS3 owners will have plenty of PS Vita marketing heading their way?

They will. We haven't said very much at all about how the best accessory for the PS3 is the PS Vita, and vice-versa, but there's more to come and we expect that to build. We wanted to keep the message simple at the start, which is: this is the best version of console gaming you can ever take on the move with you.

I know it's partly up to the retailers, but can we expect to see different bundles with games, memory cards and accessories emerging?

No plans as yet - we're open-minded as to how the rest of the year plays out, and we see it as a long game. Today is very important but the rest of the year is at least as important, so we need to keep an open mind as to how consumers react. What we're seeing this week is retailers creating soft bundles as we call them, representing what they think are the most potent packages, and as ever, they've done a very competitive and compelling job.

When will we hear the first sales figures?

We'll probably take a European view and decide when it's appropriate to release figures.

Presumably, you're expecting the UK to be the biggest market in Europe?

There are a lot of reasons to think that will be the case, but the interesting scenario for me is that PSP performed solidly across the continent for much longer than the UK. I don't whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. I suppose there's a PlayStation heritage which held on that much longer, or maybe there's the potential for market confusion there. But yes, historically, it's true to say that UK consumers have been a bit more hungry for new technology. I just read some reports from the European territories, and it at least sounds like the buzz and excitement matches the UK.

Zoom

Tell us about yourself - your recent background before joining Sony was more in retail, wasn't it?

I've been involved in entertainment from different angles right from school. I graduated as an electronics engineer and joined the BBC's graduate scheme. It was the option to be involved in entertainment output and use the skills I had that attracted me to that. I spent five years there and went off and studied for an MBA, and then I pondered what I wanted to do next. Again, I was led back to entertainment, in the music industry. I still almost eight years within EMI, where I spent a long time initially working on opening up new retail channels - the supermarket sector was tiny at the time.

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