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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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At least half of my time there was spent opening up the digital. And this was the old days where sending photographs to journalists would be done with glossy prints in envelopes. So I was building websites, building the CRM fan-bases, building web commerce onto those websites, selling physical product into the likes of Amazon, selling digital product into the likes of Apple. Pioneering new territory, with an entertainment theme, is something that has always excited me.

Then I took myself off into retail [with Asda]. It's a ruthless, very commercial world - if today's results are bad, how are you going to fix it tomorrow? But I do think it gives you a sharpness and a commercial focus, and that's something I really want to bring to Sony - getting everyone a bit more focused on the numbers, and what our consumers think of what we're doing for them, to be more responsive in what we do. It was at Asda when I first got my hands on videogames: when I took over, sales of games there tripled in size over that period.

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What would you say is your biggest challenge since taking over at Sony?

One thing that's different is that I can't do an awful lot to change tomorrow today. This is an unusual week, but I can't get hold of the real-time data in the way that I could at retail - I can get bits and bobs from various parties. So you have to think a little bit more long-term - you have to be a bit more patient, and we need to think about how we can be a better competitor in this market, because I think we've sold ourselves a little short on that score.

I think we should perhaps have done that little bit better with PlayStation 3, although I still think there's a lot more life in it and that there's much more we can do with it yet. But I think we have to be a bit more hungry, a bit more feisty and a bit more focused.

You're uniquely placed to assess what is going on in the retail sector - games retail, bar the supermarkets, is in a bad place at the moment, so what are your thoughts on that?

It would be easy to look at the two-year trend and say that it's a disaster for videogames. But if you look at the size of the category... If you just look at the console sector and go back five years, there was an unprecedented peak which was so high that there has been an inevitable settling down. That high was created by there being four consoles at or around their peak, all at the same time.

Over that period, specialist retailers expanded, generalists like HMV expanded their presence in games, supermarkets got involved, the online retailers were becoming stronger; so the business expanded and spread out. Now there's an inevitable settling down; we haven't had an enormous console launch for quite some time, although PlayStation Vita can play a key role in changing that.

But it does mean the specialists are dealing with contraction, and that's not easy for any retailer. It's a difficult period. But much more so now than in the past, the specialist retailers are extremely important - they provide the best way of explaining what PS Vita does and showing what PS Vita does, more so than on any website. Do we value that? Oh yes we do.

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