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Sony's Phil Harrison: "I don't think we're arrogant"


At the end of the final keynote of the Develop Conference in Brighton, Jennie and I walked up to Sony Computer Entertainment big boss Phil Harrison, with the intention of a) thrusting a Joystiq t-shirt into his hands and b), asking him two questions on the topic of the company's perceived arrogance. What he said is below, but the most interesting part for me was what he said off-tape.

What would you say to the suggestion that Sony is being arrogant?

There's always going to be a risk when you are market leader for ten years that we start to lose perspective; and we have to make sure that we don't lose perspective. But I don't think we're arrogant, I think we have to recognize that we're in a highly competitive industry and that anything that we say will be eternally editorialized by professionals and consumers alike. So we're always in the spotlight.

Would you say that recently Sony has been hurting its PlayStation brand? Recently we had someone say...

Jeff Minter?

Yes, who said that Sony is being arrogant. Is PR hurting Sony at the moment? You have things like notable Sony representatives saying that Microsoft copies Sony when in fact I'd say that they feed off each other equally. Do you think that's hurting Sony?

I think you can always take quotes out of context...

But [Kaz Hirai] specifically said "Microsoft is copying Sony".

Well, as I said, quotes can always be taken out of context. They can be put into a harsher light as a result, but that doesn't mean that the PR strategy is one of arrogance. So they're two separate things.

This is where I stopped recording: after the tape was turned off and I said, "that's it, thanks".

Phil then said something along the lines of "well those were positive questions", in a vaguely sarcastic tone.

This got me to thinking, does that mean Phil was expecting "nice" questions? Has the situation got so bad that executives are surprised when journalists ask questions that are hard to answer? If "the face of the PS3" is surprised when a blogger asks him a question that goes beyond "uh, so what's your game like?", then you have a very large, and worrying indicator that something, somewhere is going wrong in terms of the relationship between the press and video game companies. If anything, Phil should have been surprised if I wasn't asking tough questions!

Finally, and let me clear about this; Phil Harrison is absolutely not the primary instigator of this mentality amongst public figures in the games industry. We're talking "endemic" and "industry-wide" here folks.

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