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Interview: PlayStation Canada’s Matt Levitan

Hopefully by now you’ve already checked out our look at some of the biggest games coming this holiday season (here and here), from the PlayStation Holiday Preview event.

But there’s more to the story than what the short presentation demos of these games play like (although, yes, that’s pretty important). We spoke with Matt Levitan, director of marketing and public relations for PlayStation Canada, about everything from the strategy for the upcoming holiday season to what games he’s looking forward to in the coming year. (He remained otherwise tight-lipped about some of Sony’s more controversial stories as of late, such as the Jerry “Kevin Butler” Lambert situation to ex-Sony PR rep Will Powers’ comments.)

Wonderbook

Dork Shelf: There are a lot of gamers who don’t know what to make of Wonderbook. What audience are you going for with this product and how are you getting the word out?

Matt Levitan: As you saw from our event, Wonderbook was front and centre – like, on the main stage. We actually brought up a person from the dev team to do some interviews for it. So we want to give it a lot of attention as a dedicated TV campaign in North America and in the UK. It’s a new product; it needs a lot of education and I think also need a fair amount of sampling, so we’re looking at a bunch of ways that people can play it through November and December in Canada – specifically the Harry Potter fans, because we know there are millions of them out there.

Our lineup this holiday is arguably more social or casual than normal. But I think in some respects that’s okay. We have a lot of E-rated games, so we can do lots of family stuff [even though] we’re known for our M-rated franchises, too. It allows us to do more for the gift-giver this holiday, and I think that’s a positive thing.

Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified

DS: How would you sum up the holiday strategy for PlayStation 3 and Vita this coming holiday? There were several screens just showing Assassin’s Creed III.

ML: It’s certainly a content play this year. We’re really excited about the relationships we have right now, specifically with EA, Ubi and Activision. But we wanted to put Assassin’s Creed III front and centre. Not only do we have a lot of exclusive missions and some great content only on PS3, but we also have a hardware bundle. We’ll have a 500 GB PS3 with AC3 for $299. That’s a focus for us on the holiday as well as AC3: Liberation for the Vita.

Call of Duty is, and will probably continue to be for the foreseeable future, the biggest name in gaming. I think people who had a chance to play the multiplayer at our event were really pleased with how Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified looks on Vita.

DS: There’s also the new, slimmer PS3. I didn’t see any of the new models at the event itself.

ML: It’s actually available for sale already. We discussed that, about having all of the interactives fitted with the new chassis. We’ve shipped a lot of our product to retail, so we would have either had to allocate some resources at the warehouse to have enough there to retrofit it all.

New PlayStation 3 modelWe break down the form factor with any generation; we did it with the PS1 and PS2, and now we’ve done it with the PS3 twice. It allows you, from a technological standpoint to build a bit better of a machine, and this time around we’ve added some value with, in my opinion, what is the best game on the PS3 ever, which is the Uncharted 3: Game of the Year Edition bundle that’s out now. Instead of dropping the price we went with value, which is what we think will work for the holidays.

DS: I saw relatively less support for Move. It was there for The Unfinished Swan which I thought was excellent, but much less than in previous years.

ML: I think that’s a fair statement. We had two or three there; obviously Wonderbook, that’s a no-brainer. With Sport Champions 2 (below), it was there for part of the show but not all of it. Sports Champions 1 is still the best-selling Move game, so I think there’s some excitement for the sequel there. There’s some great stuff coming down the road such as Until Dawn.

Sports Champions 2We still want to have Move be a major part of the console, and we consider it a valuable peripheral. There’s just the question of how much content there is. We didn’t have a shooter that we could tie our wagons to and bring our Sharpshooter out for again. But Bioshock Infinite is coming out next year and that will be Move-compatible.

DS: I was kind of sad I didn’t see Bioshock there.

ML: I asked! Don’t think I didn’t ask! BioShock is still my favourite first-person shooter franchise. I do enjoy Killzone and Resistance, but there’s something about the story elements and the world they created in BioShock 1 and 2, that has Infinite as maybe my most anticipated game at the moment. They’re so good at storytelling, I just think it’s going to blow everyone away.

Little Big Planet VitaDS: I saw LittleBigPlanet for the Vita, and LBP Karting on display. Media Molecule is working on Tearway. Is there another studio working on the Vita LBP?

ML: There are a few different studios working on the LBP franchise [Ed. note: They are Tarsier Studio, Double 11 and Sony’s external development XDev team]. We own the franchise although of course Media Molecule is the father of Sackboy and the franchise, so the developer gets right of first refusal for what it wants to work on. But it also works very closely with any other studio that is making a LittleBigPlanet game. (Media Molecule very involved with every LBP game we make.

DS: LBP’s coming back, and God of War’s coming back in all its gory glory. But there are other franchises that have gone through the trilogy cycle: Killzone, Uncharted and Resistance. Can we look forward to more games in these series?

ML: Killzone’s coming back to Vita as Killzone: Mercenary, which we have shown a couple of times. We haven’t made any announcements yet for Uncharted or Resistance, so we’ll see how it goes.

Sound ShapesDS: Toronto’s done pretty well on PSN lately. Dyad and Sound Shapes (above) both got really good reviews. What are your impressions of the local talent and are you working with them on anything for the future?

ML: It’s been amazing. I was just recently down in San Francisco talking about the indie content that we have – we call it indie, I guess? I don’t even know if it’s a proper descriptor  anymore – but these devs in Canada are just doing incredible work and we’ve been able to work closely with them. I still unfortunately haven’t been able to finish Papo & Yo, those guys [Minority Media] are in Montreal, but it’s another remarkably great game made in Canada that we’re really happy to have exclusively.

I’m not sure what Queasy’s working on next. Sound Shapes is currently on regular rotation on my Vita, I play it all the time. DrinkBox is making Guacamelee so that should be pretty good. There’s a ton of talent in Toronto, it’s amazing.

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