Hi Jonathan thanks for talking with me today. You have documentary film that you are producing that covers video gaming in the early 90’s. Could you tell us a little more about it?
Yes, this a documentary to really celebrate the 20th Anniversary of PlayStation and the whole evolution of 3D gaming. The film tells the story of how Sony came from nowhere in the mid-1990’s and got themselves established in a very competitive & established area. We have5 hours of unseen archive footage available to us so we start with a great unseen interview filmed in 1990 with Ian Hetherington, the then boss of Psygnosis who were bought by Sony just 3 years later. The story unfolds and goes up to 1998 so we’re discussing the hardware, the launches, the people involved, the games and their developers. There was more change between 1994 to 1998 than any other time in video gaming!
The 90’s were definitely a key period within the video game industry, and the market was saturated with consoles. You seem to have a rich background in the gaming industry, how did that play a role in the decision to make this documentary? Also, why do a documentary on the PlayStation?
I think at one time in 1994 there was of a choice of 24 different gaming formats, from the 8 bit GameBoy up to the 32 bit PlayStation.
Having the knowledge from the era and living through that period of time, backed up with a rich source of archive footage means that a true and authentic story can be told. It’s the organic nature of the content blended with the new interviews that really give it a great balance and strong narrative. I wanted to make this documentary to share a great era with the fans and game developers too.
PlayStation was a game changer, it really was. I know it’s a cliche, but the impact it had was enormous. It’s timing into the market was perfect, it could deliver great games with it’s hardware specs. Sega were all over the place, they’d launched Mega CD,32X & Saturn over 3 years, it looked desperate.3DO wasn’t strong enough outside of the EA games & Nintendo were late which gave Sonya great chance. PlayStation really did change everything and they’ve been consistent ever since.
The PS1 was a great console, it was simple in design and allowed gamers to get familiar with controllers that worked perfectly. It seems as though the young gamers today do not have a good picture on the consoles of the past that pioneered what we see today. Some where even ahead of their time, but flopped because of poor marketing or bad product placement. Is the archive footage you acquired, stuff that Sony sent you or are they gems that you have gathered along the way? Do you think it was Sony’s use of the CD-ROM that was the game changer or was it something else?
The archive footage is all TV broadcast quality pro-shot so the pictures are all properly framed&lit with strong audio. Sony haven’t sent us anything & I would like to say that this is a 100% independent production not endorsed by Sony Corporation or any of it’s affiliates. I’ve worked in the video games industry since 1986 so have great memories and records of a constantly changing world!
In about 1993/4 the 16 bit cartridge market was on the decline because prices remained high and the games became very average apart from the big titles such as Mario & Sonic etc. The prices were high because all cartridges were imported from Sega &Nintendo and there seemed little room for price drops. The feeling was that fans were getting bored of the same genres so played less & bought less. Publishers feared the same thing which happened to Atari in the 80’s when the market collapsed. This gave Sony a great chance to make an impact. They needed great games so that meant having a great console which could deliver them via excellent hardware. They worked with developers, bought Psygnosis in 1993,priced their console correctly and got the marketing right. Sony knew gamers had got older so it was not pitched as a toy, it was a high-end ‘must-have’ cool console with great 3D games and arcade quality graphics for the 20-something gamer.
Those are some great points. The PlayStation did have that feel of not being a “toy” and it seemed to maintain that status all the way up to the PS4. What do you want people to get out of this film?
The documentary is a piece of modern history in that games developers had to deal with rapid changeover a very short period of time. Taking the present day interviews with the people who brought you such great games such as Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto etc & marrying that up with 22 archive interviews & feature events filmed 1990 to 1998 will give fans a great chance to see what I consider to be the strongest video games documentary of its era. We discuss the production and development process, tools required to make new 3D games, Silicon Graphics, FMV,3D Studio, audio & voice recording, motion capture and polygons! We also look at the console wars and compare what Sega and 3DO had on offer and compare it to the Sony PlayStation of the day. The film is for a family audience so it’ll be perfect for all generations.
I agree, the video game industry of the 90’s really set the tone for the consoles we have today. You have a Kickstarter campaign going on right now, how can people help foster this project?
People can back the project on our KickStarter page. You’ll get a great film and it’s feature-length at 90 minutes which will be very enjoyable. There aren’t many days left so be quick!