After the company's PlayStation 4 reveal last Wednesday, when it said the new console will allow developers "to explore new business models that offer more flexibility including episodic and free-to-play," there was an opportunity to bring up episodic gaming with Shuhei Yoshida again.
Nearly five years ago, when I last asked Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida about the company's ill-fated episodic series Rat Race, he laughed (a Yoshida trademark) and told me, "You have [a] good memory. Yeah, maybe I talked about episodic games and that's my fault. So, yeah, we stopped it. We really liked the concept [...] It was kind of funny but we were not quite happy with how the game was turning out and there was some difficulty in development."
This time, it took Yoshida a minute to even recall the failed project. I reminded him: it was episodic; it was a first-party production; it didn't work. He finally remembered and countered, "Not because it was episodic" but did acknowledge that episodic development has its own complications.
"Episodic has been talked about for a long time and most people are skeptical until [they] play The Walking Dead," Yoshida said, referring to last year's award-winning series. "Now we are big fans of episodic gaming. We're believers now. Hats off to [the] Telltale guys, they proved it works."
But will Sony pursue episodic development itself, or is the console's flexibility only meant for third-party developers?
"I'd be happy to see some of our games adopt that model in the future," Yoshida said.
Sony did experiment with episodic distribution following Rat Race, releasing Siren: Blood Curse — a reimagining of the 2003 PlayStation 2 game, Siren — as 12 chronological episodes on the PlayStation Network in 2008. All 12 episodes were released at once, similar to the Netflix's "binge viewing" strategy for its original series, House of Cards. All 12 episodes could be purchased for $40 or in four-episode "packs" for $15 each; it wasn't possible to purchase individual episodes. It was later released on Blu-ray in Europe, Australia and Japan but not North America.