In the series of interviews I did with Playstation insiders to celebrate the brand’s 15th anniversary, Scott Rohde’s the odd man out. He’s the only non-designer I spoke to and the only person to have worked at a hardware company other than Sony. But the Senior Vice-President of Worldwide Studios does have a long history of game production behind him, making him a very developer-friendly executive.
During my talk with him, Rohde discussed his early career with Sega, the way sports video games landscape has changed and how the creative culture at Sony treats game development. Read on for the insights of someone who’se worked his way up Sony’s corporate food chain.
I’ve spoken with several developers and we are kind of trying to do this oral history of the Playstation brand through their eyes. So, where were you before you came to Sony?
OK, so I started my career with Sega back in 1989, testing games. I’ve always loved games my whole life. So when someone told me out of school that I could actually earn money by testing games, it was kind of a no brainer. I stayed at Sega for many years through about 1997. Then did some work with a couple of other partners. Helped to started a dev studio in San Francisco called Page 44 Studios, and through that relationship, met Shu Yoshida, who is the president of Worldwide Studios. He recruited me to come to San Diego, run the San Diego development studio, and then eventually, I’ve moved up to my current role now.
That’s a long, long history in the industry. When you were a tester at Sega, that was during which console cycle?
At Sega? OK, so when I first started there, believe it or not, they were still working with Sega Master System and the Genesis was just coming into being. Every time you see new technology in the industry, you get pretty excited, so the Genesis was a pretty big deal. The Game Gear came along sometime during my cycle, and I made my exit during the Saturn years.
So you were pre-Dreamcast.
Yes I was. I was there when the Dreamcast was being conceptualized.
And now it doesn’t even exist anymore. You are in a position of being able to mourn Sega’s time as a hardware manufacturer. What do you think was different about the way Sony executed their launch that made the Playstation such a strong and sexy machine from the get-go?
It’s a great question. With my history at Sega, I have a pretty interesting perspective on that. When I was at Sega, the rumors started floating around that Sony was going to try to get into the video game console business. I remember specifically sitting with groups of grizzly old veterans saying, “Oh, there’s no way! Sony’s not going to be able to pull this off. Not just anyone can pull this off.”
And when they did, when Sony came into the market with the Playstation, it blew everybody away. It blew everybody away. And I think the key to that was the delivery medium. So, delivery on CD just opened up so many new windows. It gave people the ability to put a lot of content on a disc, to stream from a disc, and not be limited to what you could cram onto a cartridge, and that was a huge, huge change in home console gaming.