Behind-the-scenes insight into the design process of the September Updates' headline features.
Last Wednesday, PlayStation’s product development teams introduced new system software updates for PS5, PS4 and the PS Remote Play App.
I sat down with Hideaki Nishino, SVP of Platform Experience, to get the scoop behind some of the new features, including 3D audio for built-in TV speakers and M.2 SSD storage expansion on PS5. We also discussed mobile app updates like Share Screen on PS App, which started rolling out yesterday on iOS and Android.*
Listen to our full interview on the Official PlayStation Podcast here for insights on how the features came together, or read on for some key excerpts, edited for brevity and clarity.
PlayStation.Blog: Can you give us a little sense of what you do as SVP of Platform Experience?
Nishino-san: Here at SIE, I work for hardware, system software, and network platform products and services. I don’t contribute to the games or studio teams, but everything other than the games side of things.
PlayStation.Blog: Congrats on the launch of the September system update on PS5. Are there a couple features you found particularly important?
Nishino-san: We launched many features with the September Update, but one I’m personally enjoying is the trophy tracker. Of course, I want to get more trophies and show them off. The trophy tracker allows me to easily pin the trophies I’m tracking down.
PlayStation.Blog: A lot of people have been asking, when are we going to get an update on 3D audio coming through the TV speakers (in addition to headsets).
Nishino-san: Yeah, absolutely. 3D audio has been a key part of our vision for PS5: delivering a really immersive experience not just through visuals but audio as well. When I turn on 3D audio for TV speakers, it sounds different. It’s difficult to describe, but I hope everybody will try it and experience it.
It feels like the sound is coming from around my ears and from the front as well. So, it’s definitely giving you a different experience. I’m really proud of the team that delivered this 3D audio experience.
PlayStation.Blog: I think a big feature for many people is the ability to expand PS5 storage [through M.2 SSD]…What does adding a new feature of this magnitude represent for the team?
Nishino-san: As we have many PS4 users today, we saw various console usage patterns. We launched PS5 in two forms: one comes with the disc drive and one comes without. We really wanted to provide customer choice — that was the concept.
We knew any capacity we put into the machine as storage, one day you’ll hit the capacity. We wanted to provide options. It was important for us to enable upgrade capability for users. We designed the M.2 SSD feature back in 2018. At that time, we were not sure if Gen4 SSDs were coming up or not, but we believed they were.
With [lead system architect Mark Cerny], we debated and discussed. We finally decided, ‘yeah, let’s do this.’ This will open the door for users to expand and improve the capability of the PS5. So, that’s the behind-the-scenes conversation we had internally, and I’m glad we can deliver this now for the holiday season.
PlayStation.Blog: What is the design process like for a system update? How do you put it all together?
Nishino-san: This is just the second major update for PS5. Just to wind back the time here. With the PS4, I think it’s already been eight years. We learned a lot through PS4 and continue to learn about how players are using the system and how games are behaving. We know what is most accepted and most popular; what features are not used. So, we had a gigantic list of things before PS5 launch that we wanted to do. Actually, we dreamed of doing everything.
Did I digest the whole list? I don’t think so, yet. But, there are interesting, exciting, fantastic ideas on the list. At the same time, we launched PS5. So, we are receiving a bunch of feedback from the community through social networks or system telemetry, as well as the media, my family, my friends. We have tons of lists of the feedback.
Our updates aren’t just about the [major] firmware updates. If you carefully look at the PS5 system, over the network we are changing the UX behavior quite often. Sometimes we do some customization for a certain group of people to see how these features are used. So, it’s dynamic now.
PlayStation.Blog: Accessing Share Screen through the PlayStation App is a big upgrade. PS Remote Play is also now playable over mobile networks. Was it a conscious thing to focus on the mobile experience?
Nishino-san: PS Remote Play is more coming from a utility point of view: the best use of the PS5 and PS4 systems when you’re not in front of your TV.
During the pandemic, I work from home. I don’t have a PS5 in my office; it’s sitting in the living room. But, I need to check the PS5 UI for work and sometimes for play. So, I do PS Remote Play from my desktop PC. And when I want to play PS5 in my backyard on a sunny day, I bring my iPad outside. Even when you’re not in front of your TV, with PS Remote Play, the experience is ubiquitous. Now with mobile data, you can bring it outside the home as well. I just want to make sure users can enjoy their games in more ways.
On the flip side, there’s Share Screen. I love single-player games. Because of the pandemic, I tried to play Bloodborne. It’s a challenging game to me. I was speaking to my friends about how I can’t go through this [particular] stage. People said, ‘how is that difficult, you can do it.’
So on a Friday night, we had five people in a party chat. I could Share Screen from my PS5. People were laughing when I failed or died and respawned. [Through Share Play], I tried to hand over the controller to the guy who said he already went through the level easily. He died there. I said, ‘what are you doing here, you’re not the best.’ The other three people continued to laugh and chat – it was like a connected couch moment through Share Screen.
PlayStation.Blog: It reminds me of the days, 20 years ago, when couch co-op was so big. It kind of brings some of that feeling back.
Nishino-san: The exciting thing is, before the September Update, you needed to be in front of the PS5 to see the visuals. Now with your mobile phone, you can join these sessions from anywhere. So, recreating the ‘old days’ moments with your friends in front of the TV playing together – that moment is coming back.
PlayStation.Blog: So, what are you folks working on next? Can you give us the scoop?
Nishino-san: As I said, when I look back at the list of things we need to do, there’s a lot. There’s a lot the community is asking for as well. I want to say in the Japanese way, I’m diligently working on these lists and there will be more coming out in the future.
I also want to say thank you to the community. We are not just whiteboarding our desired features. We work for customer needs. We really want to solve the problem in a delightful manner. That’s our core passion. We are here for the PlayStation [fans]. I’m always amazed by the feedback, how much the community loves PlayStation. It’s really great to hear player feedback, and at the same time, we get great feedback from creators as well.
I believe this firmware update is not just about us doing it; it’s the whole community doing things. So, I’m really excited to hear more from the community. And I [and my team] will diligently deliver the new features in an exciting way.
* The Android version of Share Screen on PS App is a phased release and may take one week until the update is available on your mobile device.