Everyone must have heard of Shahid Ahmad by now. Having spent a quarter of his 29 year gaming career with PlayStation, he caught our eye around the turn of the year with his very vocal and enthusiastic twitter support for the Vita. His passion for that platform extends beyond his role at Sony in the Strategic Content team, where he strives to get more games onto not only the Vita, but the PS3 and PS4 too. Anyone who saw him take to the stage at Gamescom and announce more titles cannot say this man does not scream passion and pride.
He also set up a website along with Mike Bithell and Byron Atkinson-Jones called “Beyond the Final Boss”, a website that shows that bullying can be overcome and that you are not alone, and that many in the games industry have also gone through a similar situation. Given some of the recent news headlines, it may be worth a look especially if you are being bullied. You don’t have to suffer it alone.
With such a demanding job, busy side projects and being a family man it’s amazing that he has any time for anyone else, so it really meant a lot that we were able to catch up with Shahid and he too the time to answer our questions.
Hello Shahid, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. We know that not only do you help bring fantastic games to the Vita but that you are a massive fan of it yourself. What’s been your most played title recently?
Pleasure to be interviewed by you Paul and thanks for being so patient! The game I’ve played the most recently has been Hotline Miami. The games I enjoy most require insane reflexes and twitch mastery. Playing Hotline Miami means I get to enjoy all that while doing some problem solving and getting immersed in a story that makes me question what I’m doing and why.
There is a whole host of additional games available on the Vita in PS Mobile – but the format itself isn’t very widespread outside of English-language countries or communicated effectively. Even we are guilty of neglecting the games. Are there any plans to make it available in more European regions and have more prominent coverage? How about trophy support?
I wish had some news on this for you, but I don’t at this stage. We sought the input of the development community on features, and trophy support along with leaderboards was right up there. PSM has some great titles now, like Rymdkapsel, which debuted on PSM before being successful elsewhere. With it now possible to release games for PSM without having to pay a fee, there’s never been a better time to have a go at making a game for a Vita or a PS Certified mobile device.
Between the SCEA/SCEE teams you have been working hard to bring as many titles as you can to the Vita, but can you tell us what would be your dream title to have on it?
We’ve already brought over many titles that were dream titles for me. The fans have asked loud and clear for JRPGs though, so although it takes longer to have these discussions and it isn’t as easy as just localising something, bringing over a JRPG that the fans want is a high priority for me. We’ll keep working on it and won’t rest until we’ve got something decent!
I’m sure the answer will be yes, and Gamescom has just happened, but are there any titles that we don’t know about yet that we should be very excited about?
Yes. And that will always be the case. We work a long way ahead and there are some deals we’ve been working on for quite a while, some on which work is being done and we can’t announce just yet for a number of reasons.
Are there any titles that have not performed as you had hoped? What has been the biggest surprise for you with the Vita?
The biggest surprise has been how well received the games have been critically. At the moment, 5 out of the top 6 recent Vita metacritic titles are games that Strategic Content has signed. We’re very proud of that.
As we mentioned above, we know better than anyone that there are many great titles available to play on the Vita including the recent and continual explosion of excellent indie titles but many have commented on an inconsistent support from third parties. Recent examples include a lack confirmation of Vita versions of the latest FIFA and Need for Speed titles from EA despite their presence last year. Why does it seem that third parties don’t want to support the Vita in the same way that they do on the PS3/PS4?
That’s a question best asked of the third parties in question. We’re always going to be happy working with a wide range of partners and we think the Vita is a great platform for them.
This is a question relating to the PS4 as such, and understand that not a lot can be discussed but one of the features announced at the PS4 event was the suggestion that we will be able to play PS4 titles on our Vita via streaming – and that the hope was to have all PS4 titles capable of this. Is this really happening?
All titles that don’t use the camera or the Move controller should be remote playable on the Vita from the PS4, yes.
Near is a very useful tool – indeed it enabled me to find a great talent in Rhys to add to the Vita Lounge staff – but what do you guys think about it? Is it getting the usage that you thought it would? If you could change or add anything what would you like?
Actually, I’m glad you asked about Near. It’s a lot more powerful than people realise. You can use it to gift people on your friends list, wherever they are, with in-game items. Spencer from the Strategic Content team has been evangelising Near far and wide to the developers we’re working most closely with. I look forward to games using this feature more often in the future!
We did ask about the Vita sales and for larger sized memory cards and/or price cuts on memory, but Shahid wasn’t in a position to answer those questions unfortunately, although Gamescom did bring the price cut for the system and the cards, which is a great start from that point of view and may hopefully take care of that.
We want to thank Shahid for his time, it really means a lot to us as I’m sure it does to you Vita fans. I must also thank Hugo in SCEE for allowing us to contact Shahid, and to Edge-Online for the use of the image, which appeared in their magazine for their own interview with Shahid.