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Luke Mitchell
26 May, 2008

Paulina Bozek Interview

PS3 Interview | We sit down for a chat with the creator of SingStar.
To say that SingStar has changed the way we look at social gaming would be an understatement. It's incredibly simple when you think about it, but combining the fun of karaoke with the PlayStation 2 to create a singing game is probably one of the smartest moves that Sony has made over the years. It's consistently high-selling, has spawned well over 10 discs worth of tracks in Australia alone with plenty more alterations worldwide, and has now taken over the PlayStation 3 with tracks being added digitally on a regular basis to an online SingStore.

It's been a wild ride, and it wouldn't have been made possible without Paulina Bozek, who has been the driving force behind SingStar's success since day one. So how does she feel about SingStar now that it's a proven success, and what's in store for the future of the worlds favourite singing franchise? With Party Hits being released later this week and SingStar: Volume 2 on the PlayStation 3 just around the corner, we had a chance to sit down with the lovely Ms. Bozek during our visit to Sony's London Studio earlier this month, and as self-confessed rabid SingStar fans, we had a lot of questions.

The new Harmony mode in Volume 2 in action.

The new Harmony mode in Volume 2 in action.
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PALGN: In terms of the SingStore, since it came out a lot of people might say it hasn’t lived up to their expectations. Is that disappointing for you when you see people complaining about it?

Paulina Bozek: It is difficult! It’s interesting, because on the one hand we’re definitely seeing some feedback from people saying it isn’t everything they hoped and dreamed it would be, but on the other hand, we’re seeing a million songs downloaded and 20,000 videos uploaded and lots of people smiling and singing and having a great time. We listen to the feedback very closely – we read the forums religiously and we look at all the articles being written and we take it all in big time. But I think it’s important to not get completely sidetracked and to still understand that there are lots of users that are having a great time.

We made a decision to launch on December 7th, and the store was not at the 300 odd songs that we’d originally talked about, but we felt that the best decision and the way that we could get to a big number quickly was to release and build that store as fast as possible. By releasing when we did, we got a lot of momentum from the people we work with and the music industry to really make it happen, and as of today we’re at 419 songs across different languages (225 in English) and updates are around 50 songs every two weeks which will settle down to 50 per month because it’s really quite a lot compared to some of the other music games that are out.

All feedback is listened to – there’s a few things as well that are interesting. We see a lot of people say ‘oh, songs that have been on SingStar before’ or ‘recycled songs’, but we look at SingStar overall… we’ve licensed over 1300 songs and some of those have been the best 80's and 90's tracks or contemporary hits, so it wouldn’t make sense to leave them out because they’ve been on the PS2; like A-Ha or Queen for example that people still want. We’ve found that people on average only own 2 PS2 SingStar discs, so there are a lot of songs for people that are still ‘new’. But we are always listening and trying to improve as fast as we can.

PALGN: There’s always been the ‘issue’ with the SingStar franchise that it only recognizes pitch and not the actual pronunciation of specific lyrics, meaning that you can essentially hum your way through entire songs and get a high score. Is refining the game to that other level something you’re looking into?

PB: We have been looking at basic speech recognition – the rap system works in that area. Speech recognition is extremely complex and most times when dealing with that speech recognition system you’ve got a really limited vocabulary, like in SOCOM or other games where you may have 60 or 100 commands, but in SingStar you’ve got all the words said during 30 songs – it’s very difficult to do robustly.

If we were to track speech AND pitch at the same time it would also make the game a lot harder, so it’s definitely something we’re going to continue to look at, but it’s not as easy to do and we want to keep it simple and easy. Rap is a different style where you need more emphasis, but we probably won’t be adding it to the standard singing gameplay.

The rap meter is probably the most speech recognition you're going to get!

The rap meter is probably the most speech recognition you're going to get!
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PALGN: Is there potential for any 'video game' songs on SingStar? We've seen the Portal song on Rock Band, as an example.

PB: *Laughs*. We've got some songs that we play around with, like the Katamari Damacy stuff. We've got all kinds of things that we get up to here! I think it's a good idea, and it's kind of about... why not? I've had conversations with the LocoRoco guys and stuff like that, so ideas like that for downloadable content are really cool - we're not just limited to discs any more!

PALGN: With the SingStore, the option for 'Song Packs' has been there since the start. Is this something you'll be introducing soon? Will the packs be based on genres or will they be focused on specific artists?

PB: With song packs, we don't really have everything worked out at the moment. We are definitely working on it though, that's why the option is there! Our ideal would be to offer different sized packs of 5 or 10 songs, and compilations and varieties that make sense, like a 'Best of David Bowie' track pack or something around specific themes. But at this moment we don't have much we can reveal on the song packs.

PALGN: We keep hearing about the 'wishlist' for SingStar, all the tracks that you would like to have in the game. How big is this wishlist? How massive are we talking?

PB: Oh, thousands and thousands of songs, easily.

PALGN: How do you go about selecting which ones you're going to try to get on SingStar next? Is there a system of some kind?

PB: We try to prioritize - we have people on the marketing team who know their music quite well, but we have a good idea of what's popular. We also test every single song on the wishlist to make sure it's going to work on SingStar, because there are some great songs that don't actually have any singing in it or songs that are monotone the whole way through, so we try to prioritize songs that make the best experience.

A classic we always talk about, three years ago one of our marketing people suggested 'Around the World' by Daft Punk; a great song, but it's just the same lyric over and over again 300 times! *Laughs*. But it's always a balancing act, because then again some songs where the melody isn't perfect, but people still love it, like, it's the song of their youth and they grew up with it. But we do have a huge database of songs and a whole team that create the songs - and they're all musicians as well. They create the melody file and they start by listening to every single song on that list.

Variety is always the key.

Variety is always the key.
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PALGN: How much input from the SingStar 'fans' is there in terms of making tracks available?

PB: The newest disc on PS2 actually which we're working on is Boybands vs. Girlbands. That was completely voted on by the community, and they know what they want so we had a vote like 'what disc do you want next?' - the other options were 80's vs 90's and Cheesy Songs/One Hit Wonders. So Boybands vs. Girlbands won, and we're currently putting a tracklist together for that. We're really enthusiastic about it, and it's interesting because we're still releasing on the PS2, PS3 and of course the SingStore at the same time, so we're very busy!

PALGN: What does the future hold for SingStar?

PB: Plans for SingStar are definitely long-term. Believe it or not, there are people who still haven't played SingStar yet! We see SingStar and My SingStar Online as only just the beginning. There's loads of scope to enhance the experience further. You'll definitely be hearing more from us later this year.

PALGN would like to thank Paulina Bozek very much for taking the time to talk to us.

Related SingStar Content

SingStar goes wireless
21 Feb, 2009 Cord-free is the way to be.
SingStore update Thursday
14 Jan, 2009 First for the year.
SingStore updated
24 Dec, 2008 Three times!
10 Comments
5 years ago
Great first question!

I really hopes she comes into this forum and reads the comments.

I've never owned Singstar and there have always been reasons that have held it back for me. One - wireless mics - where are they at? It looks like they are never coming?

Two - Why can't we get some really new songs on the Singstore - every update I look at the song list and its generally old stuff. It would be great to get some Top 40 stuff as that is what I am singing to right now. And this is Sony with a huge music department as well. Leona Lewis, Chris Brown, Jordin Sparks, Newton Faulkner, One Republic... new stuff and REALLY turn it into a karaoke machine.

Three - only 30 seconds for videos with the eye toy? - maybe if you got to choose where the 30 seconds were that would be better - i don't understand why it is random. Full videos should also be an option.
5 years ago
Four - She's hot.
5 years ago
I'll second the comment about wireless mics.

I'm holding off on buying the game till these come out and I'm beginning to wonder if that's ever going to happen at the moment...
5 years ago
They're being very 'No Comment' about wireless mics at the moment. I mean, they keep confirming that they are going to happen, but refuse to put any sort of timeline on it.

Maybe they'll release with Singstar: Volume 3?
5 years ago
I wonder if the wireless mic delay is a general problem with getting wireless microphones working in the game, or if it's more about creating a good pair of quality wireless microphones that doesn't push the price of the game over $120 ?
5 years ago
I believe it's a combination of both. They are still aiming at that casual demographic more than anything, and the RRP of the game with wired mics is already $99.95. Wireless microphones could push that initial price up to something like $119.95 or even $129.95, which could be a little bit daunting.

That being said, Wii Fit is aimed at the casual market too, and that's got a RRP of $149.95 and is doing very well. Then again, the Wii is an entirely different monster at the moment, and those people that are interested in SingStar probably already have wired mics, so trying to sell them wireless ones for an elevated price may be more difficult than you'd think.
5 years ago
man, if they released a Singstar: "Cheesy Songs/One Hit Wonders" or Novelty Songs game, it would most certainly be the first Singstar game i'd buy.
5 years ago
Im very happy to singstar to be sticking to its own guns, Id definitely hate it if they decided to add more instruments like another franchise that was once loved.

So many thanks to Paulina and Singstar for doing something this generation that actually contributes to the community,instead of dictating there fanbase (Im looking at you, GH and Nintendo).
5 years ago
Luke Mitchell wrote
I believe it's a combination of both. They are still aiming at that casual demographic more than anything, and the RRP of the game with wired mics is already $99.95. Wireless microphones could push that initial price up to something like $119.95 or even $129.95, which could be a little bit daunting.

That being said, Wii Fit is aimed at the casual market too, and that's got a RRP of $149.95 and is doing very well. Then again, the Wii is an entirely different monster at the moment, and those people that are interested in SingStar probably already have wired mics, so trying to sell them wireless ones for an elevated price may be more difficult than you'd think.
Luke, I think they should offer two different bundles - say a wired version for $99 and wireless for say $129. Or even just keep the wired bundle, but then sell the wireless mics seperately for people who really want to have them. These people can also purchase the standalone copy of the game.

Wireless mics is just really important as controllers these days are all wireless so the distance to everybody's TVs are going to vary. Also people tripping over cords at a party is not good and passing wireless mics around is a much better experience.
5 years ago
Loco Roco songs! That would be AWESOME!!

I'm definitely a SingStar addict, and when I do pick up a PS3, I'll be getting SingStar for sure, hopefully by then they will have released the wireless mics, we're had a few instances at parties of cords getting tangled and drunken people tripping.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  6/12/2007 (Released)
Standard Retail Price:
  $59.95 AU
Publisher:
  Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre:
  Music
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  8

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