Does Sony’s CEO Departure and Latest Financial Report Impact PlayStation’s Future?

Kaz Hirai left a legacy of rejuvenating the PlayStation brand and being partially responsible for the PS4’s groundbreaking success (until the Switch broke the ground even more). After milestones and milestones made, it seems that Hirai’s efforts in prioritizing Sony’s focus on PlayStation rather than the conglomerate’s other fluctuating businesses like their movie production company and their smartphone company have helped the gaming brand find its way back to the top. Now, these milestones are not without a few bumps in the road. Two studios were shut down this generation, Guerilla Cambridge, who created the PSVR launch title RIGS, and Evolution Studios, who created the Motorstorm franchise and Driveclub. Some have grown concerned of the replacement of Hirai, CFO Kenichiro Yoshida. Being a CFO, one would assume financials would still be a top priority for that person had they assume a different role like a CEO.


This concern manifests into the idea that Yoshida would apply less focus on the quality of upcoming projects and more about deadlines. Kaz Hirai is a gamer at heart, not much so with Yoshida. Couple this with the fact that Sony executives did not appreciate the length of the development time for God of War. Was Yoshida one of them? Is Yoshida aware of the process of game development? Not only that, but Andrew House’s departure raises worries as well. John Kodera has a long history of working with services and network management, not nearly as intimate with games as some gamers may like. Will these two men live up to Hirai and House’s leadership respectively? Are these concerns justified? How about we step back and really think about this?

A transition of leadership in a corporation must go smoothly, as that candidate has been handpicked much earlier in the current CEO’s term. Things aren’t done haphazardly with a highly important aspect of a company like leadership, especially with an international multi-billion dollar corporate conglomerate like Sony. President and CEO’s aren’t thrown out and sloppily replaced with someone completely inexperienced in the job. Kodera and Yoshida are immensely qualified for the job. These two men have been in the business for decades. Besides, Hirai will remain in Sony as a chairman, another pivotal position in a company. That’s basically a moderator on the board of directors.

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Will this leadership shift affect PlayStation? Of course, it will, but not as immediate as one would think. Currently, there are plenty of upcoming projects (gaming and otherwise) that have been overseen by Hirai and House, including the PlayStation 5. To assume everything is going to drastically change because the leaders have been changed seems to be a rather radical belief. Obviously, leaders have much of a say and can act for or against something. If the board of directors is dissatisfied with the work done by these two men, they most likely found their replacement already. They just move the ladder another step upwards. Also, PlayStation is in a very comfortable position right now, why would Sony completely alter their course in the gaming market if they’re still the head of the pack? Well, there are a couple of factors that could justify a change in philosophy.

Largely, the Switch poses a possible threat to the gaming titan to some, but I don’t believe that is something to even consider. Many Switch owners and soon-to-be owners don’t necessarily pick and choose the Switch over a PS4. In other words, the Switch isn’t in the same ballgame as the PS4 or Xbox One. While it does a lot of third-party support, the Switch probably won’t have the latest Call of Duty games or other graphically intensive games. Sure, it’ll have Wolfenstein II and currently runs Doom fine on the remarkably compact tablet, but those games use an incredibly versatile game engine and I doubt every third-party developer is willing to spend an arm and a leg whittling down their games so they’re playable on the Switch. Instead, since the Switch is a hybrid console, it will have a hybrid library. There will be some console-quality titles but mostly portable-quality titles like the low budget indie games. The Switch is basically the Vita 2.0 (except far better, in my opinion).

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Those worrying about the Switch’s outstanding performance also fail to realize who buys the Switch. Again, it’s the best of two worlds here. The casuals who want to play a Mario game while riding the train to work or go home and the enthusiasts who want to enjoy every game they want on the go. The Switch’s diversity knows no bounds. So how is this not a threat to the PS4? The answer is clear: it’s not a console. It’s a tablet that is passable as a console but amazing as a portable. Lots of people use the Switch as their portable device and the PS4 as their dedicated home platform. People like me. When I’m done playing a round of Splatoon 2, I can hop onto my PS4 and enjoy some Horizon Zero Dawn.

So, the Switch is a companion device. We covered that topic head-to-toe. What about that second factor? After taking a gander at their financials, you may realize the PS4’s success started to ever-so-slightly decelerate this year. It doesn’t seem to be a massive drop to most, like myself, but it does tilt some heads when you look at the history of console growth. The PS3, 2, and 1 all gradually improved commercially year-to-year, unlike the PS4 this year. “But that’s just this last quarter!” I hear you hypothetically rebuke, and you’re right about that. PlayStation saw their best Black Friday in history, yet they still underperformed this quarter. Why? The Switch. Also the Xbox One X, but no one cares about Xbox… just kidding. That’s where that concern originates. Does this beckon cries of doom from the community? Hell no.

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Let’s use this small thing called common sense here. Notice how very few, if any, industry analysts and economists sounded alarms over the PS4’s lower unit turnout this holiday season. Those guys often know when a console is going to be in trouble or on the path to success months in advance. Did they feel worried about the PS4/Xbox One? Not very much so, as the Switch IS NOT A COMPETITOR. We’re all surprised by the Switch’s insane success. Does this success equate to failure to the rest? Look at the seventh generation. The Wii sold over 100 million units, but the PS3/360 accumulated over 160 million together. Yes, that’s partially due to their longer lifespan on the market, but we know that already. We can have every console sell exceptionally well, even when one performs slightly better than the rest. Instead of a Switch fever, we’re getting a video game fever. Everyone wants to play video games and we should embrace that. 

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With all of this in mind, we still haven’t discussed Sony’s incredible software lineup. Sony’s in a position where they can aggressively market their games and without hesitation they’re already pushing out new advertisements left and right. There’s also a ton of opportunity for bundles and price cuts, but we know every company does that each year anyway. Regardless of the management shift and minimally weaker holiday returns, Sony knows exactly what they’re doing with PlayStation. They found their new slogan in marketing, “The Best Place to Play” and a new motif for their press conferences with the cool-as-hell space theme. That’s not an indicator of financial success, but I love this new motif. Seriously, Paris Games Week 2017 and PSX had beautiful transitions. I don’t usually comment on that kind of stuff, but they’ve created a super cool motif that I hope they stick with during the PS5.

There’s very little need for speculation. The evidence is there and it is strong. Does this miniscule deceleration warrant PS5 talks? I believe so. We’ll probably see a hint of it in E3 2019 and an announcement in early 2020. The PS5 is an inevitability, anyway. In 2018, it’s PS4’s year to shine and Sony just might knock it out of the park. They’re very predictable this generation but in a good way. They know when to promote a big title that will move units, when to listen to the community, and when to deliver something new to spice things up. Not everything done by them is golden of course. They lack the ability to one-up their competition. Yes, Sony, you’re in the lead, but can you AT LEAST throw us a bone with PS3 backward compatibility? You have to money to invest in it, but you wasted it on Gaikai. Ugh, whatever.

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This generation is as unusual as the last one, but that is a good thing. It shows evolution in the industry. Xbox is discovering their future and actively expanding their platform to benefit the community and industry. Nintendo replaced their disconnected mask of the Wii U with a relevant and refreshing face of optimism with the Switch. Lastly, Sony is effortlessly riding the waves and fueling excitement for the brand to carry them safely to the next generation. We’re way too pessimistic. Every company is flourishing. We should be happy and excited for more gaming goodness from these three titans so let’s extinguish our fears with facts and celebrate the medium we adore the most.

As always, what are your thoughts? If you wish to share any, please leave them in the comments below. We will read and respond and potentially humor you. If you (for some reason) like us, follow us on Twitter! Have an excellent day, eat your vegetables, and don’t forget to play video games!


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