It is the second management shuffle at one of the company’s most important divisions in less than two years and comes at a critical time for Sony, which is preparing to unveil a successor to the PlayStation 4 console as soon as this year.
Jim Ryan will take over as president of Sony Interactive Entertainment from April 1 after previously leading the division’s sales and marketing teams.
He is currently serving as deputy President of SIE to current incumbent John Kodera. Kodera will be taking Ryan’s place as deputy president with the two effectively swapping roles.
The company's shares fell 11 percent last week after the company reported a worse-than-projected profit at its video-games division, as sales of the popular PS4 slow at the end of its lifecycle.
But Ryan could turn that around and help re-invent the Playstation. He has been an outspoken and visible member of Sony’s leadership team for several years, often appearing on stage at major conferences such as E3.
He has also been known to make comments that have divided the fanbase, in 2017 he came under fire for dismissing much requested backwards compatibility feature - where you are able to play older model PlayStation games - as a primary concern for the PS4.
“When we've dabbled with backwards compatibility, I can say it is one of those features that is much requested, but not actually used much," he told Time. "That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PSone, PS2, PS3, and PS4 games, and the PSone and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”
But Ryan's forthright views could serve him well. The new PlayStation boss knows that the next generation of consoles is likely to be a dogfight. Microsoft is seemingly going all in on new development studios and its cloud gaming initiative for the next Xbox. While PlayStation has enjoyed dominance over Xbox with the PS4, selling 91.6m units since its release, it knows it will need to be on top of its game to remain the market leader.
Kodera’s new role means that he will be focussing on further development of the PlayStation Network (PSN), the firm's digital media entertainment service - an area that CEO and president Kenichiro Yoshida identified as a ‘key mission’ for the next generation.
“I have been discussing with Yoshida-san the need to drive SIE to the next phase in our rapidly changing business environment and realise the evolution of the PlayStation platform and further enriching the user experiences made possible through the network, which is an essential value that people expect in the entertainment PlayStation provides," said Kodera.
Yoshida has said that PSN can be leveraged to push Sony’s music and film endeavours on its successful digital games platform, but it’s reasonable to assume that there will also be an increased focus on cloud gaming on PSN.
Sony currently offer game streaming in the form of PlayStation Now on PS4, but will be looking to expand its efforts as the industry’s efforts to become the ‘Netflix of games’ heat up.
As well as Microsoft’s Project xCloud, Google is also experimenting with game streaming with Amazon and Apple reportedly looking to join the fray.
“We have concluded that the best direction is for Jim to take the helm of the overall management of SIE, and for me to spearhead the network area to continue creating innovative services and experiences where competition continues to intensify with many new players joining the business.” said Kodera.
Both PlayStation and Xbox have confirmed that new consoles are currently in development, though neither is yet to reveal its hand.
Analysts believe that any PlayStation 5 or ‘Xbox Scarlett’ will likely release in 2020, with reveals of the new hardware coming later this year. Microsoft may well reveal its new console at the E3 conference in June, at which Xbox boss Phil Spencer said the company was "going big".
PlayStation, however, has confirmed that it will not be in attendance at the conference in Los Angeles this year, making the timescale for the PlayStation 5 less easy to predict. However, this executive reshuffle suggests it is now at the forefront of Sony’s mind.