This morning, Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) and Sony Network Entertainment International (SNEI) announced a merger and the formation of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC (SIE). The new company will include all of the assets previously under the control of SCE and SNEI and its new headquarters will be in San Mateo, California, most likely in the existing PlayStation offices currently owned by Sony Computer Entertainment America. Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House will be in charge of the new company.
"By integrating the strengths of PlayStation's hardware, software, content and network operations, SIE will become an even stronger entity, with a clear objective to further accelerate the growth of the PlayStation business," said House. "Along with our business partners, SIE will develop pioneering services and products that will continue to inspire consumers' imaginations and lead the market. We will work hard to maximize corporate value by coordinating global business operations across San Mateo, Tokyo, and London by leveraging local expertise."
The new corporate structure means that the existing executives in charges of the various Sony Computer Entertainment subsidiaries have been moved to new positions. In addition to overseeing the entire company, House will also be the head of Global Partner Development and Relations, with vice president of Publisher and Developer Relations Adam Boyes probably reporting to him. Sony Computer Entertainment America president and CEO Shawn Layden is now the president of Worldwide Studios, and Worldwide Studios head Shuhei Yoshida confirmed that he'd be reporting to Layden. Sony Computer Entertainment Europe CEO Jim Ryan is now the head of Global Sales and Marketing.
Executive vice president and CPO of Engineering and Production Kazuo Miura now leads Global Research and Development, and SCE senior vice president Masayasu Ito takes control of Hardware Engineering and Operation. John Kodera, who was previously the president of Sony Network Entertainment, seems to be taking over one division with roughly the same responsibilities he had before, System/Network Engineering and Operation, while also adding the Product and Business Management division to his list of responsibilities. The Board of Directors for the new company includes Andrew House, Kazuo Miura, John Kodera, Sony president and CEO Kazuo Hirai, and Sony deputy president and CFO Kenichiro Yoshida.
One odd omission in the new corporate structure are the executives of the Japanese and Asian branches of Sony Computer Entertainment. Sony Computer Entertainment Japan Asia president Atsushi Morita and deputy president Hiroyuki Oda don't seem to have a place in the new Sony Interactive Entertainment. They may still be a part of the new company and reporting to one of the division heads, but the complete lack of their inclusion in the press release seems odd.
Combined with moving the PlayStation headquarters to California, it's looking like Sony wants the new company to have a more global focus. (This move leaves Nintendo as the only Japanese platform holder in the gaming business.) While Japan is Sony's domestic region, for Sony Computer Entertainment it's just a small drop in the bucket. According to recent Media Create numbers, the life-to-date sales of the PlayStation 4 are sitting at 2.3 million, out of the system's total worldwide sales of 35.9 million. The appreciable market for a home console just isn't there. For Sony, Japan as a market of consumers is less important than Japan as a place where some great developers and publishers reside.
Japanese publishers and developers are a clear differentiator for the PlayStation 4 versus the Xbox One. Games like Street Fighter V, Persona 5, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, Valkyria: Azure Revolution, and Nier: Automata are key to convincing some worldwide consumers to choose the Sony platform over Microsoft or Nintendo. Those same devs are the ones that are keeping the PlayStation Vita chugging along, long after Western publishers have left the system for dead.
Sony Interactive Entertainment seems to realize that maintaining those connections is important, which is why the company's chief executive is handling global partner relations. Andrew House is the guy who flew to Japan as soon as Hideo Kojima was free of Konami, just to announce that Kojima would be bringing his first project to a PlayStation platform (and PC). Japan may not be SIE's focus, but it does realize the region still has value.
Either way, this is the face of PlayStation for the foreseeable future. After years of being steered by Japanese hands, the future of PlayStation is firmly in Western hands with a global focus. One company, looking to increase the reach of the PlayStation name, including the PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, and PlayStation Vue, in every region.
I'll miss that familiar "Sony Computer Entertainment Presents" title card though.