INTERNATIONAL - Sony Corp.’s new PlayStation chief John Kodera said he sees a future in portable gaming, departing from his predecessor’s view that there’s a limited market for handheld games.
Kodera, who replaced Andrew House as the head of the 1.84 trillion yen ($16.6 billion) games division in October, said portable gaming should be seen as an important part of the PlayStation ecosystem, adding that Sony is carrying out various experiments in the field. He hinted that the next console may be closely integrated with portable devices, but said it’s “not yet the right stage to discuss specific hardware plans.”
“In my opinion, rather than separating portable gaming from consoles, it’s necessary to continue thinking of it (portable gaming) as one method to deliver more gaming experiences and exploring what our customers want from portable,” Kodera said at a roundtable interview on Wednesday in Tokyo. “We want to think about many options.”
While Sony has a handheld device, the PlayStation Vita, it hasn’t been revised or replaced since 2011. That created an opening for Nintendo Co. to deliver a hit with the Switch, which debuted last year and has already outsold the Vita. When asked about the success of the hybrid tablet-console, House said in September that Sony would pursue “a different approach and strategy” because he didn’t see a market opportunity for portable gaming platforms.
Kodera avoided commenting specifically on the Switch’s approach, and said Sony has been experimenting with projects such as PlayLink, a project unveiled last year that lets gamers use smartphones to interact with PlayStation 4 games.
Both Sony and Nintendo have been slow to jump into smartphone gaming, which has become an important entertainment platform. In response to the growing popularity of portable gadgets, Sony established its own unit two years ago to develop and publish mobile games. Called ForwardWorks, it has yet to deliver a major hit, with its most popular title, Everybody’s Golf (Hot Shots Golf in English) reaching 5 million downloads.
The other key question for Sony’s PlayStation business is the timing of a successor to the PlayStation 4, which is now five years old. Kodera declined to provide a timeline or specifics for a new console, saying only that a new device is being designed around making it easy for developers to create games and also with an eye on easier hardware manufacturing.
“We’ll be leveraging the knowledge and experience of having built four generations of consoles,” Kodera said.
Kodera’s comments came a day after Sony issued conservative earnings targets across most of its businesses, including a drop in PlayStation operating profits by March 2021 from the current fiscal year. Asked if the decline will be because of higher marketing costs and hardware subsidies related to the introduction of a PlayStation 5, Kodera declined to comment. Console makers usually see shrinking profit when new consoles debut, suggesting that Sony may be planning to roll out the PS5 within three years.