Sony’s home territory of Japan has been “sidelined” in promotional planning for PlayStation 5 and seen its development teams slashed, as the corporation places more importance on the US market.
That’s according to a new report by Bloomberg, which claims that PlayStation 4’s disappointing performance in Japan, as well as PlayStation’s decision to move its headquarters to California in 2016, have seen its input significantly reduced for its latest console.
PlayStation’s North American arm, Sony Interactive Entertainment America, has seen its influence grow significantly in the past four years, VGC reported in October 2019, following the platform holder’s push towards a centralised global structure.
The process resulted in a significant number of layoffs across its European operation during the past 18 months, as leadership shifted to California.
According to Bloomberg’s sources inside PlayStation’s San Mateo headquarters, the US office was frustrated by Japan’s marketing for PS4, which it believes led to fewer consoles being sold compared to its predecessor (around 10 million units).
As a result, Japan has been “sidelined” in planning the PlayStation 5’s promotion, according to several Japanese PlayStation staff cited by Bloomberg. Employees in Tokyo said they’ve been left awaiting instructions from California, it claimed.
The US office’s critical view of the Japanese operation has also impacted its game development efforts, it’s claimed.
PlayStation’s Japan Studio, which co-developed games such as Bloodborne, Astro’s Playroom and The Last Guardian, has seen the rolling contracts of many of its creators not renewed, former employees reportedly told Bloomberg.
Japan-based developer support teams have also been reduced by as much as a third from their peak, it claimed.
The US office believes the PlayStation business doesn’t need games that only do well in Japan, employees in the California headquarters reportedly said.
Responding to the Bloomberg report, Sony spokeswoman Natsumi Atarashi said “our home market remains of utmost importance” and claimed that any suggestion Sony was shifting its focus away from Japan was incorrect and “doesn’t reflect the company’s strategy”.
Speaking to VGC’s network partners at GamesIndustry.biz last year, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan insisted that the company was not becoming Americanised, following its centralisation in California.
Ryan claimed the new-look organisation had been designed to be more efficient ahead of the PlayStation 5 launch in 2020.
“I really want to reinforce the point that globalisation does not mean Americanisation, or vice versa,” he said.
“Becoming a global organisation does not, in any way, shape or form, mean becoming an American organisation. I’m living proof of that, as a good Geordie boy sitting here running PlayStation.”
Another European, Guerrilla Games co-founder Hermen Hulst, was named PlayStation’s new head of Worldwide Studios last November. The move saw former Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida leave the role to head a new initiative looking after smaller independent studios.
In the past PlayStation’s regional arms were able to act autonomously, signing their own games and setting their own marketing budgets.
This allowed regional departments in the US, Europe and Japan to specifically cater to their own audiences, but also had the downside of creating a disjointed group operation, which some third-party publishers are said to have expressed frustration with.
Ryan told GI: “The nature of AAA PlayStation 4 and certainly PlayStation 5 development… We’re obviously not going to have Worldwide Studios make a game for one specific European country. And that might have been the case back in the PSP times with Invizimals [which was popular in Spain].
“I think this will be where Shuhei Yoshida’s new task [of working with indies] will come in. If we are nimble, flexible and global, we can work with smaller developers to allow those countries’ specific needs to be met.”
Ryan also told the site: “If we are to be successful, we really have to leverage the opportunities that globalisation brings. I am going to give you some examples. One is around the productisation of PlayStation 5, the definition of the feature set, of the development and the implementation of those features.
“That process, this time around, has been massively more streamlined compared to anything we’ve done in the past. The product planners are now having one conversation instead of three different regional conversations, where they needed to reconcile positions that were often conflicting or contradictory, with an endless process of iteration and consensus. That’s not happening anymore. We have one conversation and we get on and do stuff.”