Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) CEO Jim Ryan has denied prior reports, and insisted that the Japanese market is still important to them.
Bloomberg had previously reported numerous claims from anonymous sources familiar with the matter or were employees; stating that Sony were struggling to find parts for the PlayStation 5, and meeting fluctuating production goals [1, 2, 3, 4]. SIE would later deny these claims.
One of these Bloomberg reports claimed that PlayStation employees and developers are reportedly losing faith in Japan as a market. The anonymous employees claimed that the company had begun to focus more on the US, after the PlayStation 4 had been disappointing in Japan.
A “senior figure inside PlayStation headquarters in San Mateo, California” (who did not wish to be named), told Bloomberg of their frustrations of the Japanese marketing team failing to sell more PlayStation 4 units.
According to several employees of PlayStation Japan, this resulted in the Japanese office being (in Bloomberg’s words) “sidelined” when it came to planning the promotion of the PlayStation 5. Employees from Tokyo told Bloomberg they have been waiting for instructions.
Former employees also told Bloomberg that the Japanese developer support teams have been reduced by a third “from their peak,” with rolling contracts not being renewed at Japan Studio. Earlier this week Keiichiro Toyama (the creator of the Silent Hill, Siren, and Gravity Rush series) announced his departure from Sony Japan Studio, and founded new independent game developer Bokeh Game Studio.
Employees from the California headquarters told Bloomberg that the US office believes (in Bloomberg’s words) “the PlayStation business doesn’t need games that only do well in Japan.”
Sony spokeswoman Natsumi Atarashi denied these claims. She reportedly stated (in Bloomberg’s words) “any suggestion that Sony is shifting its focus away from Japan is incorrect and doesn’t reflect the company’s strategy.”
Atarashi noted that the PlayStation 5 was not only launching first in Japan, but that Sony’s “home market remains of utmost importance.” It should be noted that Japanese fans were not happy with Sony’s decision to switch the X and O commands to the western standard, and two major PlayStation 5 livestreams premiering at 5 a.m. JST.
More doubt about Sony’s focus can be seen in late December 2018. SIE Japan Asia President Atsushi Morita stated the then recent spate of censorship of anime-styled sexual content on PlayStation 4 games had been “to meet global standards.” This censorship was seemingly forced up Japanese developers.
Now, in an interview with Edge magazine (via VGC) Ryan dismissed the claims that Sony were dismissing Japanese involvement as “inaccurate.”
“The Sony stance is that the Japanese market remains incredibly important to us. We have not been as excited about the engagement of the Japanese game development community as we are now for many years.”
Ryan explained further that between 2010 and 2015, Japanese game companies were focused on mobile gaming, but have become more engaged in console development in recent years. “That continues and strengthens yet again with PS5.”
“In our two launch shows – which featured a reasonable amount of games, but not a huge number of games – there were eight Japanese-developed titles there, many of which are the subject of collaboration and partnership between PlayStation and the Japanese publishing community.
I’d also observe that we’re making a statement by launching in Japan day and date with the US, and that is not what we did with PS4. So I read that stuff. A lot of that commentary is inaccurate, and Japan – as our second largest market and as Sony’s homeland – continues to be really important to us.”
In the first week of sales estimates in Japan, the PlayStation 5 sold over 118,000 units; while Microsoft’s Xbox Series X|S sold over 21,500 units.