Yesterday’s announcement that Shawn Layden was leaving Sony Interactive Entertainment, although out of the blue and devoid of context, didn’t raise any immediate red flags as the carefully worded tweet published by the official PlayStation Twitter handle heaped praise on the now ex-chairman of Worldwide Studios.
It did lack the pomp one would expect for the departure of such a respected executive figure and no mention of a successor as well as Layden’s silence on the topic as of writing remain peculiar.
Late yesterday, it emerged that Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan director and Japan-Asia president, Atsushi Morita, was bringing to a close his time at the company, with sources citing retirement as the reason behind his departure. Sony Interactive Entertainment CFO Kazuhiko Takeda has stepped in to fill Morita’s position as president.
Is this pure coincidence or the result of troubles brewing within the PlayStation stable?
Both Layden and Morita’s departures appear rooted to an organizational reshuffle that began back in 2018 and which saw Layden stripped of his responsibilities as president of SIE Asia to focus of Worldwide Studios, while other figureheads Jim Ryan and John Kodera were divvied up responsibilities for global regions, the former now in charge of the Europe market. The transitional shift continued into this year as Ryan was appointed the president and CEO of SIE, a role previously attributed to Kodera.
Although PlayStation refuses to comment on the situation, it’s clear there’s trouble at home – an internal power struggle that resulted in Layden’s premature departure. Much of the animosity seemingly stems from a clash of visions for Sony’s future and at a more granular level from disagreements on cross-play policy and cloud-based services.
Transitioning to the PlayStation 5
Internal strife is standard fare for global companies, but it takes on new significance with the next-generation of consoles now clearly on the horizon and risks jeopardizing the launch of the PlayStation 5.
Generational transitions are notoriously challenging for console makers and developers alike. According to an anonymous source at a third-party publisher, the debacle has left many studios and publishers high and dry in anticipation of the expected launch of Sony’s next console next year.
The source says:
This is the least amount of clarity we’ve ever had on a new console this close to transition. I believe that the [global restructuring] is exponentially exacerbating the already complicated process of transitioning to a new generation. And now we’re getting nervous. Read: very nervous.
A Lack of Vision?
While Microsoft has staged multiple reveals for its upcoming Project Scarlet console(s) dispensing a steady stream of details, Sony’s plans remain a relative mystery apart from morsels like the use of AMD chips, an eco-friendly standby mode, and SSD tech expected to speed up loading times drastically. We’ve yet to receive an official title for the console or even a codename. The lack of details appears to extend to teams within Sony as well, and by extension to game makers eager to get their heads around the PlayStation 5 before launch.
Whether this reticence to actively engage with developers is attributed to efforts to keep the PlayStation 5 under wraps before a big reveal event expected early next year, or are the more unnerving symptoms of a lack of vision and delays stemming from the executive power struggle at play within the gaming giant is unclear.
So close to the next-generation, the situation feels precarious and casts a long shadow on the launch of the PlayStation 5.