If we were to crown a “winner” in the last generation of consoles, just in terms of units sold, then Sony easily lands in first place. Worldwide, the company sold well over 100 million PS4s, giving it a big lead over Nintendo’s contemporary consoles and the Xbox One. That said, it isn’t the leader in Japan, and folks have taken other moves within Sony as a sign that the company has its gaming focus set elsewhere. According to Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan, that’s not the case with PS5.
In a new interview with Edge Magazine, excerpted today by GamesRadar+, Ryan says that “the Japanese market remains incredibly important” to Sony’s gaming division as it enters a new hardware generation. To support that, Ryan points to the prevalence of Japanese projects in the PS5 presentations from earlier this year and Sony’s decision to launch the new consoles in Japan and the US at the same time.
“[W]e’re making a statement by launching in Japan day and date with the US,” Ryan says, and that is not what we did with the PS4. So I read that stuff. A lot of that commentary is inaccurate, and Japan—as our second largest market and as Sony’s heartland—continues to be really important to us.”
The “stuff” Ryan’s referring to could be any number of recent analyses and opinion pieces regarding Sony’s commitment to Japanese audiences and developers. From the recent decision to swap the X and Circle buttons for the PS5 UI in Japan to Ryan’s own appointment as CEO (he succeeded John Kodera, who started his Sony career in Tokyo circa 1992), many changes over the past generation have led some to believe that Sony sees its business in the US and other large markets far eclipsing its presence in Japan.
With the majority of its first-party developers based in the US as well, some fans have started to question Sony’s commitment to funding Japanese development and maintaining its ties with third parties in the country. Meanwhile, Sucker Punch’s samurai epic Ghost of Tsushima had a strong debut in Japan, much more so than titles like Days Gone, The Last of Us Part 2, and God of War.
As for local console sales numbers, those suggest that Sony’s not connecting with Japan as well as it could. Last year, scarcely two years after it had launched, the Nintendo Switch shot past the PS4 in terms of units sold in Japan. Sure, the Switch’s hybrid console status helps its appeal, but handhelds also seem like a business Ryan’s not itching to leap back into, perhaps to Sony’s detriment.
Ryan tells Edge that Sony’s seen a “greater level engagement” from Japanese developers in the second half of the PS4’s time in the spotlight, a trend he expects will continue with PS5. With Microsoft being tight-lipped about its supposed ambitions to buy some Japanese developers and Sony already looking to play catch-up on the subscription service front, it does feel like we’re in a position where a big acquisition or two could force PlayStation to ramp up its efforts in Japan more visibly.