Sony Looking to Further Bridge Anime, Movie, Video Game Markets

Sony is seeking to further meld anime, motion picture and video game markets through SVOD subsidiary Crunchyroll; a minority stake in Epic Games, publisher of the Fortnite game franchise; the PlayStation 5 game system; and other ventures.

Speaking on the Feb. 3 third-quarter fiscal call, CFO Hiroki Totoki said consumer interest in anime throughout Japan has increased 150% over the past five years, in addition to 19% worldwide year-over-year. Crunchyroll recently topped 90 million registered users and 4 million paid subscribers across more than 200 countries.

Indeed, anime movie sequel Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train, entered 2021 as Japan’s biggest box office hit, with more than $346 million in ticket sales through Jan. 5.

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“When the markets are growing, we try to enter such market to create our growth,” Totoki said. “But according to our internal investigation, those game players, the users that enjoy games and animation, it seems that there’s high level of affinity between these two groups.”

Totoki expects to see increased cross-selling opportunities in anime and gaming going forward. Sony’s recent $250 million investment in Epic includes development of movies and music. Epic is set to release its first animated feature film, Gilgamesh, directed by Tomas Lipgot, whose Spanish-language film, The Adopters, was recently acquired by Sony Pictures Television.

“That’s a new kind of entertainment in music and motion pictures for gaming,” Totoki said. “Consumer interest in Japanese anime is increasing rapidly, particularly outside of Japan. And as a company that currently owns both content and DTC streaming service, we have positioned anime as a focus area.”

Separately, Sony said it remains on track to meet a fiscal-year sales goal of more than 7.6 million PS5 units (4.5 million cumulative units sold through December) — despite ongoing console shortages due to a lack of semiconductors. Sony is projecting 14.8 million PS5 unit sales through the next fiscal year.

Total PlayStation user game play in December was about 30% higher than the same month of the previous fiscal year, according to Sony. At the end of December, 87% of PS5 users were subscribers to PlayStation Plus, the subscription platform affording users free access to games, multiplayer gaming, PlayStation Store store, and 100GB of cloud storage, among other features.

First-party PS5 title Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, recorded sales of 4.1 million units through December.

“We had more game software titles at the launch of the PS5 than at any previous PlayStation console launch in our history, and those titles have sold well,” Totoki said.

 

CES: Sony Touts Games’ Expanding Movie/Streaming Presence

In the wake of last November’s launch of the next-generation PlayStation 5 video game system, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) used Sony Corp.’s annual (and virtual) CES media presentation to showcase PlayStation’s expanded foray into film and TV with a diversity of stories.

As with much of Hollywood, PlayStation, along with Sony Pictures Entertainment, pushed back most of its new original content releases to 2021 and beyond due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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In addition to continued development of the “Spider-Man” franchise, two PS properties eyeing both theatrical and episodic TV adaptations in 2021 include Uncharted, featuring Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming) as a live-action young Nathan Drake and Mark Wahlberg as Victor Sullivan. The film is now set to release on July 16. Separately, Sony Pictures Television and HBO are creating a limited series around the video game The Last of Us for subscription streaming platform HBO Max.

The studio also has a partnership with Hivemind Productions (creator of Netflix’s “The Witcher”) for a live-action adaption of the Final Fantasy XIV series games.

“This is just the beginning of the expansion of our storytelling into new media and even wider audiences,” Jim Ryan, president/CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, said in a video clip. “Sony is a creative entertainment company and entertainment has never been more important. Our community are networked like never before and are more diverse than they have ever been. And we celebrate and embrace the differing viewpoints and tastes that make up our community.”

Indeed, Sony Pictures CEO Tony Vinciquerra last month announced that the studio was working on three movies and seven TV shows based on PlayStation games, including the recent actioner Monster Hunter, starring Mila Jovovich and Tony Jaa.

“You’ll be seeing a lot more integration of Sony companies together in the future,” Vinciquerra told CNBC.

HBO Max Now Available on Sony PlayStation 5

WarnerMedia’s SVOD (and pending AVOD) platform HBO Max is now available on the Sony PlayStation 5, the newest game console from Sony Interactive Entertainment. PS5 users in the U.S. can download the Max app, sign in, and start streaming the platform’s full array of premium programming. The Max app is also available on PlayStation 4.

Availability on the PS platform is key to wider consumer adoption. After Netflix first launched the subscription streaming video business model in 2007, it turned to PlayStation to help grow subscribers. Direct access via the gaming platform was key to Netflix adding millions of subscribers during SVOD’s formative years. Flash-forward to the present, and Max is looking to do the same, in addition to converting existing HBO pay-TV subs through any means.

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Max adoption topped 12.6 million subs earlier this month, up from 8.6 million at the end of the most-recent fiscal period. Since Max’s bow on May 27, AT&T has made the $15 monthly SVOD service free to its 42 million combined HBO pay-TV (and HBO Now) subs in the U.S. But adoption of Max has been slow, with fewer than 3 million pay-TV subs signing up through June — a reality driven in part by confusing access rules.

With more than 10,000 hours of curated premium content, Max features entertainment from HBO, Warner Bros., DC, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Turner Classic Movies, among others.

This month, the highly-anticipated DC superhero feature film Wonder Woman 1984, starring Gal Gadot, streams on Max on Christmas Day — the same day the sequel hits theaters across the country.

Additional Max fare includes holiday special My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood, a new “Euphoria” special episode starring Emmy-winner Zendaya, Steven Soderbergh’s new comedy Let Them All Talk, the third season of “Summer Camp Island” and four-part docuseries Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults. Movies The Shawshank Redemption, The Photograph, Sex and the City, Sex and the City 2, Gladiator, Meet Me in St. Louis and Demolition Man debut in the month as well. January will bring the second “Euphoria” special episode, “Search Party” season four, a new season of “Selena + Chef,” the entire “Gossip Girl” library, season one of “Snowpiercer,” The Alienist: Angel of Darkness and feature film The King of Staten Island. 

PlayStation 5 Review: New Console Takes Gaming to Next Level, But Good Luck Finding One

Sony’s PlayStation 5 was officially released to retail on Nov. 12 at $499 (with physical disc capability) and $399 (digital only) — and it’s been in short supply ever since. As far back as September, TechSpot reported that retailers had sold out of their pre-order allotments in less than 24 hours, and predicted the video game console — the first new PlayStation since 2013 — would become “a scalper’s paradise.” That’s precisely what’s happened, with gamers shelling out twice the retail price, or even more, on auction sites such as eBay and StockX.

I was one of the lucky ones, alerted via Twitter of a “restock” at GameStop and on Nov. 28 becoming the proud owner of one of the coveted machines.

The PlayStation 5 boasts an incredibly fast SSD, allowing for faster loading times when either playing games or watching movies. It can stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, NFL,  Disney+, Twitch, YouTube and AppleTV, as well as Blu-ray DVDs and video games. While the layout is similar to the PS4, the PS5s 4K and HDR capabilities, along with the new DualSense controller, truly have taken the PlayStation experience to the proverbial next level.

On the front you’ll find the HD Blu-ray optical drive, a typical USB Type-A port, and a USB Type-C port, as well as the power button and eject button. On the back there’s the power connection, an HDMI 2.1 out, two USB Type-A ports, and an Ethernet port. When you plug in your new DualSense to the front USB port, you might notice a few things are new with the controller.

Haptic feedback refers to any technology that can create an experience of touch to the user by applying forces, vibrations, or motions. Sony’s decision to integrate it into the new DualSense controller allows gamers to now experience the game in a much more immersive way. A pistol will have less recoil than a machine gun, and gamers will be able to feel the difference. Along with this comes the addition of adaptive triggers, which give resistance on the R1/R2 buttons in a way that mimics what is on screen. It is a very welcome addition to the controller, and I had fun playing the preloaded game Astro’s Playroom at the main menu.

Once the PS5 is booted up and your account is set, you might notice the “Playstation Plus Collection” in the store. This entails 20 free hit PS4 games, but is only available if you are subscribed for Playstation+, which will cost $60 per year. Along with this collection, you will notice several new features — you will be able to customize the apps on your home screen, play videos or music in the background, receive ads based on the media you consume, adjust profile settings and more. And that is just the start of the PlayStation 5 experience.

Vudu Service Launches on PlayStation 5

Vudu, the transactional video-on-demand service owned by Fandango, is available on Sony Interactive Entertainment’s next-generation PlayStation 5 game console at launch Nov. 12, the company announced.

Vudu, which was already available on the PS4, offers more than 150,000 movies and TV shows, including thousands of titles in 4K.

“As longtime fans know, PlayStation consoles are not just for playing games; they’re one of the most widely-used media hubs and a popular way to stream entertainment content at home,” read a Fandango press release. “With Vudu on PS5, fans can watch more movies and TV shows from the comfort of their home with no subscription required.”

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“Vudu is focused on delivering fans the latest new-elease and premium event titles, as well as our comprehensive catalog of movies and TV shows, and we’re thrilled to offer all of that content on PS5 at launch,” says Kevin Shepela, EVP, chief commercial officer, Fandango. “It’s a great time for fans to find their favorites to stream on their consoles, as we head toward the holidays and our Thanksgiving week sales.”

New movies coming to Vudu this month include Come Away (Angelina Jolie, David Oyelowo), The New Mutants (Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy), The Personal History of David Copperfield (Dev Patel), Dreamland (Margot Robbie), along with thousands of films and TV shows on sale during Thanksgiving week and that are not yet available on subscription services.

Analyst: New Game Consoles to Boost Unit Shipments 6% in 2020

What a difference a year makes. With Microsoft and Sony poised to launch next-generation video game platforms, new data from ABI Research suggests 40 million combined units of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and Series S will ship by the end of the year. That tally is 6% higher than combined unit shipments in 2019, when gamers held off buying hardware and software — sending the gaming industry into a months-long funk.

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In addition to the new consoles and relevant content, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has seen a surge in video game use in the home, driving sales of software, hardware and accessories throughout much of the year. With millions of consumers forced to stay at home in the first few months, game downloads and the number of active gaming users significantly increased. The demand for game consoles also increased in the first quarter of 2020, but supply chain disruption resulted in lower unit shipments. As operations resumed nearly back to normal in the second quarter, game console makers reported higher unit shipments in the second quarter.

“In addition to increasing demand in gaming, long-awaited next-generation consoles are targeting launch in November 2020, which will further drive the game console market,” analyst Khin Sandi Lynn said in a statement. “Although governments are reopening economies, still-imposed travel restrictions can impact logistics. Game console makers need to prepare for efficient production, content creation, and distribution plans to avoid supply chain shortages, especially during the holiday season when sales will peak.”

The Xbox Series X launches Nov. 10, and the PS5 bows two days later on Nov. 12.

Sony PlayStation 5 Bowing Nov. 12 Priced at $500; Digital Edition at $400

Sony Interactive Entertainment Sept. 16 disclosed the launch date and pricing for its next-edition PlayStation 5 video game console. The PS5 launches Nov. 12 priced at $500 for a unit capable of playing 4K UHD Blu-ray and standard Blu-ray Disc content. A digital-only PS5 without disc capacity will sell for $400. Sony disclosed the details in a special webcast.

The pricing and release date comes after rival Microsoft said it would release the new-edition Xbox Series X and Series S on Nov. 10 priced at $500 and $300, respectively.

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The PS5 will feature 4K-compatible games playable on a 4K UHD TV, play so-called “ray tracing,” that offers true-to-life shadows and reflections on certain Sony games; support for 120fps and 120Hz games; HDR resolution; and future-proofed for 8K resolution.

Sony Cuts PlayStation 5 Console Production, Citing Chip Issues

Ahead of a Sept. 16 pricing unveil for the next-generation PlayStation 5 video game console, Sony Interactive Entertainment has reportedly cut production for the year by four million units to 11 million, citing software chip issues.

As first reported by Bloomberg, which cited sources familiar with the situation, production for the new console was being hampered by a 50% reduction in available custom-designed system-on-chips (SOC) that help drive the unit. Coupled with manufacturing delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, production of 11 million PS5 units would still surpass previous first-year PS production runs.

“If Sony can really ship 11 million for this fiscal year, we do not think the shortfall will be critical,” Kazunori Ito, analyst with Morningstar Investment Management Asia, told CNBC.

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The news, which saw Sony Corp. shares dip slightly, comes as PS battles Microsoft’s Xbox with new gaming systems in time for the 2020 winter holidays. Microsoft earlier this month announced that the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles would launch Nov. 10, priced at $499 and $299, respectively. In a first, the software giant will market financing options for the consoles, beginning at $24.99 monthly.

After a near two-year slump as gamers awaited the arrival of new consoles and/or migrated to online gaming, the video game market has exploded during the pandemic. Driven by house-bound gamers and consumers, monthly industry sales ballooned more than 70% in April, according to The NPD Group — with accessory sales hitting an all-time high in August.

Nintendo, whose Switch gaming device has dominated the market in the absence of new Xbox and PS units, saw operating profit skyrocket 400% for the fiscal quarter from April to June 2020.

Sony Unveils Two PS5 Console Options, Games, No Pricing

Sony Interactive Entertainment’s much-hyped June 11 presentation offered a virtual open house for the pending PlayStation 5 video game console, including two console options for the new-generation system launching in time for the winter holidays.

Versions of the PS5 will include a model featuring a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc drive, and a digital edition without a disc drive. While there are some slight differences in the look of each model, for the overall design, Sony said it is delivering a console it says is “unlike” any previous generation of PlayStation. The new consoles include a wireless headset, a camera (with dual 1080p lenses), a media remote, and a charging dock for the DualSense controller. Sony did not reveal pricing or technical details for the new models.

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On the software side, Grand Theft Auto V will be rolling out an expanded and enhanced edition due in 2021. The title will feature a range of technical improvements, visual upgrades and performance enhancements to take advantage of the console’s new hardware, making the game more beautiful and more responsive than ever.

Plus, a new standalone version of Grand Theft Auto Online will be also available, free for three months on PS5. PlayStation Studios unveiled nine titles, including Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales — the next chapter in the partnership between PS Studios and Marvel Games. Insomniac disclosed Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, a galaxy-hopping new PS5 adventure in the fan-favorite Insomniac series.

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Guerilla is launching Horizon Forbidden West for PS5, a new adventure set in a distant land ravaged by massive storms. And Polyphony Digital unveiled Gran Turismo 7 featuring a “real driving” simulator. There’s also Demon’s Souls, a PS5 remake from Bluepoint Games and Japan Studio.

“When creating a new console, it’s essential to invite bright, talented independent [game] developers into the process early,” Sid Shuman, senior director, SIE content communications, said in a statement.

Indie PS5 titles include Bugsnax from Young Horses, a whimsical, narrative-driven adventure from the creators of Octodad.

Goodbye Volcano High from Ko_op is a cinematic narrative game taking place in the final days of civilization. Jett: The Far Shore from Superbrothers + Pine Scented is an interstellar trip to an oceanic planet in a narrative-driven action adventure, featuring a mix of storytelling and world exploration.

Kena: Bridge of the Spirits from Ember Lab is a story-driven action adventure game combining exploration and discovery with fast-paced combat.

Little Devil Inside from Neostream Interactive is set in a Victorian-like era offering missions to gain evidence and findings for a mysterious professor.

Oddworld: Soulstorm from Oddworld Inhabitants is a visual and cinematic lead for the celebrated series, featuring new gameplay mechanics and devices.

Other titles include: The Pathless from Giant Squid (Annapurna), Stray from BlueTwelve Studio/Annapurna, Solar Ash from Heart Machine/Annapurna.

Third-party developers offered new PS5 titles, include Ghostwire: Tokyo from Tango Gameworks/Bethesda Softworks; Godfall from Counterplay Games; Project Athia from Luminous Productions/Square Enix; Hitman 3 from IO Interactive; NBA 2K21 from 2K Sports; Deathloop from Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks; Resident Evil Village and Pragmata — both from Capcom.

“We’re incredibly excited about the next chapter, and we’ll have more details to share about PS5 and the broader PlayStation ecosystem as we close in on launch this holiday,” Shuman said.

Sony New-Generation Video Game Platform PS5 Unveiling Set for June 11

Sony Corp. June 9 announced it has rescheduled the public unveiling of the PlayStation 5 gaming platform for June 11 at 1 p.m. PT on Twitch or YouTube. The event was originally slated for June 4, but delayed due to the social unrest following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.

“We needed to step aside so key voices could be heard during this historic and important time,” Sony said in a blog post.

The pre-taped event to be streamed in 1080p at 30 frames per second will showcase new games for PS5, among other features. The console is set to release in retail channels for the winter holidays.