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.

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 Denies PlayStation 5 Production Issues

On the day it is scheduled to reveal pricing and related details on the new PlayStation 5 video game console, Sony Interactive Entertainment is pushing back against media reports suggesting the company scaled back production numbers due to software chip issues.

“While we do not release details related to manufacturing, the information provided by Bloomberg is false,” Sony said in a statement to Gameindustry.biz. “We have not changed the production number for PlayStation 5 since the start of mass production.”

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Bloomberg, citing sources, had reported that due to a 50% drop in system-on-chip production, Sony had dropped PS5 unit production at launch to 11 million from 15 million. Analysts say that even with the unit decline, the PS5 would feature the most product available at launch for any PS gaming system.

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 PS5 Still On for Winter Holiday Launch

Sony Corp. May 13 disclosed that its flagship PlayStation 5 video game console is still on schedule to debut in time for the winter holidays — despite manufacturing delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. PS5, along with Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, are expected to revive a lagging video game market. Sony also disclosed that the PS4 has sold 110 million units since launching in 2013.

“Although factors such as employees working from home and restrictions on international travel have presented some challenges in regards to part of the testing process and the qualification of production lines, development is progressing with the launch of the console scheduled for the 2020 holiday season,” Sony said in a statement.

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That’s a good thing as sales of PS4 dropped to 1.5 million units in the fourth quarter (ended March 31). That was down 43% from sales of 2.6 million units in the previous-year period. For the year, hardware sales dropped 24% to 13.6 million units, compared with 17.8 million in the prior year.

PS4 packaged-media game sales totaled $190.2 million in the quarter, down 39% from $309 million in the previous-year period. Indeed, Sony sold $1 billion in game discs for the fiscal 2019 year. Digital game sales topped $9.3 billion. Total game revenue in the fiscal year surpassed $18.4 billion.

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“At this point in time major [PS5] problems have not arisen in the game software development pipeline for Sony’s own first-party studios or its partners’ studios,” the company said from Tokyo.

Veronica Rogers Appointed SVP of Business Opps at Sony Interactive Entertainment

Veronica Rogers will oversee global business operations as the new SVP of business operations for Sony Interactive Entertainment, the company responsible for the PlayStation brand and family of products.

She will report to president and CEO Jim Ryan and will lead Sony Interactive Entertainment’s go-to-market organization globally. Rogers will help drive business growth, lead strategic initiatives, and evolve the culture of business operations from its previously regionalized structure into a single global system.

“Veronica brings a wealth of experience leading global sales organizations, managing strategic partnerships, developing innovative business models, and building world class teams,” said Ryan in a statement. “She will play a crucial role in scaling the business and I’m thrilled she has brought her expertise to the PlayStation family.”

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Rogers will be responsible for global alignment in sales operations, both physical and digital, as well as lead PlayStation subscription services. She has nearly 20 years of experience leading business development, strategic planning, and sales operations at large global organizations including Microsoft and Dell Technologies.

“The PlayStation brand is one of the most beloved in the world and I am excited to join a company that has such a passionate community, legendary history, and an amazing leadership team,” said Rogers in a statement. “My experience leading global sales organizations will help excel the PlayStation business and deliver the best gaming experiences to fans across the world.”

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Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) is responsible for the PlayStation brand and family of products and services. The 25-year-old PlayStation brand includes PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Store, PlayStation Plus, PlayStation Video, PlayStation Music, PlayStation Now, PlayStation Vue, and PlayStation software titles from SIE Worldwide Studios. The PlayStation 5 game system, which includes a UHD Blu-ray player, is scheduled to debut in the upcoming holiday season.

Sony to Shutter PlayStation Vue

Sony Interactive Entertainment announced in a blog post that it would be shutting down its PlayStation Vue live TV streaming service on Jan. 30, 2020.

“Unfortunately, the highly competitive pay-TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected,” read the blog from deputy president John Kodera. “Because of this, we have decided to remain focused on our core gaming business.”

The service launched more than four years ago.

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“PlayStation fans can continue to access movie and TV content through the PlayStation Store on PS4 and via our partnerships with top entertainment apps,” read the blog. “With 100 million PlayStation 4s in the market today, our community continues to grow and thrive. We will continue to deliver the best entertainment experiences across the network, along with other key gaming services, including PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus.

“We are very proud of what PlayStation Vue was able to accomplish. We had ambitious goals for how our service could change how people watch TV, showcasing PlayStation’s ability to innovate in a brand-new category within the Pay TV industry. We want to thank all of our customers, some of whom have been with us since PlayStation Vue’s launch in 2015.”

Sony reportedly had been looking for a buyer for the service, with roughly half a million subscribers and plans starting at around $50 a month.

Sony Interactive Entertainment to Acquire Insomniac Games

Sony Interactive Entertainment has entered into an agreement to acquire Insomniac Games, a leading game developer and long-time partner of SIE, in its entirety.

Upon completion of the acquisition, Insomniac Games will join the global development operation of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios, the 14th studio to join the SIE WWS family.

Based in Burbank, Calif., and Durham, N.C., Insomniac Games is the award-winning studio behind many top PlayStation franchises, including “Spryo the Dragon,” “Ratchet & Clank” and “Resistance.” Most recently, Insomniac Games, in partnership with SIE and Marvel Games, launched Marvel’s Spider-Man, one of 2018’s top-selling PlayStation 4 games.

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Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The day-to-day operations of Insomniac Games after the acquisition are expected to be run by the current management team in conjunction with SIE WWS San Mateo Studio.

Report: Sony ‘PlayStation 5’ to Focus on Major Games, Tech, Including 8K Resolution

Sony Interactive Entertainment appears to be taking a page from Sony Pictures, focusing internal efforts on proven content and wow-factor graphics, among other features.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sony’s unnamed fifth-generation video game console — reportedly set to launch in late 2020 — will cater to established game publishers featuring graphics-heavy features.

The strategy is not dissimilar to Sony Pictures focusing on proven franchises such as “Spider-Man,” “Ghostbusters” and “Jumanji.”

“Details when making games have become more important than ever,” Kenichiro Yoshida, CEO of Sony Corp., reportedly said at a recent company briefing.

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Expectations are high for PlayStation, whose PS4 console continues to generate significant sales, including projected 17+ million units in 2019 — five years after launching.

The PlayStation brand, including hardware, software and subscriptions, generated more than $21 billion in revenue — and $3 billion operating profit — in Sony’s most-recent fiscal year.

By comparison, Sony Pictures generated about $9.2 billion in revenue, which trailed televisions and speakers ($10.1 billion) and topped smartphones at $4.6 billion.

The new PlayStation comes as the gaming industry grapples with changing technology and distribution to consumers — notably cloud-based online gaming.

Google plans to launch its Stadia platform in November while Apple readies Apple Arcade — both services circumventing traditional game consoles such as PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

According to WSJ, Sony contends online gaming doesn’t allow hardcore gamers the ability to engage in graphics-heavy content, audio and 8K resolution, among other features, due to spotty broadband connections and other tech challenges.

“[This] clearly demonstrates why it makes sense to have a next-generation console,” Yoshida said.