PlayStation Studios head Herman Hulst addressed concerns about the studio and Sony distancing themselves from Japan.
Hulst’s comments came in a lengthy interview with Sony Interactive Entertainment Content Communications Senior Director Sid Shurman that was published to the PlayStation Blog.
Shuman asked Hulst, “Another topic that’s been out there recently is Japan. Do you feel that, from the PlayStation Studios perspective, that Japan is still a big focus for development? Or are you maybe considering a shift to a more Western focus for game development?”
Hulst responded, “Oh no, I want to be very clear that Japanese games and Japanese talent remain extremely important to PlayStation Studios and to Sony Interactive Entertainment.”
“Japan and Asia are strongly associated with our legacy: the success of Sony, the PlayStation brand, and many of our iconic PlayStation franchises were actually born in that region,” he added.
Hulst continued, “I remember watching the PlayStation 5 Showcase event from last year. It struck me how much Japanese influence there was in the games that we showed. And what a key part of PlayStation’s DNA that is. It’s one of the things that makes PlayStation different, unique in my mind.”
The PlayStation Studios boss then stated, “I know the potential from high-quality games from Japan and Asia, and some of the best development talent in the world is found there. They have that history of innovation, of craftsmanship and skill, that pride and team spirit. We very much want to continue those traditions.”
He went on to mention two teams in the PlayStation family, “Polyphony Digital is such an important part of the PlayStation family, making the best driving simulation games in the world. We’re building Team Asobi in Tokyo, a world-class studio that are developing a franchise for all ages with global appeal. Such a creative team.”
He concluded answering the question saying, “And alongside Asobi, we will continue to maintain and build partnerships through our external development team. So I’m really excited about the future of PlayStation games from Japan, and Asia. And I’m grateful for the interest and passionate support for our Japanese teams.”
ACE Research Institute’s Hideki Yasuda published a damning article in Gamesindustry.biz Japan back in January.
In that write-up, Yasuda claimed, “Quantitative analysis shows that Sony is not taking Japan seriously.”
He added, “That is why users have accused Sony of disregarding the Japanese market and why it’s not unreasonable for those users to feel a sense of hopelessness.”
In fact, Yasuda noted that Japanese players are just abandoning the brand altogether, “Japanese users aren’t likely to channel their dissatisfaction on social media, so US SIE HQ staff might perceive that as the Japanese just politely accepting whatever is given to them, regardless of how cold they have actually become.”
“However, that couldn’t be further from the truth: they’ve simply begun to vanish into the sunset quietly,” he asserted.
To back up Yasuda’s claims, it was reported that Sony sold less than one million PlayStation units in Japan throughout all of 2020. It would be the console lines worst sales numbers since it launched in 1994.
A graph from Ace Research Institute shared to Twitter by Rayforcegame revealed that the Nintendo Switch dominates the Japanese market with 99% of all video game sales. Sony clocked in with the other 1%.
In February, Sony closed Tokyo-based JAPAN Studio the in-house team who developed Gravity Rush, Ape Escape, and The Last Guardian.
Sony explained the closure, “In an effort to further strengthen business operations, SIE can confirm PlayStation Studios JAPAN Studio will be re-organized into a new organization on April 1.”
What is interesting about Hulst’s comments is that he kept the focus on Japanese developers rather than Japanese consumers.
And that might be more telling than anything he did say. He didn’t actually address the brand’s decline in Japan.
While he didn’t address the decline in Japan, what he did say about Japan was interesting as well.
He talks about Japan being part of Sony’s success in the past tense. It’s not future focused.
It’s almost a tacit admittance that the focus is not on Japan and won’t really be in the future.
What do you make of Hulst’s comments?