PlayStation Boss Jim Ryan Stepping Down Amid Great PS5 Sales

The head of PlayStation is stepping down, Sony announced in a press release today. Jim Ryan, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s CEO, is retiring after just four years on the job. The massive shakeup in leadership comes as the PlayStation 5 breaks sales records and as Sony has doubled-down on prestige blockbuster games like The Last of Us Part 1 and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.

“After 30 years, I have made the decision to retire from SIE in March 2024,” Ryan said in a statement. “I’ve relished the opportunity to have a job I love in a very special company, working with great people and incredible partners. But I’ve found it increasingly difficult to reconcile living in Europe and working in North America.”

Ryan will officially leave the position in April, 2024. Hiroki Totoki, Sony Group Corporation President, COO and CFO, will help with the transition and take on the role of interim CEO of PlayStation once Ryan leaves, and will help with the search for his successor. The news was first reported by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier.

A 30-year veteran of Sony, Ryan was promoted to the top PlayStation job in 2019 after a re-organization saw head of CEO of Worldwide Studios, Shawn Layden, step down, and President of Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida, transition into a more background role working with indie game developers.

As head of PlayStation, Ryan oversaw the launch of the PS5, which despite pandemic-era shortages, is now on pace to break sales records thanks to an ongoing lineup of first-party exclusive blockbusters like Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarök. His tenure also included the launch of PS VR2, as well as a major pivot by the subscription service PS Plus to more directly compete with Xbox Game Pass’ Netflix-like library of games.

The unexpected departure comes just a couple months after Sony signed a 10-year agreement with Microsoft to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation following the tech giant’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Despite a vicious regulatory fight in the U.S. with the Federal Trade Commission and in the UK with the Competition and Markets Authority, both of which included testimony by Ryan, the historic deal is likely set to close beginning in October.

“Jim Ryan has been a great contributor to our industry and a fierce leader for PlayStation,” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer tweeted. “I wish him the best in what he does next. Thank you for all you’ve done for the community over the last 30 years, Jim.”

Here’s the full press release:

Sony Group Corporation and Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) today announced that SIE President and CEO Jim Ryan has made the decision to retire in March 2024 after almost thirty years with the PlayStation business. To support Mr. Ryan in his transition, Sony Group Corporation President, COO and CFO Hiroki Totoki will assume the role of Chairman of SIE effective October 2023. Effective April 1, 2024, Mr. Totoki will be appointed Interim CEO of SIE while he continues his current role at Sony Group Corporation. Mr. Totoki will work closely with Sony Group Corporation Chairman and CEO Kenichiro Yoshida and the management team of SIE to help define the next chapter of PlayStation’s future, including the succession of the SIE CEO role.

Jim Ryan joined Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Europe-based legal entity, Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe (SIEE) — which was then Sony Computer Entertainment Europe — in 1994. Since then, he has held a number of senior positions at the company including President of SIEE, Head of Global Sales and Marketing at SIE and Deputy President of SIE since January 2018, before being appointed SIE President and CEO.

Comment from Kenichiro Yoshida

“Jim Ryan has been an inspirational leader throughout his entire period with us, but never more so than in overseeing the launch of PlayStation 5 in the midst of the global COVID pandemic. That extraordinary achievement made by the entire SIE team has been steadily built on and PlayStation 5 is on track to become SIE’s most successful console yet. I’m immensely grateful to Jim for all his achievements. Respecting Jim’s decision to finish his long career at Sony leaves me with an important decision regarding his succession given the significance of the Game & Network Services business. We have discussed intensively and have determined the new management structure. We aim to achieve Sony Group’s further evolution and growth through bringing even greater success to the Game & Network Services Business.”

Comment from Jim Ryan

“After 30 years, I have made the decision to retire from SIE in March 2024. I’ve relished the opportunity to have a job I love in a very special company, working with great people and incredible partners. But I’ve found it increasingly difficult to reconcile living in Europe and working in North America. I will leave having been privileged to work on products that have touched millions of lives across the world; PlayStation will always be part of my life, and I feel more optimistic than ever about the future of SIE. I want to thank Yoshida-san for placing so much trust in me and being an incredibly sensitive and supportive leader.”

Comment from Hiroki Totoki

“I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Jim Ryan for his outstanding achievements and contributions over his 30-year career at Sony, including the great success of launching the PlayStation 5. The PlayStation business managed by SIE is an essential part of Sony Group’s entire business portfolio. I will work with Jim and the senior management team closely to ensure our continued success and further growth. I am also looking forward to creating the exciting future of PlayStation and the game industry together with everyone at SIE and its business partners.”

Update 9/28/2023 2:02 p.m. ET: Added a tweet by Phil Spencer.


GameStop’s New Billionaire Boss Calls For ‘Extreme Frugality’

After years of pulling the strings from behind the scenes, GameStop chairman and billionaire Chewy founder Ryan Cohen appointed himself CEO of the ailing video game store on Thursday. His first email to staff, obtained by Kotaku, called for “extreme frugality” and said “time wasters” would not be tolerated as the meme stock company fights to survive.

“It is not sustainable for GameStop to operate a money losing business,” Cohen, who first joined the board of directors back in 2021, told corporate employees. Despite effectively being in charge of the retailer for a couple years now, engineering short-lived pushes into better online deliveries, NFTs, and selling things like gamer chairs and TVs, GameStop has remained mostly unprofitable during his reign.

A recent exodus among the c-suite, including Cohen’s firing of his own hand-picked CEO, Matt Furlong earlier this year, has left the company seemingly more adrift than ever. GameStop initiated several waves of layoffs in 2022, and has continued to decimate staffing levels at individual stores, even though its meme stock windfall means it still has roughly $1 billion in cash reserves.

Cohen’s first email to employees after making himself boss struck a grim and threatening tone. “Every expense at the company must be scrutinized under a microscope and all waste eliminated,” he wrote. “The company has no use for delegators and money wasters. I expect everyone to treat company money like their own and lead by example.”

It’s not clear what’s left to cut at the company, however. The core of GameStop’s troubles remains an ongoing shift from physical game sales to digital downloads. A massive Xbox leak earlier this month suggested Microsoft might soon be phasing out disc drives for its own consoles altogether. Funko Pop! and other collectible merchandise has taken over more and more of the chain’s retail shelves, but has so far been unable to make up for the losses from fewer sales of used games.

Here’s Cohen’s full email to GameStop employees:

I will be straight to the point.

It is not sustainable for GameStop to operate a money losing business. The mission is to operate hyper efficiently and profitably. Our expense structure must allow us to endure any adverse scenario. Whether it’s a difficult economy or revenue deceleration from shrinking software, we must be profitable. Our job is to make sure GameStop is here for decades to come. Extreme frugality is required. Every expense at the company must be scrutinized under a microscope and all waste eliminated. The company has no use for delegators and money wasters. I expect everyone to treat company money like their own and lead by example.

Prospering in retail means survival. If we survive, we stay in the game. Survival is avoiding the deadly sins that often lead retailers to self-destruct. This is usually a result of the following – buying bad inventory, using leverage, and running expenses too high. By avoiding these self-inflicted mistakes and focusing on the basics, GameStop can be here for a long time.

I expect everyone to roll up their sleeves and work hard. I’m not getting paid, so I’m either going down with the ship or turning the company around. I much prefer the latter.

It won’t be easy. Best of luck to us all.


No Surprise Call Of Duty Drop On Game Pass, Xbox Boss Says

A Game Pass logo sits in front of an Xbox background.

Image: Microsoft / Kotaku

Now that Microsoft’s purchase of Activison Blizzard has officially been completed, Xbox Series X/S owners have been hoping to see games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II and Diablo IV appear on Game Pass any day now. But Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer poured cold water on the rumor mill hype in a new interview with the Xbox podcast confirming that nothing from the publisher’s catalog will arrive in 2023.

The expectation-setting comes after un-sourced rumors began to spread that Microsoft might be planning a surprise shadow drop of Activision Blizzard games coming to Game Pass to celebrate the closing of the deal. While the Activision Blizzard account recently tweeted that it did “not have plans” to bring its games to the Netflix-like subscription service before the end of the year, some fans still held out hope that a game or two from the back catalog might pop up before 2024.

“The regulatory process took so long and frankly there was a lot of uncertainty in that process up until, really, a week before we closed, or really the week of, when the CMA finally came down to their decision, that we weren’t able to get in and work with mostly Activision Blizzard in this case on that back catalog work,” Spencer told the Official Xbox Podcast on October 17. “I would love it if there was some kind of secret celebration drop that’s coming in the next couple of weeks—there’s not.”

That’s in contrast to when Microsoft closed its $7.5 billion deal to buy ZeniMax and its Bethesda Game Studios games, including Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, were triumphantly rolled out on Game Pass soon after. Spencer called it a disappointment that fans would have to wait the extra months in the case of Activision Blizzard.

Elsewhere in the interview, Spencer confirmed that Call of Duty will continue to aim for 100 percent parity between the Xbox Series X/S versions and those on other platforms, meaning no exclusive skins or special content deals, as has recently been the case on PlayStation 5. Call of Duty Modern Warfare III arrives on November 10, and will have a Lockpick Operator DLC pack that’s exclusive to Sony’s console, a holdover from Activision’s existing agreement with the PS5 maker prior to the sale.

Ex-PlayStation Boss Has A Warning For The Game Industry

Shawn Layden has been out of PlayStation for four years now, but retirement hasn’t stopped him from weighing in on larger trends in gaming. Long worried about ballooning blockbuster development budgets, the former CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America has added studio consolidation and the state of game preservation to his warnings for the video game industry.

Last month, Layden shared some of these concerns during his keynote speech at the Investment Summit. “”First, consolidation can be an enemy of creativity,” he said, remarking on an acquisition spree by large gaming publishers. “I also think rising costs in gaming are an existential threat to all of us. And the entry of [Google, Netflix, Apple and Amazon] into the sector—otherwise known as the ‘barbarians at the gate.’”

The life-long Sony veteran, who stepped down in 2019 amid a corporate reshuffling, expanded on some of these points in an interview last week with the Lan Parties podcast. Since leaving the PlayStation 5 maker, Layden has, perhaps unintentionally, occasionally taken on the role of an off-stage chorus in a Greek tragedy, hinting at the possibility of impending doom if game companies don’t “disrupt” themselves before the market does by finding broader appeal and more sustainable business models.

A perennial critic of the trend toward 40-60 hour blockbusters that require several years and hundreds of millions to develop, Layden talked about the need for companies to “de-risk” expensive projects by retreating into sequels and established Hollywood franchises. The recent race to acquire studios, with Microsoft, Sony, Embracer, Take-Two, and more spending billions to add to their portfolios, could lead to even less creativity as more teams are put to work servicing those projects.

Read More: Microsoft Finally Closes Massive Activision Blizzard Deal, Making Call Of Duty Officially Part Of Xbox Now

“My concern around consolidation is that often it impacts creativity. For instance, it takes some kind of small, independent, wildhorse studios and brings them into a larger conglomerate and essentially time slows down the bigger you are, time slows down,” Layden said. “I’m also concerned when studios get bought and instead of enabling a way to create their game, they maybe get absorbed into a larger enterprise that’s making a larger game, you know, how many studios are involved in making blockbuster games that will stagger the mind.”

He said that in specific instances, acquisitions can save studios from shutting down and he’s glad to see that, but he remains worried about the lasting impact of the larger trend. “I’m just concerned about what it does to the creativity urge inside of the studios, and can they keep that sort of independent creativity alive or do they just get absorbed into the larger whole? Time will tell, but it’s a bit concerning. When you go from hundreds of voices to dozens of voices, you lose some voices,” Layden said.

Aloy flies toward the Burning Shores.

Image: Guerrilla Games

The former executive also questioned how much gaming can continue to grow by focusing on existing genres that have already failed to win people over. “If we continue to coalesce around the four or five genres, then we won’t get the new players because those people have already said we’re not interested in your genres,” Layden said. “Don’t kid yourself that someone who’s said ‘no’ to Call of Duty for the last 15 years is going to start suddenly saying ‘yes’ to Call of Duty.”

Layden had a somewhat harsh appraisal of the industry’s general approach to game preservation as well. Backwards compatibility is available on both Xbox Series X/S and PS5, and Nintendo is flirting with it for the Switch 2, but there are still vast libraries of games on older hardware, including consoles as recent as the PlayStation 3, that are difficult if not altogether impossible to access on current platforms. Even PlayStation Plus, which added older PS1 and PSP classics to its subscription library last year, has been slow to add them.

“Preservation is important,” Layden said. “I’m hoping that more people in the industry, certainly the big players, begin to realize that there’s an obligation and responsibility. This isn’t throw-away stuff we’re making. This is stuff that should be around for a long time because future generations will enjoy it in the same way that we have and it’s criminal that we’re not doing more to protect it.”

While companies have been happy to remaster older games or sell new anthologies like this week’s Metal Gear Solid Master Collection, there’s been no larger unified campaign by publishers and console manufacturers to invest in keeping gaming’s history alive and available. As Layden points out, it rarely helps the bottom line. Culturally, though, it’s an important way for one generation of players to share their passion with the next. Besides, a medium untethered from its past might have a harder time seeing where it goes next.