Opening Day Of The IFA Consumer Electronics Show...Visitors play on Sony PlayStation 4 games consoles at the Sony Corp. trade stand at the IFA Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin, Germany, on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Samsung Electronics Co. unveiled its first smartphone with a display extending down one side as it counts on two new versions of its Galaxy Note devices to help fend off Apple Inc.'s push into large-screen mobiles. Photographer: Krizstian Bocsi/Bloomberg
PlayStation 4 has been getting a boost from a string of hit video games, but the console is nearing the end of its cycle © Bloomberg

Sony has made a change at the top of its games division as the PlayStation maker prepares for an intensified battle with mobile gaming, PC-based esports and the threat that Netflix-style streaming of games poses to the $34bn global console market.

Sony said it was promoting Jim Ryan, its London-based deputy president, to head of Sony Interactive Entertainment, replacing John Kodera. 

The appointment means Mr Ryan will oversee the launch of the next generation of PlayStation consoles — something industry experts predict will happen in 2020 and which financial analysts say will be pivotal for the Japanese company.

Mr Ryan will inherit control of the division as the current generation of consoles, the PlayStation 4, nears the end of its cycle but is enjoying a boost from a string of blockbuster games in 2018 and a spike in hardware sales over Christmas that took sales since launch to more than 91m units. 

“This industry is relentlessly fast moving, and to remain the market leader, we must constantly evolve ourselves with a sense of urgency,” Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony’s chief executive, said in a statement on Tuesday. 

John Kodera, president and chief executive officer of Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc., speaks during an interview in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Kodera, Sony's new PlayStation chief, said he sees a future in portable gaming, departing from his predecessor’s view that there’s a limited market for handheld games. Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg
John Kodera will see a narrowing of his responsibilities to overseeing the PlayStation Network

In common with rival console makers Microsoft and Nintendo, Sony has navigated the PlayStation brand through a period during which revenues from mobile games have risen to some $60bn globally, and in which other threats including cloud-based gaming now loom. Strategies adopted by Sony include increasing the number of exclusive games produced in-house.

The reshuffle comes less than two years after Mr Kodera took over the gaming business in October 2017 following the abrupt departure of its longtime head Andrew House — an executive once tipped as a possible chief executive of the entire Sony group.

Mr Kodera will take a step back to deputy president, with his responsibilities narrowed to overseeing PlayStation Network, an online service with 90m monthly active users. 

In an interview with Financial Times last month, Mr Ryan identified the rising level of active monthly users as an increasingly important metric for producers of hardware and software, as the gaming business model changes and companies such as Sony become more adept at monetising individual titles beyond the original purchase of the game. “It makes a big difference if [players] connect and engage,” said Mr Ryan. 

The PlayStation unit has a been a pillar of Sony’s turnround efforts and is now the group’s biggest business, generating 23 per cent of its annual revenue. But operating profits for the gaming business fell 14 per cent from a year earlier in the fiscal third quarter, dented by price cuts for the PS4 during the holiday season.

Sony said the reshuffle was a decision based on discussions between Mr Yoshida and Mr Kodera, and not due to weaker-than-expected results in the latest quarter. 

Mr Ryan, who joined the company in 1994, is a longtime veteran of the PlayStation business in Europe. He was previously in charge of sales and marketing, and took over Sony Interactive Entertainment’s number two position in January last year.

This article has been updated to amend the description of the PlayStation Network.

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