Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai said on Monday that while Sony's
flagship electronics division would put profit before sales volume
as it tries to pull out of the red, games would be an exception as
the company expands its reach in networks.
"We have to rigorously pursue install-base numbers," Hirai told a
meeting with reporters at Sony's headquarters.
"The biggest driver for our network business will be the PlayStation
4," he said, adding that the network business, where sales jumped 70
percent in the year to March to 200 billion yen ($1.96 billion),
would in turn be a key growth driver for the company as a whole.
Sony's network services have 52 million active users, most of whom
own PlayStations, which come packaged with online content services
and apps to watch movies or listen to music on demand.
Using hardware to spread its ecosystem of content services is a
20-year-old ambition at Sony, which has tried many times to bridge
the gap between its Japanese-designed devices and its U.S.-based
Sony's co-founder Akio Morita bought Sony's movie and music
businesses in the late 1980s, Hirai said, with the intention of
using consumer devices to deliver their content.
"Now we've got broadband and can send content in the blink of an eye
... the technology has finally caught up with the times," he said.
As Internet speeds pick up, streaming and online services such as
Spotify, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.com Inc's Prime have proliferated,
freeing consumers from rigid TV broadcast scheduling and hard drives
that store music and movie files.
Broadband is now fast enough that Sony can start preparing to offer
the first streaming service for its home game console titles.
The company has started offering a pilot version of a cloud-based
game streaming service called 'PlayStation Now' in the United
States, which will be made available on its Bravia TVs, handheld PS
Vita consoles and, eventually, non-Sony devices.
The service is just one weapon Sony is deploying in the battle with
rival console developer Microsoft Corp, whose Xbox One had sold 5
million units as of April 18, fewer than the 7 million Playstation 4
consoles that had been sold as of April 6.
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The Japanese company has also agreed to set up two joint ventures in
China to sell and market its PlayStation console and games in a vast
and as yet untapped market for foreign-made consoles.
Around half of the consumers who purchased Sony's console have
signed up to PlayStation Plus, a game service within Sony's network
services that offers streamed music, movies and TV programming
content, Hirai said.
While the PlayStation is Sony's brightest hope for spreading its
network services, Hirai said they would increasingly be showcased
through other devices such as its Xperia smartphones and Bravia TVs,
which also come loaded with apps.
"The network is becoming increasingly important for our other
businesses, too. Our TVs have video-on-demand and Music Unlimited.
PlayStation Now will be launched on Bravia TVs next," he said.
"It was the same with the Walkman. It's rare for a product to not
have an affinity with a network and so it's becoming the assumption
that all products, not just games, will be connected to a network."
(Writing by Sophie Knight; Editing by Edmund Klamann, Greg Mahlich)
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