Recently, we learned that Jim Ryan, the CEO of PlayStation, would soon be retiring. For some fans, it’s time to celebrate. What caused such a reaction?
The video game industry has recently been shaken up in an unexpected way. Jim Ryan, CEO of Sony’s video games business, has announced his retirement. After 30 years of good and loyal service, the man at the head of PlayStation since 2019 will pass the torch. Such news obviously did not go unnoticed, especially for PS5 owners. However, some people seem quite happy with this departure. What aspects of Ryan’s policies could have provoked this kind of reaction?
A policy that does not please concerning PS5 games
First of all, it is important to understand that this information does not come out of nowhere. It comes to us in particular from the highly respected journalist Jason Schreier. He tried to trace the actions taken by the CEO which raised some concerns. These partly explain the relief felt by some fans at the idea of seeing him retire. One of the biggest changes affecting PlayStation and the PS5 is Jim Ryan’s desire to turn the company towards service games. Securities that are expected to make money continuously over long periods of time. The problem is that it is not that easy to create them and not all studios are necessarily willing or able to do it.
Many of the studios belonging to PlayStation are more specialists in single-player games. As Schreier says, they have “ cultivated a certain style “. A style that Jim Ryan asks to change to also create service games. The idea is not only to offer a main story, but also and above all to create regular content which will maintain the player’s interest over several years. This therefore requires time and investment from teams who are not used to designing this type of game. It is also a safe bet that the difficulties encountered by Naugthy Dog in setting up its The Last of Us multiplayer are not trivial.
You only need to take the example of Bungie to realize the challenge this represents. The studio, historically known for having given birth to the Halo series, took a long time to develop the ideal formula to popularize Destiny. It eventually became a successful service game, but the road was long and thorny. Today, Bungie belongs to PlayStation, because Jim Ryan hoped to accelerate the process of his new policy by acquiring studios. But all its efforts will not have succeeded in making PlayStation a company deeply focused on GAAS (Game As A Service).
PlayStation is two trains behind
It takes time, except that trends don’t wait. If service games still work, the fact is that the competition is extremely tough. The service games quickly multiplied in all flavors and everyone wanted their share of the pie. Moreover, large companies and renowned studios have struggled with it, such as Bioware with Anthem, Crystal Dynamics with Marvel’s Avengers or even Platinum Games with Babylon’s Fall. However, there was a time when it was a popular model with titles like Fortnite. But even this is starting to lose interest among players. PlayStation would therefore already be behind. As Jason Schreier points out, Jim Ryan probably would have placed his pawns in the wrong place, or at least at the wrong time.
The question that must also be asked is what will happen to the company and the PS5 following his departure which will take effect in March 2024. We do not yet know the strategy that will emerge with the new management . The firm seems scattered. Service games aren’t the only problem faced by PlayStation. Some insiders and other specialists don’t really see where the company wants to go with VR and its PSVR2, still considered a niche accessory, or its new PlayStation Portal which doesn’t really seem to speak to the general public. It is probably missing a “ coherent vision ” of the future.
Isn’t everything to be thrown away?
Despite this, Jim Ryan’s work will still have had positive consequences on PlayStation. The PS5 has sold more than 40 million units despite a chaotic launch due to Covid19 and semiconductor shortages in particular. And it is under his direction that big successes like God of War Ragnarok or Horizon Forbidden West saw the light of day. Large, promising AAAs are also ready to land on the console in the coming months.
Major players in the industry have also praised the character, described in particular as a fierce leader by his direct competitor Phil Spencer. We will also remember that Jim Ryan went out of his way to prevent Microsoft from acquiring Activision Blizzard. It must be said that Jim Ryan has never really had his tongue in his pocket, even if it meant attracting the wrath of players, or even the industry.