PlayStation 4 San Mateo California PS4

The humble beginnings of PlayStation are well documented: Ken Kutaragi believed that Sony should get into the console business so strongly that he began developing the firm's first format behind his employer's back. The board didn't back him, but CEO Norio Ohga saw the potential – and he sent the famously hot-headed engineer away to Sony Music's office in order to work on the project in secret. Sony Computer Entertainment was born in Tokyo a short term later, and the rest is history.

But this week the platform holder announced plans to rename itself Sony Interactive Entertainment, and hidden within its press release was confirmation that it will be moving its headquarters from Tokyo to San Mateo, California. It means that, for the first time since its inception, PlayStation will now be run out of America rather than Japan – even though it will still have regional bases in its homeland and Europe.

This change may make logistical sense – Sony Network Entertainment, the subsidiary fusing with SCE to form the firm's new mega-division, is already based in the USA – but it also speaks volumes about where the Japanese giant sees the brand's future. But is it right to essentially abandon its home territory in favour of pastures new? And what are the potential changes that we could see as a result of this transition?

Ken Kutaragi PlayStation 4 PS4

To be honest, the Westernisation of PlayStation has not been subtle. The division is currently run by Andrew House, a Welshman who's worked all over the globe. Kaz Hirai, the company's CEO, may be Japanese, but he cut his corporate teeth in America, running SCEA for many years. Meanwhile, the architecture of the PS4 was, for the first time ever, designed by an American, with Mark Cerny working in collaboration with numerous North American and European teams.

But this isn't a case of Sony playing favourites, we don't think: it's an illustration of where the console market's at. Those of you with long memories may remember that the PS4 was actually announced in New York rather than Japan, and the Asian nation was actually the last to get the console on its shores. Despite approaching an install base of 2.5 million units in the region, Japanese sales of the new-gen box have been laboured, with many local consumers preferring to play on handhelds and phones.

Does that mean that the company should just give up on its home nation, though? Well, no – we actually don't think that's what it's doing. In fact, if you look at some of the games that it's got in development – The Last Guardian, New Everybody's Golf, Gravity Rush 2, and, the pièce de résistance, a new project from Hideo Kojima – it's clearly hoping to rejuvenate the console market in the East. But it evidently doesn't see quite the same growth opportunities back home.

Sony PS4 PlayStation 4 Launch

So, is this the right business move? We'd argue yes. Mark Cerny did a brilliant job of pulling Western teams together in order to create a console that made sense for the European and American markets, and it's helped propel Sony to its best profits in years. But in some areas it's still very much operated like a Japanese company: firmware updates have been slow to arrive and inconsistent with consumer expectations, for example.

Doubling down on the West will surely mean that, on a long-term basis, the manufacturer will be able to deliver systems and services that are more in line with our tastes. And this doesn't mean that it needs to abandon Japan entirely: it will still have its regional arm and developers like Japan Studio helping to appeal to the Eastern market. But, looking at the way that the industry is now, it's clear that it has the most to gain from Western territories at the moment.

And it's also pretty obvious that it will be able to better establish its complementary initiatives in Europe and North America as well. Services like PlayStation Vue, the company's cable replacing project, are being brought to life in America, while the very concept of PlayStation Now – a Netflix-esque game streaming service – seems tailored to the tastes of a Spotify-dominated Western world. It just makes sense.

Mark Cerny PS4 PlayStation 4 1

The worry, then, is that PlayStation may lose its je ne sais quoi in the process – that exotic, tech-hungry Japanese leaning that's resulted in outrageous architectures in the past. But the CELL almost crippled Sony, and, in hindsight, the PS2's infamously poor documentation should have hindered it more than it did. The times have changed, then, and with Western developers ruling the industry these days, outlandish, auteur-like console designs are not viable anymore.

It's the end of an era, but we reckon that the time is right for PlayStation to subtly move away from its Eastern origins and establish more of a Western flavour. The business checks out, and the results with the PS4 are speaking for themselves. We just hope that, as part of the transition, Sony never forgets where it came from. Fortunately, with projects like PlayStation VR in the pipeline, the company doesn't look like it's going to shun Ken Kutaragi's legacy any time soon – it's still very much at the bleeding edge.

Do you think that Sony's made the right decision to transition the PlayStation brand to America, or is it a bad move? What improvements do you think this change will bring, and is there anything that you'll miss? Speak business in the comments section below.

Is Sony right to move PlayStation's headquarters to America? (65 votes)

  1. Yes, it makes the most business sense55%
  2. Hmm, I'm not sure26%
  3. No, it should have stayed in Japan18%

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