Sony exec change made to ensure PS3 success


TOKYO -- The recent management changes in Sony Corp.'s video game division were needed to ensure the success of the new PlayStation 3 console, Sony President Ryoji Chubachi told a newspaper Friday.

The launch of the new game machine is critical to Sony's recovery efforts, and Chubachi said the company wanted someone to share that responsibility with Ken Kutaragi, who is known as the "father of the PlayStation."

On Thursday, Kutaragi was relieved of day-to-day responsibilities as president of Sony's game unit but stayed on as chief executive and chairman of the division. Kazuo Hirai, the head of Sony's U.S. video game operations, was tapped to replace Kutaragi as Sony Computer Entertainment president. The management shuffle took effect Friday.

"Work of each executive in the gaming business has increased," Chubachi said in an interview with the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's top business daily. "It's growing as a business in the U.S. and Europe, and a lot of work is involved to keep up with all the changes."

The PS3 went on sale in November in Japan and the U.S. to eager fans waiting in long lines overnight. But Sony has stumbled in mass-producing the consoles. Its sale in Europe was postponed until March and a global launch had been expected last spring.

When a delay was announced in September, Kutaragi blamed the electronics division because of the problems involved in mass-producing parts for the Blu-ray next-generation video.

In Japan, company presidents run the daily business operations and being promoted to chairman sometimes disguises retirement or demotion. In some cases, a chairman can be extremely influential, especially if the executive is charismatic and publicly popular as is Kutaragi.

"Mr. Kutaragi's strength is his knowledge of technology," Chubachi was quoted as saying in the Nikkei. "His position is, of course, chief executive, but this means he will especially be looking closely at the area of technological development."

Kutaragi was once rumored to be on the star track to lead Sony. But he was sidelined last year in a management shuffle that put Howard Stringer in charge -- the first foreigner to head the electronics company.

Kutaragi was taken off the board of Sony to head just Sony Computer Entertainment.