Sony's Kaz Hirai Announces Delayed Release of New Vita Console, Vows to Make TVs Profitable

Toru Yamanaka/AFP/Getty Images
Kaz Hirai shows the new Vita console - now slated for release in early 2012 in the U.S. and Europe.

Sony being a 'Hollywood player' is vital to combining its contents and hardware businesses, he said.

TOKYO – Sony’s heir apparent, Kaz Hirai, emphasized the importance of the company being a “Hollywood player,” confirmed a delayed release schedule for the new PlayStation Vita portable console, and vowed to turnaround the struggling TV manufacturing division, at a roundtable in Tokyo on Thursday.

Hirai told a group of reporters that integration of its contents and hardware business was crucial to the success of the conglomerate.

“We were able to roll out the streaming service on the PlayStation Network so quickly because we can get in front of the producers and key people at studios, to get licensing deals done, because we are a Hollywood player,” said Hirai.

“Those are some non-tangibles people often don’t look at when they ask ‘why do you have the movie company?’ or ‘why do you have the music company?’” suggested Hirai.

The PlayStation Vita, the successor to the current PlayStation Portable will be released in Japan by the end of the year, but won’t be out in time for the crucial winter holiday season in Europe and the US, where it will bow early next year.

Despite poor sales for rival Nintendo’s 3DS portable – resulting in last week’s 40 percent price cut – Hirai said Sony plans to go ahead with the $250 price tag for the Wi-Fi version of the Vita, and $300 for the model with mobile network connectivity.

"There is no need to lower the price just because somebody else who happens to be in the video game business decided that they were going to lower their price," he said.

Hirai insisted the Vita was “a great consumer proposition” because Sony has “packed so much into the device” – the Vita features a touch screen, two cameras, motion sensor, and will act as a remote controller for devices including the PlayStation 3.

Despite acknowledging the threat of smartphone gaming to traditional consoles, Hirai said he believes that there is no substitute for a dedicated gaming machine.

“We’re confident in our ability to bring pure gaming in its highest form to our customers – we’ve got that segment covered,” said Hirai in response to a question from The Hollywood Reporter.

Despite being an unprofitable division for years, making TVs is still a core part of Sony, according to Hirai, who said it was “hard to imagine” the company not being engaged in the business.

Since the reorganization of Sony’s divisions, Hirai is now responsible for the TV making business under the new consumer products and services group.

Having endured something of a baptism of fire since taking over in March – the devastating disasters that struck Japan followed by the hacking scandal at the PlayStation Network – Hirai insisted he was “now on top of” getting the struggling TV business into the black.