Jim Ryan is history at PlayStation. The former head of PlayStation will leave his position permanently in March 2024. After three decades working for Sony and four years as CEO, Ryan is stepping aside after very controversial moves at the corporate level, which, although they have yielded economic results, have not gone down very well with gamers. The question, therefore, is simple: what’s next for PlayStation?
At the moment, the only thing we know is that on April 1, 2024, his position will be filled by Hiroki Totoki. To date, Totoki is president, COO and CFO of Sony Group Corporation, so everything suggests that this stage will be temporary. However, it remains to be seen who will be the definitive candidate for the position left by Ryan. And here we are to try to guess it.
Many eyes are on Hermen Hulst. The former director of Guerrilla Games for almost two decades is at the top of the list. And with good reason. Hulst has been the architect of the Dutch studio has been climbing positions under his direction, going from being a small-medium studio to a giant settled at the top of the triple A.
This work at the head of the studio earned him the trust of Jim Ryan himself in 2020, who appointed him as head of PlayStation Studios. Under his leadership, Hulst has been in charge of coordinating the good work of all PlayStation-owned studios, ensuring that everything runs smoothly and that productions follow their course.
So, Hulst is the most visible head and has contact with everything that is being cooked at the development level (and knows about it), but where can PlayStation as a brand go? Several options are open here. The latest documents presented to shareholders revealed that it was going to bet on the game as a service (by 2025 there will be 12 published games), titles for smartphones, online and the continuous development of own productions that will end up coming to PC as well. It is a very different path to the one seen during the previous decade.
Ryan has been characterized during his tenure for delivering on numbers, but betting on unpopular measures for the player: he has raised the price of subscriptions to PlayStation Plus after splitting it into three, closed the division of PlayStation Japan Studios, raised the price of PS5 after launching it (something that had never happened before in PlayStation) and so on and so forth. It is a profile closer to marketing and cold numbers than to the heart of gamers, as was Iwata, for example (or even Phil Spencer). With the arrival of someone like Hulst, this impact could shift to being closer to the feelings of the people who pick up a controller to play.
The PlayStation that will come in the short term future is the one Ryan is leaving, but which one will we have in the long term?