This week, Sony finally released the Playstation 4 in Japan, to the cheers and eager anticipation of the Japanese gaming public. For American gamers, this news might come as a bit of a surprise, since Sony released its newest console in the United States and Europe in November of last year. However, while US customers have been able to purchase the device for over three months, Friday saw the launch of the PS4 in Japan, with legendary game designers like Hideo Kojima on hand to help usher in the new hardware.
The PS4 has proved a hit so far, selling 4.2 million units worldwide last year, outpacing rival Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox One at 3 million. By contrast, Sony’s domestic rival, Nintendo, launched its new Wii U console in November 2012 and it took more than a year for the video game giant to sell 5.86 million units. In January the PS4 doubled the Xbox One’s sales and remains in short supply all over the world. This news is not only good news for Sony – victory in the “console wars” is a matter of Sony’s very survival.
Sony has been facing great difficulty of late. The company rose from humble beginnings in 1946, with just 20 employees, to become one of the first Japanese companies to go global as the country emerged from the debris of its defeat in World War II to become a manufacturing powerhouse. Today, however, most of its main brands are struggling. The iconic Walkman has been replaced by the iPod, the Bravia TV line has not turned a profit in about a decade, and Sony was forced to sell its Vaio computer line last year. Sony plans to cut 5,000 jobs this year.
It is not alone. Domestic rivals like Sharp and Panasonic have also suffered at the hands of U.S. giant Apple and Samsung, and found themselves outplayed in the smartphone and low-margin television business. But analysts said the PS4 might just help Sony turn the corner.