What next for console gaming in Japan as PlayStation moves HQ to California?

Sony’s strategic joining of its Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Network Entertainment divisions represents a seismic shift in the gaming landscape.

More important then the seemingly logical melding of games and internet was Sony’s decision to uproot PlayStation HQ from its long-term home in Tokyo and move it all the way to California in the US.

As analyst David Gibson pointed out, 2m PS4’s in Japan versus 35m globally says it all”.

These numbers aren’t in any way connected to a failing of PlayStation. Indeed, global PS4 sales hit 30m units faster than even the mighty PS2. As of January 3rd PS4 sales had hit 35.9m units. PS4 is a hit everywhere but Japan.

The fact is that the entire Japanese console market is rotting, with consumers heavily favouring smartphones and to a lesser extent portable consoles. In 2014 the Japanese traditional games market fell 10 per cent to its lowest point in 24 years. Last year it declined a further 13 per cent to its lowest total in over a quarter of a century.

As VentureBeat points out, Japan is tied with the US in terms of iOS and Android spending, despite having a population only two fifths as big. In fact, it has the largest mobile revenue per user than any country in the world.

A move to the US, then, with American execs given stewardship of Sony’s hugely successful gaming arm, seems entirely sensible. Remember, too, westerners lead PlayStation’s key divisions with former SCEA boss Andrew House now in charge of the new Sony Interactive Entertainment and Shawn Layden in charge of Sony Worldwide Studios.

There could still be more dour consequences for Japanese game development, however. Once the boss of the games industry, Japanese titles have been relegated to the fringes of the games charts.

Looking back at the UK 2015 Top 50, the highest placed Japanese developed game was Konami’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain in 17th. Astonishingly, only one other Japanese game made the Top 50 – Nintendo’s Mario Kart 8 in 48th.

And only five of the Top 20 grossing publishers was Japanese, and three of those – Square Enix, Sony and Bandai Namco – only had Western-developed titles in the Top 50.

All of which throws an interesting light on Nintendo’s new NX console, the first details of which are due this year. Considering the staggering failure of the Wii U, can Nintendo possibly have an appetite for another full home console launch? After all, the company is about to make its smartphone debut and 3DS has significantly outperformed Wii U. Rumours persist that the NX will integrate both a portable and home gaming solution. Whether this is correct remains a mystery, but looking at the wider picture it certainly appears to make sense.

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