July 3, 2012 Update: Kaz refocuses his efforts at Sony, but we know he's a PlayStation guy and that PlayStation remains a bright spot for the company. We also see Sony's purchase of cloud-gaming service Gaikai as a sign that Sony might be about to transform the way PlayStation gaming works—and how widely it spreads across various devices—as we know it. It's been a while since Sony led the rest of the gaming industry; could they be on the verge of doing so?
Feb 20, 2012 Update: The PS Vita is off to a predictably-shaky start with hot sales in Japan cooling and a global launch so recent it's hard to assess how the new handheld will do. But things are dandy for Hirai, who now runs Sony. Congrats on the promotion, Kaz. We promoted you, too.
Why He's Powerful
When new PlayStation hardware is revealed to the world, it is revealed in the hands of Kaz Hirai.
The former head of Sony's U.S. PlayStation division was promoted to oversee all PlayStation business in Japan a few years ago and, in early 2011, got a promotion from that. He's now the man that runs all of Sony. That may remove him from most of the day-to-day operations of the PlayStation business, but he's still the main man when it comes to showing what's next for the console and handheld gaming giant. Under Hirai is one of the most successful brands in gaming history.
Some may see Sony as weak right now. They certainly don't have the power they did in the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 eras, but even in third place this generation, their PlayStation 3 has sold millions. Their first-party development studios have strengthened year by year. They now rival Nintendo's in terms of overall quality. The crown jewels in the studio system include Uncharted and The Last of Us studio Naughty Dog and the God of War crew at Sony Santa Monica. Sony's Japan studios, including Gran Turismo house Polyphony Digital and the team behind the long-awaited Last Guardian may be struggling to keep up with the pace of modern big-game development, but a global network of studios that also includes Guerrilla, Media Molecule, innovative Sony London teams, Sucker Punch, Zipper Interactive and more prove that Hirai has the ability to see more exclusive games on his machines than his Nintendo and Microsoft rivals. And he's guaranteed several hits from a team that rich in talent.
The new PlayStation Vita, now released in all of Sony's major gaming markets, will show how well Sony can still compete in the handheld market. The PS3, meanwhile, has to withstand a surging Xbox 360.