It's been just about a month since Sony restarted its PlayStation Network following a devastating security breach, and now some executives are on the move.
Chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment Akira Sato and honorary chairman of the group, Ken Kutaragi, will retire this year. Kutaragi, known as the "father of the PlayStation," will retire immediately, but will continue to be a senior technology adviser to the company. Sato will retire at the end of August.
President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Kazuo Hirai will be elevated to chairman of the group, and the PlayStation chief executive for Europe, Andrew House, will replace Hirai as president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment beginning September 1.
Hirai remains executive deputy president of Sony Corp. and president of the Consumer Products and Services Group. According to Sony's statement, Hirai's job will be to continue to integrate Sony's various hardware, content, and networked businesses. That's something that has proved difficult over the years at Sony.
"We are facing new challenges this year, such as the successful launch of PlayStation Vita and further growth of the PS3 platform as well as expansion of non-gaming business," Hirai said in a statement. "I'm confident that the skills and expertise Andy has gained over two decades working for Sony and SCE Group will contribute enormously in leading the PlayStation business and to bring new initiatives in managing the business in the networked era."
Sony's PlayStation business is navigating some difficult waters right now. The division suffered an embarrassing cyberattack on its PlayStation Network in April that exposed the personal information of more than 77 million customers. Sony was forced to shut down the gaming and video streaming network for more than three weeks, has been questioned by several governments, and has faced class-action lawsuits accusing the company of improper security practices.
The network did come back online in late May, and Sony has offered free ID theft monitoring, and free games and movie rentals to try to appease customers. The company claims 90 percent of PSN customers have returned since then. All that happened just weeks before the company unveiled the successor to its PlayStation Portable, the PlayStation Vita.
Vita was a pleasant surprise to many in the industry because despite having an OLED screen and multiple inputs like touch-screen and button controls, Sony is pricing the basic model at a competitive $250. It was fairly clear at E3 2011 this year that Sony is gunning for Nintendo's handheld gaming business.
The plan for the Vita, as well as the likelihood that a PlayStation 3 successor will arrive in the next two to three years, means today's move is likely more about entrusting House to take the reins in the PlayStation mobile and console businesses than it is about punishing Hirai for the PlayStation security lapse.
In March, Hirai was named the president of the entire consumer business, giving him much broader responsibilities than just the video game business. He's been essentially stamped by Sony President and CEO Howard Stringer to be his successor. Elevating him as chairman of the entire PlayStation division signals he's still on that track.
This post was updated with more context at 10:03 a.m. PT.