Jim Ryan: There Will Be ‘a Completely New VR Format for PS5’

Jim Ryan has a lot to get off his chest. If we’re honest, it’s a lot more than we’d prepared for. You see, usually when you interview someone—not least the president and chief executive officer of Sony Interactive Entertainment—you go into that conversation with some semblance of what’s to come. So when we got offered 20 minutes with the PlayStation boss out of the blue last week, it did seem a bit too easy-going to be true. “A follow-up to our PS5-related chat last November,” we thought, “should be a breeze.”Then the affable Geordie started dropping bombs. A follow-up to PlayStation VR? Confirmed with dev kits out in the wild and an “easy single-cord setup.” More free games for those stuck at home during the pandemic? Yep, Play At Home is back starting with 2016’s Ratchet & Clank and a three-month trial to anime subscription service Funimation with “some cool stuff with indie games” to follow. What about PlayStation games on PC? A whole slate of them is on the way starting with Days Gone this spring. And as for Sony’s publishing timetable for the year? Well, Covid has been up to no good again and booted Gran Turismo 7 back to 2022. Don’t worry, plans for the Uncharted movie and Last Of Us TV series are very much on track.
So, yeah, all of our best-laid plans went out of the window in quite spectacular fashion. What follows next is an edited version of us scrambling to get our heads around a grand splurge of announcements that pretty much set the PlayStation 5 up for most of 2021. As ever, Ryan remained cheerily straightforward company. You don’t get a lot of waffle from the chap: either a full answer or a quick demur with few tangents for the sake of chewing the clock off an interview. Since half the known universe would be out for blood if we didn’t ask the obvious question, we took a little detour of our own to start things off.

GQ: Since we’ve got you here, when is everyone who wants to buy a PS5 going to be able to easily buy one?

Jim Ryan: All I can say is we’re working as hard as we possibly can. You may have read that we sold 4.5 million PS5s at the end of December—that’s more than we did PS4s in 2013 and that was the high watermark for the PlayStation generation. So, with everything in the world throughout last year, we feel like that was fairly decent. One in four of those who have bought a PlayStation 5 do not have a PS4 and those around about half are new to the PlayStation Network. So it’s really nice that we’re able to bring in people from outside.

I know there were people who wanted a PS5 and couldn’t find one. We’re very sorry about that and obviously grateful that demand has been as strong as it is.

What’s holding back production? We’d imagine it’s more than just Covid.Obviously in a pandemic supply chains become a little more complicated than would normally be the case. You know, one very visible example is the difficulties in the semiconductor market. You know, whether it’s automobiles, smartphones, PCs or games consoles, the problems in all those areas are very widely documented. We had to move to a distribution model that is entirely online and that’s something that we never had to do before. And, finally, just the level of demand for PlayStation 5. So, you know, all of those things kind of combined.

We’re working as we always have, but with renewed vigour and energy post Christmas to get supply up, it will increase as each month passes. And the situation will start to get better hopefully quite quickly. We have been relentless in terms of trying to increase production and I really can’t say any more than that.