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News Drama Rumor Shawn Layden departs Sony amid restructuring confusion and potential power struggle

CyberPanda

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The departure of Worldwide Studios chairman was announced with little fanfare and one third-party source tells GameDaily recent PlayStation globalization is 'exponentially exacerbating' next-gen transition.

Shawn Layden, the chairman of Sony Worldwide Studios, is to leave after a 30+ year career at Sony.

PlayStation announced in a tweet on September 30 just after 7pm EDT/4pm PDT/midnight UK time, with little fanfare: “It is with great emotion that we announce that Worldwide Studios Chairman Shawn Layden will be departing SIE. His visionary leadership will be greatly missed. We wish him success in future endeavors and are deeply grateful for his years of service. Thanks for everything, Shawn!”


This announcement provided little fanfare on the announcement, especially for someone who has had a long and distinguished career at PlayStation and Sony. Layden himself hasn’t tweeted anything on his own personal Twitter account as of publication. GameDaily reached out to Sony for comment, but didn't receive a response before publication.

In a follow up with Polygon, Sony said there was “no other information at this moment.”

Layden joined Sony in 1987 as a communications assistant to Sony co-founder Akio Morita before heading from Japan to Europe in the late 90s as head of international game development at Studio London and then as VP of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. He then took up the mantle as head of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan from 2007 to 2010 before going on to set up the foundation of what would be Sony Network Entertainment, taking the roles of EVP and COO of the arm.

Layden took charge of Sony Interactive Entertainment America in 2014 following the departure of former president and CEO, Jack Tretton. In 2016, he became chairman of Sony’s Worldwide Studios following the rebranding of Sony Interactive Entertainment (a merger of Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Network Entertainment) that same year alongside his then-charge at SIEA.

In his time as chairman of WWS, Layden has overseen PlayStation's golden period, with multiple Game of the Year winners and nominees, including Marvel’s Spider-Man. Layden was the face of the deal that brought Insomniac Games into the Sony first-party studio family, which was finalized in August 2019, and the person who greenlit the project.

Layden's departure is just one internal executive shakeup at Sony Interactive Entertainment. SIE Japan-Asia president and SIE Japan director Atsushi Morita has departed his roles effective immediately, according to a tweet from the Wall Street Journal’s Takashi Mochizuki. SIE CFO Kazuhiko Takeda will take over as president of SIEJA, although a replacement has yet to be announced for Morita’s role as director of SIEJ. It’s worth noting that, as pointed out by Mochizuki, Morita was at the age (60) where the Japanese workforce tends to retire anyway.

Layden’s exit comes at a time of transitional upheaval, and not just with the next-gen PlayStation 5 looming. There's also the possibility of an internal power struggle, which appears to stem from a corporate restructure back in April 2018, which is when Sony Interactive Entertainment truly went global.


At that time, Sony announced a reshuffle that saw then-PlayStation president John Kodera take control of the Americas and Japan/Asia. Deputy president Jim Ryan assumed responsibility for Europe. Additionally, all sales and marketing divisions within America, Europe, and Japan-Asia were to report to Ryan. Meanwhile, Layden was to “concentrate his focus on WWS continuing to provide platform-defining content that helps drive the growth of SIE.” WWS is regarded as a side project, albeit a significant one, within the bigger picture of SIE management. Ryan and Kodera run the bulk of the operation, with Layden's position as chairman created specifically with him in mind.

In February, Ryan was announced as the new president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwideless than a year after being named deputy president. Ryan effectively swapped titles with Kodera, who was tasked to provide an emphasis on user experiences and network services. It’s worth bearing in mind that Kodera was only president and CEO for 15 months, having taken over from Andrew House in October 2017.

The biggest issue in merging SIEA, SIEE, and SIEJA is the cavernous difference in product marketplaces. Marketing a product in the North/South American markets is vastly different than doing so in Europe. And neither aligns with how sales work in Japan and Asia.. Suddenly, three teams were working on the same thing without much clarity in reporting structure. This has created chaos, as SIE adjusted to a global mindset. Additionally, Sony reorganization typically impacts senior vice president level and higher, with lower level employees facing a “rolling restructure” as higher-ups figure things out how to manage shifting teams on the fly.

As the perceived power struggle between Ryan and Layden comes to a head,, it’s starting to affect the upcoming next-gen transition. An employee at a major third-party publisher with direct knowledge of the situation has told GameDaily the confusion resulting from the global reorganization has made the switch, already difficult as is, even more concerning.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity, GameDaily's source relayed what their company is facing.


"This is the least amount of clarity we've ever had on a new console this close to transition,” the source said. “I believe that the [global restructuring] is exponentially exacerbating the already difficult process of transitioning to a new generation. And now we’re getting nervous. Read: very nervous."


The third-party nervousness around the PS5's imminent launch isn't directly attributable to either leader, but there has been a fair amount of internal secrecy so that data and information isn't leaked before launch. Internal teams are slow to receive word about the new console, which means that third-party developers and publishers are being kept in the dark far more than in past cycles.

There are certainly more questions as to what to expect under Ryan’s leadership now that Layden is gone, including Ryan's philosophy for the PlayStation 5’s expected 2020 launch, in addition to his approach to Worldwide Studios. Back in July, before the Insomniac deal was announced, Ryan said in an interview with Japanese press the company was interested in acquiring developers.

One point where Layden and Ryan clashed on was cross-platform services, specifically cross-play. In an interview with Eurogamer from 2017, Ryan defended Sony's then-stance of not allowing cross-play, specifically Minecraft on PlayStation 4, saying the platform has “got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base. Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it's something we have to think about very carefully.”

Comparatively, Layden was more open to the feature. Layden spoke at GameLab 2018 in Barcelona: “I'm confident we'll get to a solution which will be understood and accepted by our gaming community, while at the same time supporting our business.”

A few months later, Sony introduced a cross-play beta across all platforms, starting with Fortnite. The growing list of games that enable cross-play across a variation of PS4, Xbox One, Switch, mobile devices and PC has grown since then, including the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Rocket League, and, as of today, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

Another key point that Ryan has wanted to build around is cloud gaming. In June, speaking with the Financial Times, he said it was “really going to start to push” its cloud service PlayStation Now “hard this year and in years to follow” after the service sputtered out of the gates and with increasing competition from Google Stadia, Microsoft’s Project xCloud, and even other subscription services such as Xbox Game Pass.

Ryan’s words are starting to come to fruition: Sony announced today a reduction to the entry point for PlayStation Now subs from $19.99 a month to $9.99, with the inclusion of marquee games for the service to stream or natively download, including God of War, Uncharted 4, inFamous: Second Son, and Grand Theft Auto V, the latter being an exclusive to PS Now “to the best of my knowledge,” Ryan said in an interview with Wired.

“While PS Now cannot compete with the first-party day and date releases Microsoft bundles into Xbox Game Pass, PS Now’s offer of streaming, and a bigger catalogue of games, at a similar price point, makes Sony’s service a lot more competitive,” IHS Markit analyst Piers Harding-Rolls said in a note sent out after the announcement.


“The addition of heavy hitting titles such as GTA V, God of War, Uncharted 4 and Infamous Second Sonfor 3 months, with the promise to rotate in other popular titles after this period, will drive more trials of the service and the subscription base. Enhanced ad-spend and marketing will help expose a broader audience to the PS Now proposition.”


In comparison, when speaking to CNET before his D.I.C.E. keynote, Layden said that while the cloud was something PlayStation wanted to keep “current” with, he mentioned “there's much life left” for natively playing a game on local hardware via disc or download.

Between the cross-play stuff and the PS Now announcement, you get an idea of two men who wanted to run PlayStation in different ways with competing philosophies. Layden appeared to be more open with cross-play than Ryan was. However, Ryan is making cloud a bigger deal now than Layden did within PlayStation with today’s announcement of PS Now.

Whereas Layden, who appeared on stage with former Nintendo of America head, Reggie Fils-Aime, and Xbox boss, Phil Spencer, during last year's Game Awards, Ryan's approach appears to be much more old-school business. The only surety we have is that this internal executive shift is going to continue to ripple out, but time will tell as to whether or not it's an effective, positive change or just another drop in a perceived sea of chaos.


 
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CyberPanda

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Threads already on this. But none with so much pure speculation and gossip presented as fact.
Oh I didn’t know a thread about the article was posted. My bad. I will tell the mods to close it.
 

TGO

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What would the Worldwide Studio Chairman have to do with PS+ and Cross Play, thats not his department.
His responsibility is TLOU2, Death Stranding, The purchase of Insomniac games after the success of Spider Man.
 

jonnyp

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Whatever is going on behind the scenes or whether or not any of this is true - Jim Ryan has always come across as completely unlikable and uncharismatic.
 
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Barakov

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Oh jeez. This is probably bad news for PS5. And given the rumors about the power struggle between SIE(Ryan) and WWS(Layden) the rumors seem to be ringing more and more true. The PS5 could very well be a shitshow.
 

Pallas

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Interesting, hopefully that isn’t why Layden departed, power struggles are never good, especially for successful companies, but if the article is to be believed, did the two have big disagreements about the future of Playstation? They seem to had different ideas for PSNow.
 
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bitbydeath

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Oh jeez. This is probably bad news for PS5. And given the rumors about the power struggle between SIE(Ryan) and WWS(Layden) the rumors seem to be ringing more and more true. The PS5 could very well be a shitshow.

We already know about the PS5 though...
 

GHG

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If Jez Corden said it, it must be true. I'm sure he has many sources at Sony HQ, top sauces.

All aboard the Xbox train until Sony find a gaming t-shirt wearing suit to be the face of a faux renaissance.
 
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Pallas

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Yeah riiiiiiight, let's all believe Mr Xbox Central's take on something happening right at the top of Sony's executive structure.

Do you have an alternate take on it then? I mean sure it’s a bit odd to see someone who is seen associated with Xbox to be reporting this, but I haven’t seen any other explanation.

“Sony’s Don Mattrick”.

Uh huh, even though he has been with Sony PlayStation for quite a long time, running one of their most successful regions by far.

Strange FUD. Familiar FUD.

I’d call it a ridiculous comparison if he meant Layden, but Ryan? I think there’s some credence to that belief. I wouldn’t say 100% but I know Ryan hasn’t been well liked or received.
 

DeepEnigma

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Do you have an alternate take on it then? I mean sure it’s a bit odd to see someone who is seen associated with Xbox to be reporting this, but I haven’t seen any other explanation.



I’d call it a ridiculous comparison if he meant Layden, but Ryan? I think there’s some credence to that belief. I wouldn’t say 100% but I know Ryan hasn’t been well liked or received.

It doesn’t matter if Ryan is well liked or received by people on the internet. He has been with PlayStation for quite a long time, and has ran one of their most successful regions by far. Especially a region as diverse as Europe with all the different country bylaws, tastes, etc..

Some of those very regions where PlayStation is dominating the competition 7 to 1 and as high as 9-1.

That is not a “Don Mattrick like” comparison. Reads like diverting the meme onto Sony.
 
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GHG

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I’d call it a ridiculous comparison if he meant Layden, but Ryan? I think there’s some credence to that belief. I wouldn’t say 100% but I know Ryan hasn’t been well liked or received.

This isn't about being liked or well received externally, it's about making business decisions that are beneficial to a company/brand. He is clearly a trusted and well respected figure at Sony, if not he wouldn't have progressed the way he has.

The vast majority of console buyers won't know who these people are, their faces are not plastered all over the front of console boxes. The vast majority of customers will however buy a product that they feel best matches their needs.

The only reason Phil Spencer has became so revered amongst the Xbox faithful is because they didn't have much else to cling on to for a while. Don Mattrick also got painted as the villain because as with every story with a negative outcome, people need someone to blame. The reality is that these things are more complex than most would like to believe and rarely if ever fall on a single person's shoulders.

It makes for some funny memes and gifs though it has to be said.
 
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DeepEnigma

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"This is the least amount of clarity we've ever had on a new console this close to transition,” the source said. “I believe that the [global restructuring] is exponentially exacerbating the already difficult process of transitioning to a new generation. And now we’re getting nervous. Read: very nervous."

Says some rando (possibly imaginary) Q&A lead.

 
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This isn't about being liked or well received externally, it's about making business decisions that are beneficial to a company/brand. He is clearly a trusted and well respected figure at Sony, if not he wouldn't have progressed the way he has.

The vast majority of console buyers won't know who these people are, their faces are not plastered all over the front of console boxes. The vast majority of customers will however buy a product that they feel best matches their needs.

The only reason Phil Spencer has became so revered amongst the Xbox faithful is because they didn't have much else to cling on to for a while. Don Mattrick also got painted as the villain because as with every story with a negative outcome, people need someone to blame. The reality is that these things are more complex than most would like to believe and rarely if ever fall on a single person's shoulders.

It makes for some funny memes and gifs though it has to be said.
Add to that that Spencer had to put out many fires that Mattrick had started and build up as much goodwill as possible amoungts gamers which is why he was visibily everywhere in the media saying the exact things gamers wanted to hear.
Credit to him he follows through on his promises.

Sony will be absolutely fine with whomever they put in charge now that Layden is gone. There is too much riding on Playstation's success for the company as a whole to suddenly shotgun itself in the foot.
There has to be a valid and i'm sure logical reason for Layden to leave.
 
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Jigsaah

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Jim Ryan is a douche, there i said it. I'll never forget the parity bullshit he tried to trumpet to downplay the xbox one x. Something along the lines of developers would have to develop for the least powerful option and our install base would dictate those decisions. Fuckin asshat.
 

Mikey Jr.

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Yeah, I wouldn't get Jim Ryan to host any conferences. The guy has the personality of cardboard and seems to say stupid shit.

Having said that, I'd love to see Shu get promoted to Laydens position. I wonder if he wants it.
 

thelastword

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Shawn has been at Sony for over 30 years, it's impossible that he ever leaves. A great conspiracy theory must be wrought. Nobody at such a high position have ever left Sony before, it's unprecedented......

So let's resort to pure BS about a rift at Sony, because companies never restructure or consolidate their divisions, ever. People can't just want to hang their hats either......

People spoke smack about Layden, they spoke smack about Jack after the Psn outage, so don't pretend now that he has left he was the most important man at Sony, the sky is falling, it's the end of the world as we know
It.

Many of the folk saying that losing Layden is a huge blow never liked the guy in the first place, even though he was the reason behind many of the recent successes of PS. How can you just sit behind a keyboard and say you don't like a guy when you are not familiar with his work, his attributes and vision.... It's the same way people are hating on Ryan now. What has Ryan done but defend his company's stance, just as many other managers have defended theirs. Some people hate on Yoshida too, Andrew House, Ken Kutaragi, Kaz Hirai, but their work and accomplishments have exceeded all of the fud sent their way.

Shawn is no different, people have been on his case for a minute, because they don't like how he does presentations or some silly shit. Presentations at E3 don't make great games, the background work is what's essential. If you like people to lie to you like Phil Spencer with an "I'm a gamer, your bud approach", that's you, but I prefer serious people who can deliver like these Sony guys, not jokers.

It's sad to see Leyden go, he always seemed genuine and a hardworking guy, he'll people hate Cerny and his design is tried and true and a certified genius, so if you like great games over a fake smiled guy you think is your friend so be it, but I'm only interested in games and Leyden surely brought it this gen.

W'ell see what happens next, but the media and opposition are too keen to declare a problem at Sony because an executive left, just as Naughty Dog and SWWS has issues because someone left their camp, it's always a big issue. Now they are trying to pretend that PS5 is in trouble, because there's no clarity to what it brings, this is hilarious stuff, so where is the clarity on Scarlett? For a while now, that Sams guy and other X journalists have been trying their hardest to push an angle that we know nothing about PS5, I'm glad tbh, keep everything super tight till September 2020, don't let MS know anything so they can rush to make amends and follow the PS5's vision. Bolting any PS5 leak sounds so much like Jim Ryan, and I'm glad he's around.

God speed to Shawn Layden, you will be missed.
 

xool

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.. he'll people hate Cerny and his design is tried and true and a certified genius, so if you like great games over a fake smiled guy you think is your friend

Think I just developed dyxlexia.


..I saw a lot of people diskliking on Leyden - I liked him, but I've gotta admit Ryan does give me the shivers - fine in "sales, distribution, and marketting" division I'm sure, but the idea of him making strategic decisions including first party .. not so sure .. I really don't know 50:50
 
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phil_t98

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Shawn has been at Sony for over 30 years, it's impossible that he ever leaves. A great conspiracy theory must be wrought. Nobody at such a high position have ever left Sony before, it's unprecedented......

So let's resort to pure BS about a rift at Sony, because companies never restructure or consolidate their divisions, ever. People can't just want to hang their hats either......

People spoke smack about Layden, they spoke smack about Jack after the Psn outage, so don't pretend now that he has left he was the most important man at Sony, the sky is falling, it's the end of the world as we know
It.

Many of the folk saying that losing Layden is a huge blow never liked the guy in the first place, even though he was the reason behind many of the recent successes of PS. How can you just sit behind a keyboard and say you don't like a guy when you are not familiar with his work, his attributes and vision.... It's the same way people are hating on Ryan now. What has Ryan done but defend his company's stance, just as many other managers have defended theirs. Some people hate on Yoshida too, Andrew House, Ken Kutaragi, Kaz Hirai, but their work and accomplishments have exceeded all of the fud sent their way.

Shawn is no different, people have been on his case for a minute, because they don't like how he does presentations or some silly shit. Presentations at E3 don't make great games, the background work is what's essential. If you like people to lie to you like Phil Spencer with an "I'm a gamer, your bud approach", that's you, but I prefer serious people who can deliver like these Sony guys, not jokers.

It's sad to see Leyden go, he always seemed genuine and a hardworking guy, he'll people hate Cerny and his design is tried and true and a certified genius, so if you like great games over a fake smiled guy you think is your friend so be it, but I'm only interested in games and Leyden surely brought it this gen.

W'ell see what happens next, but the media and opposition are too keen to declare a problem at Sony because an executive left, just as Naughty Dog and SWWS has issues because someone left their camp, it's always a big issue. Now they are trying to pretend that PS5 is in trouble, because there's no clarity to what it brings, this is hilarious stuff, so where is the clarity on Scarlett? For a while now, that Sams guy and other X journalists have been trying their hardest to push an angle that we know nothing about PS5, I'm glad tbh, keep everything super tight till September 2020, don't let MS know anything so they can rush to make amends and follow the PS5's vision. Bolting any PS5 leak sounds so much like Jim Ryan, and I'm glad he's around.

God speed to Shawn Layden, you will be missed.
Nothing is ever impossible, it maybe improbable but it ain’t impossible
 

Psykodad

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Didn't a similar kind of restructure happen during the lead-up to PS4's launch?
 
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longdi

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Same cyclical shit as usual. Finish top one generation, fucks it up for the very next one. Damn you Sony
 
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DeepEnigma

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One point where Layden and Ryan clashed on was cross-platform services, specifically cross-play. In an interview with Eurogamer from 2017, Ryan defended Sony's then-stance of not allowing cross-play, specifically Minecraft on PlayStation 4, saying the platform has “got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base. Exposing what in many cases are children to external influences we have no ability to manage or look after, it's something we have to think about very carefully.”

Whelp...


So the article in the OP is nothing but FUD, and FUD is usually spread with not as prominent publications
 
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vkbest

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I will not miss him. Since he began his leadership, first party production was reduced, he closed evolution, began censorship, PS4 firmware updates were shit, the disappeared from events.
 
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