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TOKYO: Sony Group said on Thursday its gaming chief Jim Ryan would retire next March, with group President Hiroki Totoki to become interim CEO during the search for a successor.

Ryan, who is British, become CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) in 2019 and oversaw initiatives including the launch of the PlayStation 5 console the following year.

“Jim no longer wants to manage the tradeoff between having a job in the US and a home in the UK,” SIE said in a statement.

“He has been an inspirational leader, guiding SIE though the global COVID pandemic while leading the launch of PlayStation 5 and making it PlayStation’s most successful platform.”

Totoki would serve as interim CEO for a year at most and it is possible a successor could be appointed by the time Ryan retires, a Sony spokesperson said.

“Ryan’s career as CEO was cut a bit short, many leaders in gaming stay on much longer,” said Serkan Toto, founder of consultancy Kantan Games.

Sony expects to sell a record 25 million PlayStation 5 consoles this financial year following the easing of supply chain snarls but in August said it was resorting to promotions to help momentum due to weaker-than-expected sales.

Ryan’s successor faces challenges, including driving a push outside Sony’s traditional focus on single-player console games with more titles on PC and smartphone and a ramp-up in live service games, which offer continuous, updated play.

Sony shares tumble on weaker-than-expected annual outlook

“Sony is in a great position in the console war with Microsoft right now, but gaming is set to change dramatically over the next few years,” said Toto.

Longer term, the gaming unit, a major profit contributor at the Japanese conglomerate, must navigate an industry in flux as advances in smartphones and cloud technology raise doubts about the need for stand-alone consoles with games that can cost $70 each.

Milestones during Ryan’s tenure included acquisitions of studios such as “Destiny” developer, Bungie, to maintain an edge over Xbox maker Microsoft, and the launch of a virtual reality headset in an attempt to make the technology mainstream.

“Jim Ryan has been a great contributor to our industry and a fierce leader for PlayStation,” Xbox head Phil Spencer said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Sony has received plaudits for its pivot to focus on entertainment and found success in efforts to repurpose its franchises with the popular TV adaption of its “The Last Of Us” games series.

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