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Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai

Kaz Hirai is the new big boss at Sony Computer Entertainment. Ken Kutaragi is leaving Sony – though he’ll still be an honourary chairman, he won’t have any day-to-day dealings with Sony. So Mr Kaz Hirai will be calling all the PlayStation shots from now on. This article discusses the transition. I will be focusing on the task set before Mr. Hirai.

What kind of environment does he start with? The PS3 is trailing both the Wii and the 360 in sales. There hasn’t been that many exclusive PS3 titles released since launch. And non-exclusive titles often look better on the 360 (Splinter Cell, FEAR) or are crippled on the PS3 (Call of Duty 3). The PS3 controller has tilt, but no rumble. And the PS3 costs $600 versus the 360’s $300, $400, and $480 (in North America).

So where does Mr. Hirai go from here?

First of all, I hope that his thinking isn’t in line with the official party line. Every comment we hear from Sony is that they’re happy with the way things are going with respect to the PS3. Of course they have to say that. I just hope they don’t think it. Sony is obviously last in line in the new generation, and they need to step up with some bold initiatives to bring them to the front.

PlayStation Home is a good start. But that’s all it is – a start. Will developers embrace Home and its achievements system? Sony better make sure that they do. Home seems to be Sony’s ace and it better pay off.

But the games is where things really count, and they better hit home runs with Heavenly Sword, Killzone, GT5, and other exclusives. Hirai is famous for his deal-making abilities, so he better put them to good use getting more exclusives for his favourite platform.

And what should he do about rumble? (1) Include it in new controllers? Most assuredly. (2) Have some advanced new rumble features the competition doesn’t have? They better! (3) Come out as quickly as possible? That would be the third of the three wise decisions needed to be made here. Mr. Hirai better do all those things, and not apologize for it either. It would be nice if Sony could help me replace my existing controllers with rumble ones, but I’m realistic enough to expect no help from Sony there. I bought them knowing full well they didn’t have rumble.

Of course the last question is just what Kaz should do about the PS3’s price. I think that Sony doesn’t need to decrease the price just yet. But in time for the Christmas shopping season the price should be reduced to $449. That’s right – cheaper than the most expensive 360. The price is a major stumbling block for many buyers, and that block needs to be removed.

So Mr. Hirai has a lot of work to do when it come to Home, games, rumble, and price. I’m probably missing some things, and I certainly hope that Hirai has some things up his sleaves that we don’t know about. What other challenges does Mr. Hirai need to solve?