December 10, 2019

Media Decoder Blog: Disney Delays Release of Video Game and Toy Initiative

LOS ANGELES — The introduction of Disney Infinity, an ambitious video game and toy initiative, has been pushed from June to late August, a retail window that Disney said on Wednesday was more favorable.

But the delay also shifts Infinity from Disney’s fiscal third quarter to its fourth, meaning that any chance of a turnaround at the company’s video game unit will occur later than some investors expected.

Infinity will now reach stores on Aug. 18 in North America and on Aug. 20 overseas, said John Pleasants, co-president of Disney Interactive, in a telephone interview. A June rollout had been planned, pegged to the release of Pixar’s “Monsters University.”

Mr. Pleasants said retailers, impressed with the public reaction to Disney’s demonstration of Infinity in January, pushed for an introduction closer to the all-important holiday season, which starts in October. “The date became an issue in terms of them asking, ‘Is there a better opportunity here?’ ” Mr. Pleasants said.

There may also be competitive reasons for the August date. Disney hopes that Infinity will be its version of Skylanders, a popular product from Activision Blizzard in which players collect action figures and then transfer them into the game’s action by plugging them into a sensor base. Skylanders has generated more than $1 billion in sales since its 2011 arrival; about 100 million of its toys have been sold.

The next edition of Skylanders is scheduled to arrive in stores this fall. Mr. Pleasants downplayed comparisons, but said, “We think it’s good to be first and really lean into the most important selling season of the year.”

August is traditionally a quiet time for video games as families spend money on vacations and back-to-school clothes. But Mr. Pleasants said retailers were willing to devote significant shelf space to the Infinity product line. Disney also hopes that children will return to school with the Infinity action figures in their backpacks, leading to trading.

It is not unusual for video game studios to push back release dates, but the reason usually involves glitches and missed deadlines. Mr. Pleasants insisted that was not the case here.

“We could deliver in June if we wanted to,” he said, adding: “Will a two-month timing change help us? Sure, of course. It gives us a little more time to add bells and whistles and make sure it really sings and pops.”

Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive and chairman, told Wall Street analysts and investors in May that “we’re targeting 2013 as a year of profitability” for Disney Interactive. He technically fulfilled that pledge in the last quarter; Disney’s video game and Web business turned an operating profit of $9 million after 16 consecutive quarters of losses.

But most people interpreted Mr. Iger’s remark to mean that the unit, Disney’s smallest by far, would make money for the fiscal year, which ends in mid-September. There is now little chance of that, as revenue from Infinity will be mostly pushed into 2014. “This will definitely impact our goal of achieving profitability for the year,” Mr. Pleasants said.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/disney-delays-release-of-video-game-and-toy-initiative/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Sony’s Chairman, Howard Stringer, Announces His Retirement

He announced his departure on Friday in New York during a speech at the Japan Society, and Sony, in Tokyo, confirmed the news on Sunday. He will step down at an annual general shareholders meeting.

Mr. Stringer, a Welsh-born American and 15-year employee at Sony, became president and chief executive in 2005, when the once glorious maker of the Walkman music player was starting to get overwhelmed by the flashier Apple and the nimbler Samsung Electronics.

The company, which makes the PlayStation 3 game console as well as “Spider-Man” movies, is still struggling. It has lost money for the last four years and recorded the biggest loss in its 67-year history for the fiscal year ending in March 2012.

Mr. Stringer said he was ready to retire after turning over the helm last year to Kazuo Hirai. Mr. Stringer groomed Mr. Hirai, longtime head of Sony’s video-game unit, who led its relative success as a brand in the American market, to be his successor as chief and president.

“I was pleased to hand the reins to Kazuo Hirai last year because I saw in him the right mix of skills to lead Sony, and I knew it was the right time to bring about generational change,” Mr. Stringer said in the speech. “Over the course of the past year, he has come into his own and is leading Sony with vision and authority.”

Mr. Stringer said he would remain busy with charity work in education and medicine, and would continue as chairman of the American Film Institute.

Before joining Sony in 1997, Mr. Stringer had a 30-year career as a journalist, producer and executive at CBS. His main role was considered to be developing strategic links between the entertainment and electronics business, a plan Sony has pursued for years but is still not fully realized.

Sony has recently introduced smartphones and other products to good reviews. But it is still losing money in its core television-manufacturing unit.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/11/business/sonys-chairman-howard-stringer-announces-his-retirement.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Sony Reshuffles Leadership at Video Game Unit

TOKYO — Sony said Wednesday that it would reshuffle the management of its video game unit, two months after an extensive hacker attack forced the electronics giant to shut down its popular PlayStation Network.

Kazuo Hirai, the president and chief executive of the unit, Sony Computer Entertainment, will be replaced by Andrew House, the current head of the unit’s European business, Sony said in a statement. The changes are effective Sept. 1, the company said.

Mr. House will spearhead the company’s PlayStation strategy, especially the release of the PlayStation Vita, its next-generation handheld game machine.

Vita’s release comes at a time when portable gaming devices must compete with phones and other gadgets that are luring players away with cheap, downloadable games.

Mr. House must also contend with a growing threat from hackers, who have staged a flurry of attacks on Web sites and services in recent months, including several run by Sony.

In mid-April, the company was forced to shut down its PlayStation Network, which lets users download games or play games online, after a hacker attack compromised personal information from up to 100 million accounts. After a monthlong scramble by Sony to bolster its online security, the network was restarted in most countries.

Sony has estimated that the recovery from the breach will cost about ¥14 billion, or $173 million.

Mr. House, who joined Sony in 1990, has worked in corporate communications and marketing, and worked on the introduction of Sony’s original PlayStation game console. He has headed Sony Computer Entertainment’s European unit since May 2009.

Mr. Hirai, meanwhile, is seen as a front-runner to eventually replace Sony’s chief executive, Howard Stringer, who is in his seventh year at the helm of the Tokyo-based company.

Mr. Hirai, who has been chief executive of the video game unit since December 2006, will continue to oversee the gaming business as the unit’s chairman, Sony said.

He will also retain his post as executive deputy president of the entire Sony group, where he is in charge of Sony’s many consumer electronics lines, including its Bravia TVs and CyberShot digital cameras.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=72b34de00359f551f0ee448aa8ec42fc