Japanese conglomerate Sony Group Corp said it is well positioned to take a leading role in the metaverse, or immersive virtual worlds, which commentators speculate will massively disrupt industries and establish new powerhouses.
The metaverse is a vague term that encompasses the idea that consumers will spend more time in simulated environments online. As the concept evolves, it has become a buzzword in briefings and a driving force behind industry deals.
“The metaverse is simultaneously a social space and a live networking space where games, music, movies and anime intersect,” Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida said during a strategy briefing Wednesday, pointing to the use of Epic Games’ free-to-play battle royale title Fortnite as an online social space.
Sony’s gaming, music and film units contributed two-thirds of operating income in the year ended March, underscoring the group’s transformation from a consumer electronics manufacturer to a metaverse-ready entertainment juggernaut under Yoshida and predecessor Kazuo Hirai.
The company is a gaming gatekeeper with its PlayStation 5 console, but observers point to the risk of the growth of cross-platform, cloud-based titles and their potential to diminish the influence of proprietary platforms.
Sony has tweaked its approach, allowing for cross-play in Fortnite in 2018. This week, Epic said that in-game “V-Bucks” currency purchased on PlayStation would be usable on other platforms.
“PlayStation has been instrumental in the social gaming revolution fueling the growth of the metaverse as a new entertainment medium,” Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said on Twitter.
Sony has also taken steps to move beyond its focus on single-player titles such as “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” with a deal announced in January to buy Bungie, the developer of the online multiplayer shooter “Destiny.”
“We believe it will be a catalyst to enhance our live service gaming capabilities… (It) represents a big step forward to becoming multi-platform,” said Yoshida.
Sony already licenses its content to other platforms, taking advantage of the value to streamers of content such as the popular US sitcom “Seinfeld”. While the company owns the Crunchyroll anime streaming service, it hasn’t pushed as aggressively to exploit its own video platforms as rivals like Walt Disney Co. with its Disney+ service.
In addition to the metaverse, Yoshida also staked Sony’s mobility claim, with the conglomerate developing an electric vehicle with Honda Motor Co Ltd.
Sony created a new lifestyle in 1979 with the launch of the Walkman, Yoshida said.
“We strive to make the mobility space a new entertainment space… We believe that mobility will be the next megatrend,” he said.
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