PlayStation Boss Recalls Sitting With His Head In His Hands Amid PS5’s Challenging Pandemic Launch


Ahead of his departure in March, outgoing Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan has been reflecting on his time at the company and the challenges he faced, including the launch of the PS5 during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the PlayStation boss says that he projected an air of calm and confidence at the time, internally, he knew just how much more difficult his job was about to become.

“It was my job to exude a sense of calm and serenity,” Ryan said to Variety. “Actually, I was there at my dining-room table, head in my hands, wondering how we were going to do this.”

At the time, the pandemic had seen major changes across the globe as companies were forced to adapt while deaths caused by and related to COVID-19 began to dramatically escalate. China had some of the toughest lockdown rules in effect and was also the main source for the manufacture of PS5 consoles. Beyond that, Sony still had to figure out how it was going to sell the consoles when people were encouraged to avoid retail shopping unless strictly necessary.

“We assemble the great majority of the PlayStations in China, and nobody could get in,” Ryan said. “Finishing games when developers couldn’t get together and eat pizza and brainstorm about their craft was another thing. And then, the not-unimportant task of selling our product to our consumers when retail was entirely closed.”

Ryan will officially retire from Sony in March 2024, and SIE chairman Hiroki Totoki will take over his role as the company’s interim CEO on April 1. While it faced issues relating to the pandemic, scalpers, and supply constraints in the early years of its existence, the PS5 has still been responsible for some impressive numbers. In November 2023 Sony reported that 50 million PS5 had been units sold, but it has decreased its forecast for the number of PS5 consoles it expects to sell before the end of March from 25 million to 21 million–a move that cost it $10 billion in market value.