Establishment, PlayStation release, and North American expansion (1993–2005)
Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. (SCEI) was jointly established by Sony and its subsidiary Sony Music Entertainment Japan in 1993 to handle the company's ventures into the video game industry. The original PlayStation console was released on December 3, 1994, in Japan. The company's North American operations, Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA), were originally established in May 1995 as a division of Sony Electronic Publishing. Located in Foster City, California, the North American office was originally headed by Steve Race.
In the months prior to the release of the PlayStation in Western markets, the operations were restructured: All video game marketing from Sony Imagesoft was folded into SCEA in July 1995, with most affected employees transferred from Santa Monica to Foster City. On August 7, 1995, Race unexpectedly resigned and was named CEO of Spectrum HoloByte three days later. He was replaced by Sony Electronics veteran Martin Homlish. This proved to be the beginning of a run of exceptional managerial turnover, with SCEA going through four presidents in a single year. The PS console was released in the United States on September 9, 1995. As part of a worldwide restructuring at the beginning of 1997, SCEA and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) were both re-established as wholly owned subsidiaries of SCEI.
The launch of the second PS console, the PlayStation 2 was released in Japan on March 4, 2000, and the U.S. on October 26, 2000. On July 1, 2002, chairman of SCEI, Shigeo Maruyama, was replaced by Tamotsu Iba as chairman. Jack Tretton and Phil Harrison were also promoted to senior vice presidents of SCE. The PlayStation Portable (PSP) was SCEI's first foray into the small handheld console market. Its development was first announced during SCE's E3 conference in 2003, and it was officially unveiled during their E3 conference on May 11, 2004. The system was released in Japan on December 12, 2004, in North America on March 24, 2005, and in Europe and Australia on September 1, 2005.
Creation of SCE Worldwide Studios, acquisitions, and restructure (2005–2011)
On September 14, 2005, SCEI formed Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios (SCE WWS), a single internal entity to oversee all wholly owned development studios within SCEI. It became responsible for the creative and strategic direction of development and production of all computer entertainment software by all SCEI-owned studios—all software is produced exclusively for the PS family of consoles. Shuhei Yoshida was named as President of SCE WWS on May 16, 2008, replacing Kazuo Hirai, who was serving interim after Harrison left the company in early 2008.
On December 8, 2005, video game developer Guerrilla Games, developers of the Killzone series, was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment as part of its SCE WWS. On January 24, 2006, video game developer Zipper Interactive, developers of the Socom series, was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment as part of its SCE WWS.
In March 2006, Sony announced the online network for its forthcoming PlayStation 3 (PS3) system at the 2006 PlayStation Business Briefing meeting in Tokyo, Japan, tentatively named "PlayStation Network Platform" and eventually called just PlayStation Network (PSN). Sony also stated that the service would always be connected, free, and include multiplayer support.
The launch date for the PS3 was announced by Hirai at the pre-Electronic Entertainment Expo conference held at the Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles, California, on May 8, 2006. The PS3 was released in Japan on November 11, 2006, and the U.S. date was November 17, 2006. The PSN was also launched in November 2006.
On November 30, 2006, president of SCEI, Ken Kutaragi, was appointed as chairman of SCEI, while Hirai, then president of SCEA, was promoted to president of SCEI. On April 26, 2007, Ken Kutaragi resigned from his position as chairman of SCEI and group CEO, passing on his duties to the recently appointed president of SCE, Hirai.
On September 20, 2007, video game developers Evolution Studios and Bigbig Studios, creators of the MotorStorm series, were acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment as part of its SCE WWS.
On April 15, 2009, David Reeves, president and CEO of SCE Europe, announced his forthcoming resignation from his post. He had joined the company in 1995 and was appointed as chairman of SCEE in 2003, and then president in 2005. His role of president and CEO of SCEE would be taken over by Andrew House, who joined Sony Corporation in 1990. The PSP Go was released on October 1, 2009, for North America and Europe, and on November 1, 2009, for Japan.
On April 1, 2010, SCEI was restructured to bring together Sony's mobile electronics and personal computers divisions. The main Japanese division of SCEI was temporarily renamed "SNE Platform Inc." (SNEP) on April 1, 2010, and was split into two divisions that focused on different aspects: "Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc.", consisting of 1,300 employees who focused on the console business, and the network service business consisting of 60 to 70 employees. The network service business of SCEI was absorbed into Sony Corp's Network Products & Service Group (NPSG), which had already been headed by Hirai since April 2009. The original SCEI was then dissolved after the restructuring.
The North American and European branches of SCEI were affected by the restructuring, and remained as SCEA and SCEE. Hirai, by that time SCEI CEO and Sony Corporation EVP, led both departments.
On March 2, 2010, video game developer Media Molecule, developers of the PlayStation 3 (PS3) game LittleBigPlanet, was acquired by SCEI as part of its SCE WWS. On August 23, 2010, the headquarters of the company moved from Minami-Aoyama to the Sony City (Sony Corporation's headquarters) in Kōnan, Minato, Tokyo. On April 20, 2011, SCEI was the victim of an attack on its PlayStation Network system, which also affected its online division, Sony Online Entertainment. On August 1, 2011, video game developer Sucker Punch Productions, developers of the Sly Cooper and Infamous series, was also acquired.
Launch of PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4, expansion into China (2011–2016)
On January 2012, BigBig Studios was closed and Cambridge Studio—renamed Guerrilla Cambridge—becoming a sister studio of Guerrilla Games. On March 2012, Zipper Interactive, developers of the SOCOM series, MAG and Unit 13, was closed. On June 25, 2012, Hirai retired as chairman of Sony Computer Entertainment; however, he remains on the board of directors.
On July 2, 2012, Sony Computer Entertainment acquired Gaikai, a cloud-based gaming service. On August 2012, Sony Liverpool developer of the Wipeout and Formula One series was closed.
A press release was published on August 20, 2013, announcing the release date of the PlayStation 4 (PS4) console. On that date, SCEI introduced the CUH-1000A series system, and announced the launch date as November 15, 2013, for North American markets and November 29, 2013, for European, Australasian and Central and South American markets.
Following a January 2014 announcement by the Chinese government that the country's 14-year game console ban would be lifted, the PS4 was scheduled to be the first Sony video game console to be officially and legally released in China since the PlayStation 2—the ban was enacted in 2000 to protect the mental health of young people.
On March 6, 2014, Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO, Tretton, announced he was resigning from his position at the end of the month, citing a mutual agreement between himself and SCEA for the cessation of his contract. Tretton had worked at SCEA since 1995 and was a founding member of the company's executive team. He was involved in the launch of all PlayStation platforms in North America, including the original PlayStation, PS2, PSP, PS3, PSN, PS Vita, and PS4. Tretton was replaced by Shawn Layden, who was the vice-president and chief operating officer (COO) of Sony Network Entertainment International, effective April 1, 2014. On April 2, 2015, it was announced that Sony Computer Entertainment had acquired the intellectual property of the cloud gaming service OnLive, and that its services would cease by the end of the month.
The beta version of Sony's first-ever cloud-based television service, PlayStation Vue (PSVue), was launched in the U.S. in November 2014. It was only offered on an invite-only basis for PS3 and PS4 users, prior to its official launch in early 2015. Sony signed deals with major networks, including CBS, Discovery, Fox, and Viacom, so that users can view live streaming video, as well as catch up and on-demand content, from more than 75 channels, such as Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. Although pricing and release dates for other regions was not publicized, Sony confirmed that PSVue will eventually be available on iPad, followed by other Sony and non-Sony devices.
As Sony Interactive Entertainment (2016–present)
On January 26, 2016, Sony announced that effective April 1, 2016, Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Network Entertainment International would be re-organized and combined into a new company, Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE). Unlike the former SCE, SIE is based in San Mateo, California, and represents the entire PlayStation brand, regional subsidiaries, and its content operations. On March 24, 2016, Sony announced the establishment of ForwardWorks, a new studio dedicated to producing "full-fledged" games based on Sony intellectual properties for mobile platforms such as smartphones.
It was reported in December of 2016 by multiple news outlets that Sony was considering restructuring its U.S. operations by merging its TV and film business with SIE. According to the reports, such a restructuring would have placed Sony Pictures under Sony Interactive's CEO, Andrew House, though House wouldn't have taken over day-to-day operations of the film studio. According to one report, Sony was set to make a final decision on the possibility of the merger of the TV, film, and gaming businesses by the end of its fiscal year in March of the following year (2017). However, judging by Sony's activity in 2017, the rumored merger never materialized.
On January 8, 2019, Sony announced that the company had entered into a definitive agreement for Sony Interactive Entertainment to acquire Audiokinetic.