Shuhei Yoshida has stepped down from his position as the Head of Worldwide Studios at Sony Interactive Entertainment, in order to lead a “new initiative” at Sony “focused on celebrating external developers that are creating new and unexpected experiences for the gaming community,” according to a press release issued this morning. In his new role, Yoshida will “concentrate on our diverse community of independent developers, ensuring they have the tools, technology, and services to reach PlayStation’s large community of gamers successfully.”
Yoshida is succeeded as Head of Worldwide Studios by Hermen Hulst, who until today was Managing Director of Guerrilla Games, developer of such PlayStation headliners as Killzone and Horizon Zero Dawn. Hulst will now oversee all 14 Sony Interactive Entertainment studios, including Naughty Dog (The Last of Us) and Santa Monica Studio (God of War). Unlike most executive shuffles, which are announced weeks or months ahead of time, today’s announcement is effective immediately.
— Shuhei Yoshida (@yosp) November 7, 2019
Yoshida’s sole public statement regarding the announcement (above) was followed by dozens of retweets of support from Sony-affiliated developers and indie game makers alike, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Yoshida is a beloved figure in the industry, having been involved with PlayStation since the very beginning. His Twitter feed is routinely devoted to the press of smaller and/or independent games releasing on Sony platforms, and it’s hard to swing a dead cat without hitting a developer that Yoshida has taken a lighthearted selfie with. As far as ultra-powerful video game executives are concerned, Yoshida is widely considered One of the Good Ones™.
Such are the shoes (no pun intended) that must be filled by Hulst, who has served as Guerrilla Games’ Managing Director since 2001. Guerrilla was acquired by Sony in 2005, following the commercial success of Guerrilla’s 2004 PlayStation 2 exclusive, Killzone, despite its lukewarm critical reception. The Killzone franchise continued through the launch of the PlayStation 4 with Killzone: Shadow Fall in 2013, after which Guerrilla went heads down to produce 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn, which enjoyed a glowing reception from critics and consumers alike. Replacing Hulst at Guerrilla Games is not one, not two, but three new co-Studio Directors: Angie Smets, Jan-Bart van Beek, and Michiel van der Leeuw.
Today’s announcements are the latest in a year-long series of reassignments at the upper echelons of PlayStation. This week also saw the departure of longtime fan favorite Gio Corsi, who was known for maintaining Sony’s #BuildingTheList initiative, which sought to get more indie games on PlayStation Vita. Worldwide Studios Chairman Shawn Layden announced his own Sony separation back in September, and last April, then-CEO John Kodera stepped down to become “Deputy President” of Sony Interactive Entertainment, with former PlayStation Europe head Jim Ryan stepping in to take Kodera’s place at the wheel.
All of this precedes the launch of the PlayStation 5, which Sony officially confirmed last month as arriving with next year’s holiday season. With Yoshida leading whatever this new developer outreach initiative is, it looks as though Sony is taking the PlayStation 5’s indie bona fides as seriously as possible.