Sony has been down, but it's not out. In fact, it seems as if it's finally on its way back. The company reported strong earnings Tuesday, which should cheer anyone who has ever been a Sony fan. With profits up 346 percent from the same time last year, this quarter shows that chief executive Kazuo Hirai may really have effected a turnaround.
The PlayStation has been instrumental to Sony's renewed fortunes, not only in sales — though the games and network services division pulled in about $482 million in operating income — but also by sketching out the “One Sony” vision that Hirai has championed. The PlayStation has become a main way for Sony to join its hardware and services such as its cord-cutting video service, PlayStation Vue.
It also has been the testing ground for one of the next forays Sony's making into innovative products: virtual reality. The company's PlayStation VR virtual reality headset is the best-selling in its class on the market, with Sony announcing this summer that it had sold 1 million units since its October 2016 launch. That's more than double the sales estimates at that time for its closest competitor, the HTC Vive, according to research firm SuperData.
It has been a long road and a painful one for those who have rooted for the company that brought us the Walkman and shaped the way we think about gadget design. Sony had stumbled at the turn of the millennium, the poster child for a once-mighty tech company baffled by changes in its industry. It was faced with competitors that could churn out televisions and other goods more cheaply. On the other end, it faced a luxury market for phones and tablets where software — in which it didn't have a grounding — mattered as much as hardware. It had trouble fighting competitors off on either side.
Under Hirai, who came up through the entertainment and gaming side of the business, Sony has cut way back on the hardware that made it a technology powerhouse. It spun out its television, VAIO laptop, audio and video divisions as part of Hirai's turnaround plan. That left the PlayStation, the best-selling game console line in the world, as more or less the only consumer electronics product still under the main company's umbrella.
Sony's other major pillar of success relies on building components such as image sensors for other companies' products. Apple uses Sony imaging components in the iPhone, for example, and the unit logged roughly $435 million in profit for the company.
The company also saw a boost from its Pictures division, which pulled in about $68 million, thanks to strong reception of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
With that combination of businesses, the company is not only growing again but also expects to report its best year of profits since 1998.