Sony Corp yesterday announced its biggest-ever annual net profit, driven by unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic-fuelled demand as people around the world turned to gaming to liven up lockdowns.
However, with hope on the horizon for an end to the pandemic as vaccines roll out in many parts of the world, the Japanese firm issued a more cautious forecast for the year ahead.
Although COVID-19 has hit many industries hard, the gaming sector has been one of the few to experience an unprecedented boom.
The Tokyo-based entertainment and consumer electronics giant said that annual net profit jumped to ￥1.17 trillion (US$10.7 billion) — more than doubling from ￥8.99 trillion in 2019, also a record.
However, for the fiscal year that began on April 1, Sony forecasts net profit of a more modest ￥660 billion, on sales of ￥9.7 trillion, with the gaming sector anticipating an eventual tapering of the soaring demand linked to the pandemic.
The past fiscal year also saw the launch of Sony’s PlayStation 5 (PS5) console in November last year, which set off a head-to-head battle for holiday sales with the new Xbox from Microsoft Corp.
Demand for the PS5 has been strong, although pandemic-related supply problems have left many would-be customers empty-handed and created chaotic scenes at electronics stores when supplies do become available.
Sony sold 7.8 million PS5 units last fiscal year and hopes to sell more than 14.8 million units this year — aiming for the console to do better than the second year of its predecessor, the PlayStation 4.
As well as robust sales in the gaming sector, Sony’s earnings were expected to reflect strong demand for imaging sensors.
The firm recently built a new production line of imaging sensors at its domestic plant to meet the growing need for high-end mobile phone parts worldwide.
However, the pandemic has wrought havoc on the movie sector, another important business for Sony.
Sales in its movie segment plunged 25 percent — although operating profit improved thanks to people watching at home and the lower cost of promoting new films.
Despite the pandemic’s disastrous impact on movies, Sony’s animation unit Aniplex scored a box-office triumph with the anime epic Demon Slayer, which in December last year became Japan’s top-grossing film of all time.
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