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PlayStation guru to leave amid struggles

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The chief architect of Sony Corp.'s flagship PlayStation game console will retire in June as the company struggles to retain dominance in the video game industry and revive its flagging reputation as an electronics and entertainment pioneer.

Ken Kutaragi, 56, an icon among gamers, will step down as Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s chairman and group chief executive, Tokyo-based Sony said yesterday . He will be replaced by Kazuo Hirai, who is now president and chief operating officer of the division.

In December, Kutaragi was relieved of day-to-day responsibilities as president of the video game unit.

Kutaragi's most recent brainchild, the PlayStation 3 console, came out in November but was marred by embarrassing production shortages and a $600 price tag that some said was too steep.

Sony has also struggled to expand beyond the young, male demographic of so-called hardcore gamers. Problems related to Sony's limited demographic came into sharp focus late last year, when Nintendo Co. launched the Wii game console, for about $250. The device has become a hit among girls, suburban mothers, senior citizens, and others who have never considered themselves gamers.