Kazuo (Kaz) Hirai was born 1964 in Tokyo, Japan. The son of a wealthy banker, Kaz often traveled with his father across California, New York, Canada and Japan (a trait which Kazuo later said would be a major factor in his later multi-continental business success). As a child, he was quiet, often entertaining himself with various board games and puzzles.
It was this interest in games that later brought him into the entertainment business. After graduating from the International Christian University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Kazuo Hirai was hired at the then titled "CBS/Sony Inc", where he was involved in marketing international music within Japan. His hard work and dedication allowed him to grow through the ranks, eventually placing him once again in New York, where he became head of Sony Music Japan's IBA office.
Always having had a love of games, Kazuo transferred to Sony's Computer Entertainment Division in 1995; his prior experience with music, art and business meant that he was certainly prepared for the task. It only took until 1997 for the first game to be credited to his name.
Since heading up Sony Computer Entertainment, Kazuo Hirai has been instrumental in Sony's success. He played a fundamental role in the rise of the PlayStation in the United States, and his methods of cross-promoting of the PlayStation brand took its advertising beyond merely "game" or computer oriented fields. For example, Playstation advertisements began to pop up in mainstream sports competitions such as the NBA, NFL, NHL and even NASCAR. This entry into the mainstream has been credited with introducing large numbers of individuals to games who would ordinarily have not considered purchasing a console.On July 3, 2006, Sony Computer Entertainment announced that Hirai had been made an executive vice president of its corporate executive group on July 1, 2006.
Kazuo continued his success with the release of the PlayStation 2, utilizing both previous second party franchises such as Jak and Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Sly Cooper and SOCOM, as well as introducing new ones, such as the Ico series of games. Under his leadership, SCEA has continually managed to retain high profits throughout the sixth generation era. He is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Sony Computer Entertainment America and was ranked the 4th most powerful executive in the entertainment business, by Entertainment Weekly.
He continues to be a prominent figure in the public view. Most recently, he hosted the 2006 E3 Sony press conference. He built up momentum to show the first PlayStation game being played on the PSP, but when he announced "It's Ridge Racer!" the crowd met this with very little enthusiasm. Kaz then followed this by announcing "Riiiiiiiiiidge Raaaaaaaaaaaaceeeeeeeeerrrrrrrr!" in the style used by the game's announcer.