Sony’s intention to purchase the Renesas Electronics semiconductor manufacturing plant at Tsuruoka, in the Japanese Yamagata prefecture, has been rumored for a while, and the house of PlayStation finally announced with an official press release that the purchase has been finalized and a definitive agreement with Renesas has been signed.
The plant at Tsuruoka is well known in the industry for manufacturing the DRAM chip that serves as the heart of Nintendo’s Wii U.
The agreement seals the transfer of the facility and all its equipment to Sony Semiconductor Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony. Sony paid 7.51 billion yen (a little over 73 million dollars) for the whole package. The transfer of property is expected to happen by March 31st.
The sale saved the plant from its planned closure due to the restrucuturing of Renesas Electronics’ business, and Sony will absorb part of its workforce within its own ranks.
Tsuruoka will become the center of Sony’s new Yamagata Technology Center for the production of CMOS sensors for smartphones, involving further investment of 27.5 billion yen (a little south of 268 million dollars) to improve the company’s production from the current capacity of approximately 60,000 wafers per month to approximately 75,000 wafers per month.
But what about the Wii U? Here comes the interesting part: Nintendo still didn’t disclose the identity of any new partner for the production of the valuable Wii U component. The deal between Sony and Renesas includes the following clause:
After the Asset Transfer, the system LSIs and others produced at the Tsuruoka Factory will be produced there for Renesas Electronics by SCK (Sony Semiconductor Corporation) on a contract basis for a certain period of time as agreed by Renesas Electronics and Sony. After expiration of that period, Renesas Electronics will shift the production of the system LSIs to its Naka Factory or discontinue production, as Renesas Electronics previously announced to its customers.
While the press release doesn’t name Nintendo (or any other customer) explicitly, the historical console manufacturer from Kyoto is between Renesas’ customers, so it’s very possible that the DRAM of the Wii U could still be produced by Sony at Tsuruoka at least for a while, until the production will shift to Renesas’ plant in Naka or Nintendo finds a new partner.
While that possibility isn’t confirmed, a little bit of Sony could be beating within the heart of the Wii U in the future.