Jim Ryan, CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, is no stranger to making controversial statements, and he’s done it again.
In an interview with the Games Industry published last week, Ryan claimed that people in the Middle East “never played games” before PlayStation. For context, here is the entire quote:
One of the things I’m proud of there is that we pushed the envelope. We opened up markets that never had a gaming culture. Middle East … In the Middle East, people had never played games before PlayStation. Russia had a tiny game industry before PlayStation. Spain had a very small game industry before PlayStation. So we have really crossed the line geographically.
Ryan highlighted the Middle East as an area where gaming culture “never” existed in the past and as a place where people “have never played games before”. This is a very specific statement, especially contrary to what Ryan said about Spain and Russia, even though the entire paragraph is completely inaccurate.
While Western media did not take up this (we attribute it to a lack of awareness of international markets and their history), Middle Eastern media and industry experts like Rami Ismail Ryan called for this comprehensive statement. See their comments below.
“Middle East … people in the Middle East had never played games before PlayStation.”
We had web cafes and arcades and NES ROM hacks at the same time as the West
We only bought cracked games & polystations because they wouldn’t sell to us
– Rami Ismail (رامي) (@tha_rami) October 7, 2021
Wrong, Jim. We have been playing video games in the Middle East since the 1980s. We had Atari, NES, Sega Genesis, and the rest of the game consoles.
To say that people in the Middle East have never played video games before PlayStation shows how little contact these people have with reality https://t.co/bmpB4mYAGy pic.twitter.com/o5XmT0I8I2
– محمد محمود الشريف (@Meghterb) October 8, 2021
It’s also worth checking out IGN Middle East’s article on the subject, as well as this ResetEra thread where players from the Middle East and Russia got involved.
ResetEra user pswii60 wrote:
Jim is completely wrong about Russia too. Gaming was big there long before PlayStation, but the Russians mainly played on home computers from C64 to PC and not on consoles. And of course, piracy has always been widespread.
This notion that a game market can only be measured by how many consoles have been sold is wrong. On this basis, for example, the British gambling market was virtually non-existent in the 1980s. When it was really huge, we only played on C64, ZX Spectrum, Amiga et al.
Russian users have also noted that Dendy (Wikipedia, for those who don’t know) was extremely popular in the country.
What Ryan said and what he meant is a debate for another time. As the CEO of SIE, this is a grave misstep and we hope he will provide some clarification.
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