Sony Interactive Entertainment’s president and CEO, Jim Ryan had a comment that was quite… tone-deaf towards people in the Middle East.
Jim Ryan seems to have a knack at saying some incredibly dumb comments (such as saying backwards compatibility is unnecessary…). We already have taken a look at his newest interview with Gamesindustry, where he threw the console model under the bus, but there’s another comment we have to quote. We will do so word-for-word:
“One of the things that I am proud about there is that we kind of pushed the envelope. We opened up markets that had never had any gaming culture ever. Middle East… people had never played games before PlayStation in the Middle East. Russia had a tiny gaming industry before PlayStation. Spain had a very small gaming industry before PlayStation. So we really pushed the envelope geographically,” Jim Ryan said. Notice how he singled out the Middle East as a region where he thinks video games didn’t exist before PlayStation…
But we can also point out how flawed the Russian comment is. Ryan seems to have forgotten how there was a Cold War and an Iron Curtain. In the former Eastern Bloc, in the early-to-mid 90s, the “yellow cartridge” NES/Famicom clones (dubbed Famiclones) have been prevalent due to their low price and wide availability. It was also a successful (albeit bootleg) platform under the name and brand Dendy in Russia. However, we will get back to the Russian market a bit later.
Let’s get back to the Middle East. Jim Ryan got the flak for it, and rightfully so. Here’s Rami Ismail, a game developer, debunking Ryan’s comment on Twitter: “Mate… We had [Inter]net cafés, arcades, and NES ROM hacks same time as the West did. We just bought cracked games and PolyStations because you wouldn’t sell to us.” A PolyStation was a Famiclone in a PS1 case. And Ismail wasn’t the only person to point out Ryan’s ignorance: “Wrong, Jim. We in the Middle East have been playing video games since the 80s. We had Atari, NES, SEGA Genesis, and the rest of gaming consoles. Saying “people in the Middle East had never played video games before PlayStation” shows how out of touch these people are with reality.”
IGN’s Middle Eastern version also stood up against the PlayStation boss’ statement, and even the Russian comment was debunked on the ResetEra forums: “Jim is wrong regarding Russia, too. Gaming was big there long, long before PlayStation; Russians were mostly playing on home computers from C64 through to PC, rather than consoles. And, of course, piracy has always been prevalent. This idea that a gaming market can only be measured based on how many consoles have been sold there is misguided. On that basis, for example, the UK gaming market was almost non-existent in the 80s. When in reality it was huge, we were playing on C64, ZX Spectrum, Amiga et al.”
So congratulations to Jim Ryan… once again.