Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan is no stranger to making controversial statements, and he’s done it again.
Speaking to Games Industry during an interview that was published last week, Ryan claimed that people in the Middle East “never played games before PlayStation.” For context, here’s the entire quote:
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.
Ryan singled out the Middle East as an area where there was no gaming culture “ever” in the past, and a place where people “never played games before.” This is a very specific statement, especially in contrast to what Ryan said about Spain and Russia, although the entire paragraph is wholly inaccurate.
While Western media failed to pick up on this (we chalk it up to a lack of awareness about international markets and their history), Middle Eastern publications as well as industry professionals like Rami Ismail called out Ryan for making such a sweeping statement. See their comments below.
“Middle East… people had never played games before PlayStation in the Middle East.”
We had net cafés and arcades and NES ROM hacks same time as the West did
— Rami Ismail (رامي) (@tha_rami) October 7, 2021
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 https://t.co/bmpB4mYAGy pic.twitter.com/o5XmT0I8I2
— محمد محمود الشريف (@Meghterb) October 8, 2021
ResetEra user pswii60 wrote:
Jim is totally wrong regarding Russia too. Gaming was big there long long before PlayStation, it’s just 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 on the metric of 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 just playing on C64, ZX Spectrum, Amiga et al.
Russian users have also pointed out that Dendy (Wikipedia, for those who aren’t familiar) was extremely popular in the country.
What Ryan said vs. what he means is a debate for another time. As SIE’s CEO, this is a serious misstep, and we hope that he issues a clarification.
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