The next president and chief executive officer of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe talks exclusively to PlayStation.com.
Jim Ryan, the man soon to be at the helm of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, has played a critical role in the success of PlayStation in his 17 years with the company. From joining as international finance officer to his most recent role as chief operating officer, Jim has helped PlayStation become a multi-billion dollar business with a reputation for pushing entertainment boundaries. It's all a far cry from a stint as a handyman in the early days.
"I remember when we set up the German office actually going to a furniture store and buying desks and chairs," Jim says. "We did actually pay extra to have someone put them together though, which was really pushing the boat out."
It's an apt time to look back. A new handheld - PlayStation Vita - is being readied for launch, an incredible line-up of PlayStation 3 titles looms large and there's Jim's keynote debut at gamescom 2011. Did he have any inkling back in 1994 that he'd be leading such a major force in the video game industry? "I was approached to talk to Sony about this secret video game project in 1994. Nobody knew how it was going to turn out - I made the decision to join very much as an act of faith. And I've never looked back."
Into the unknown
Back then what would become PS one was a little grey box code-named PSX. Jim and his team were planning how to successfully publish software while the technology that would power it was being developed. A year later, Jim was suddenly aware of this hard work rapidly coming to fruition. "It was early in 1995 when we learnt that we were going to be the organisation responsible for PlayStation," Jim recalls. "In the early part of that year, as Japan launched PS one, it became apparent that we were looking at something quite extraordinary."
Since then a raft of iconic games has cemented the status of PlayStation. What stands out for Jim? "PS one had Crash Bandicoot, WipEout and Tomb Raider, PlayStation 2 had Grand Theft Auto, and Gran Turismo from our own stable. This time around on PS3 you'd have to say the big-hitters are the Call of Duty games and, of course, the Uncharted series. Every generation brings its new icons and it's fantastic. It's one of the greatest things about the industry."
Compare Lara Croft with Nathan Drake, neatly bookending Jim's time with SCEE so far, and the progress made in the video game industry is staggeringly clear. "Everything has increased by a factor of about four or five," Jim tells us. "Whether it's the number of people required to make a game, the size of the team required to push the processing power of the hardware or the number of units that we sell - hardware, software, peripherals - everything's just a lot bigger. A lot, lot bigger."
And the secret of that growth? "Without wishing to sound arrogant, it's simply the SCEE organisation and the quality, passion and energy of our people. I'm in the privileged position of being able to lead this company and that gives me a huge buzz.
"I'm preparing for my first platform launch in charge of PlayStation Vita, which is a hugely exciting product and I'm really looking forward to it. There are a lot of challenges given the truly digital nature of so many products, opportunities that we're getting our teeth into which is fun and keeps things fresh."
There's nothing like the immediate future of PlayStation to provide that freshness, and it's something Jim wants to expand upon at gamescom 2011. "There's a lot to talk about. Centre stage for us is going to be PS Vita, and it's my job, whether it's in the press conference or in the interviews that I do over the course of the week, to be a true evangelist for PS Vita. It's a great product so it's an easy job!"
Certainly easier than assembling flat-pack furniture...
Stay up to date with all the news on PS Vita, Uncharted 3 and much more as Jim presents the SCEE conference at gamescom 2011, by checking au.playstation.com/gamescom. You can watch the live video stream, too, on PlayStation.Blog.
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