PlayStation CEO Shares His Thoughts With Variety

Jim Ryan, born in England, has been with Sony and PlayStation since 1994. He initially joined the venture as Head of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE). However, over the years, he has been appointed to various executive and leadership roles within the company. The final role he held before announcing his departure from the company in 2023 was CEO.

Sony’s PlayStation has been one of the leading consoles since the breakout of the 3D gaming era, currently battling it out with Xbox. Certainly, the company must have seen many brilliant and hardworking individuals lend their hand and expertise in making the console manufacturing and development company the position it holds today. One of the prominent names among them is Jim Ryan.

Last year, Jim was reported as saying that he would be retiring from his position and likely ending his overall association with the company in March 2024.

Variety caught up with him to discuss his experience working for Sony, his insights, fears, and future prospects.

Jim’s 2020 Sony PlayStation Experience

Jim must have experienced all the highs and lows of being with the company for so many decades. Speaking to reporters, he expressed that the launch of the PlayStation 5 in late 2020 was the most challenging moment of his entire career at Sony, he said;

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“We assembled the great majority of the PlayStations in China, and nobody could get in. Finishing games when developers couldn’t get together and eat pizza and brainstorm about their craft was another thing. And then, the not-unimportant task of selling our product to our consumers when retail was entirely closed.”

PlayStation CEO

China has been one of the biggest PlayStation and its parts manufacturers in the world since 2014 after the Chinese government lifted the ban on console manufacturing. And since China was unfortunately the source of the virus and later the pandemic, it meant that everything coming from China suddenly came to a screeching halt, and nobody knew for how long.

Jim stated that it was the most difficult time of his 30-year career. He further mentioned that most of the PlayStation 5 units were being manufactured in China, and in addition to that, the developers and staff working on the software aspect of the console had to work from home. Bloomberg also reported that the production of PlayStation 5 faced numerous manufacturing challenges.

Jim also mentioned that the worldwide simultaneous shutdowns were one of the significant hurdles for the company.

Jim’s testimony is supported by the global circumstances affecting businesses at that time. The shutdowns meant there were very limited places for gamers and customers to purchase consoles, greatly impacting the business. Fewer stores resulted in limited stock, leading online marketplaces to sell consoles at exorbitant rates. This phenomenon was observed worldwide, including in the UK, the US, and other regions.

He shared that even though he was the CEO of the company, which typically meant giving a certain direction and conveying to the staff what work should be done. During the unprecedented times of the pandemic, his role evolved into something more than just typical CEO responsibilities.

 “It was my job to exude a sense of calm and serenity,”

He said he elevated himself from just being a CEO to a team leader, ensuring that everyone remained calm and focused on their purpose.

However, he said that while he was acting as a motivator, in the comfort of his privacy, he was also scared himself, saying, “Actually, I was there at my dining-room table, head in my hands, wondering how we were going to do this.” It is understandable what situation it must have been for him and the company during such times.

While commenting on the recent layoffs of about 6,400+ employees across various sectors of the industry, Jim said, “It obviously is a difficult time for many,” and continued, “I would just say that nobody can ever be complacent, and nobody can ever feel that anything’s forever.”

About His Successor(s)

As Jim would be leaving in a few days’ time, he was asked about his successor as the CEO. In September last year, Sony released a statement right after Jim’s announcement, stating that Hiroki Totoki, the President, COO, and CFO of Sony Group Corporation, would take over from him. The torch was passed down in October of last year. This means that Jim will have served Sony for a good 30 years.

PlayStation CEO

He said that he completely backs his successor Hiroki Totoki and has full confidence in his leadership. He had one piece of advice for Hiroki and the rest of the team, “Never forget that we’re an entertainment business. … If we continue to entertain, delight, and surprise our community of gamers, I think Totoki-san and whoever follows him will be just fine.”

He further stated that finally, he can put an end to the constant back-and-forth flights from Sony headquarters in Tokyo to his home in London and then to PlayStation operations in San Mateo, California.

On his departure from Sony, Jim says he has some plans, some new quests in mind which he does not want to reveal at the moment. He stated that he still has it in him to venture into something productive. He went on, “I’ve got a few things bubbling. I can’t say what they are — but I am going to take my life in a little different direction.“

He was also asked about his top titles from each generation of PlayStation.

His Favorite Games From Each Generation

PlayStation 1: ‘Ridge Racer’ 1994

PlayStation CEO

PlayStation 1 was the very first console developed under the banner of Sony PlayStation. It essentially gave birth to the gaming phenomenon of 3D gaming. Ridge Racer was among the first two titles released for the console.

“I and most people were like, ‘Wow, this is really different and a really fun and enjoyable game to play.’ It set the standard for much of what was to follow in that generation.” — Ryan about the game.

Ridge Racer was originally developed by Namco for its Namco System 22 arcade system board but was later ported to the PlayStation console for its launch. Ridge Racer is indeed regarded as a trailblazer for subsequent racing game titles. It was highly acclaimed at the time for its new and improved 3D graphics and texture mapping. It consistently ranks among the greatest hits for PlayStation and the racing genre in general.

PlayStation 2: ‘Grand Theft Auto 3’ 2001

PlayStation CEO

“That was just such a transformative title for that generation and as a cultural moment. It’s had a huge and lasting impact on the gaming industry and certainly on PlayStation.” — Ryan

Grand Theft Auto 3 was a milestone that is still looked back upon as the moment in the gaming industry’s history that changed the course forever. Developed by Rockstar Games, one of the pioneers of the industry, the game is known to have revolutionized the open-world and narrative-driven style of gaming. The franchise continues to reach new heights with each release, promising to elevate the experience even further with their upcoming title, Grand Theft Auto VI, expected to be released in 2025.

The PlayStation 2 console is considered one of the best gaming consoles ever. It was recently voted as the ‘Best Video Game Console Of All Time’ in a poll.

PlayStation 3: ‘Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’ 2007

PlayStation CEO

PlayStation 3 marked a significant leap forward in technology and graphics compared to its predecessor generations. This advancement is evident in games like Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. It was the very first title in the famous mystery-exploration-puzzle-adventure genre, with aspects reminiscent of the Indiana Jones type of storyline.

“Technology at this point was starting to enable storytelling and narrative and emotion in a different way from anything that had been possible hitherto. I’m very proud that that came from our own studio, Naughty Dog.” — Ryan.

The story of the franchise revolves around the character Drake, who is a treasure hunter and exploration expert. Drake embarks on different journeys to hunt and collect treasure from various parts of the world, accompanied by interesting companions.

 PS4: ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ 2018

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“That game was so amazing, and seemed to resonate so well with the PlayStation community. It set us up for takeoff in the second half of what was a really successful cycle.” — Jim

PlayStation 4 took the spectacular aspects of the PlayStation 3 and ran with them. The advancements in technology, graphics, and overall power of the console enabled developers to do so much more with games than they could before. This was due to the limitations in power and technology of previous generations. PlayStation 4 simply allowed game creators to be as creative as they wanted and deliver games as they envisioned, without many constraints.

One of the games and characters that received justice is your very own friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.

Insomniac’s Marvel Spider-Man in 2018 was the game that fans of the character had always hoped for. As fans of the character, they wanted to experience the thrill of freely roaming around the city and places using web-slinging. Unfortunately, none of the previous games quite captured this experience satisfyingly. Some came close like 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but fans finally got what they had always wanted for the character in video games and more.

Insomniac delivered an amazing and heartfelt story encompassing themes of love, family, friendship, betrayal, power, and responsibility, complemented by stunning open-world environments, graphics, and fighting mechanics.

PlayStation 5: ‘God Of War Ragnarök’ 2022

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“It’s obviously a wonderful game, and was wonderfully critiqued. But it coincided with the time that we were finally able to start building enough PlayStation 5s. Things snowballed in a beautiful way.” – Jim

God of War: Ragnarök” is the continuation of the award-winning “God of War,” which was released back in 2018. The God of War franchise has spanned two decades, with the first game of the franchise released in March 2005.

The game incorporates and revolves around Greek mythology with a twist by the developers, Santa Monica Studio. The game franchise was revamped in 2018 with graphical and storyline updates, elevating it from the previous era of the franchise, which ended with the final game called God of War: Ascension, released back in 2013.

Finally, describing and summing up his overall experience during this long tenure, he said, “I’m just so grateful that I didn’t work in a boring industry.”

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Abdullah Jan
Abdullah Jan
Abdullah is a die-hard PlayStation fan and believes in Red Dead Redemption II supremacy. He is a storyteller himself, so his love for story-driven and realistic games is a no-brainer. He gives his two-cents on everything, he's that generous!

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