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Chris Deering looks back at Sony

Ex-Sony exec dodges PS paternity test

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Chris DeeringTechscape "Sony is like Disney without the devices," Chris Deering told me not long ago.

Known to some as "The Father of the PlayStation", Deering stepped down from Sony recently, where he was president of Sony Europe and chairman/CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE). At last count, Sony Europe accounted for 24 per cent of Sony sales globally.

Deering tried to dissuade me that he was really the "father" of the PlayStation.

"Ken Kuteragi is the 'father' for sure. The games business is really about the software."

But Chris Deering is the consumer marketer who made sure the PlayStation (PS) and PSP sold. And it did. Conservative estimates put the rough numbers at more than 75 million PlayStation units (PS-1 and PS-2) sold in Europe yielding an estimated €30bn euros to Sony. Remember, this is Europe alone and does not include the released recently PSP.

A product of the Harvard Business School, Deering worked at Gillette and McKinsey before becoming VP at games software maker Atari. In 1985 became a senior VP at Columbia Pictures. In 1990, Deering became EVP and COO of Columbia/Tristar International, later renamed Sony Pictures Entertainment.

"I was working for Sony Pictures and was introduced to Ken Kuteragi. He told me 'that the games behemoths don't take Europe very seriously; that they milk it through various distribution channels.' So I told him, let me take over the games in Europe."

Kuteragi's next move was to challenge Deering: "Why? You'll never get it over 60 per cent of the US games sales?"

"I thought we could and we eventually did with both PS-1 and PS-2," Deering recalls.

Deering started building "successes from hitchhiking on the Sony Pictures product". Ghostbusters, he says was a "good example of cross-over commercial downstream exploitation."

Can Deering be criticised for creating a gaming phenomenon which takes children away from their parents, leaving them isolated and vulnerable? Or, should he be praised for giving these kids something to do?

"In a generous sense," Deering says, "you could say both are true. But the PlayStation was really just an updated delivery system - kids were playing games long before PS. Look, different countries have different cultural nuances. In Germany for instance, it's not desirable to let guests in your home see a games console under your TV. Games arcades were by bus stations and train stations in dangerous parts of town and games shooting people is not considered a positive thing to bring into the home."

So where and when did things turnaround in gaming?

"I think it started when the educational component sprang to life at the Broderbunds of the world." Deering becomes excited at this point. "'Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?' was great. I met Doug Carlston (Broderbund founder) and thought he was running a great company."

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