I am quite tough on myself. Never completely satisfied. Always trying to think of ways to deliver better results.”
The harsh taste of soap must still haunt Chris Deering.
As a child in New York, his strict, church-going Italian mother stuffed his mouth with turgid-tasting saponified fat whenever she believed he’d told a fib.
It’s a lesson that the closest thing the European games industry has ever had to a ‘father’ has never forgotten. And a cornerstone principal of his astonishingly successful career.
I never schemed to get promoted,” he says. But I always tried to be the best I could be in confronting my responsibilities.”
If his mother enforced a healthy respect for honesty and a benign disposition, it was her other half who can be credited with instilling Deering’s insatiable hunger for triumph – which would later inspire him to launch the most successful console in the history of our little business.
From the very first day of PlayStation in Europe, even before it was clear that we would beat Sega Saturn, I was plotting and planning how to make it possible for PS2 to win the second gold medal,” he enthuses.
I still pinch myself when I think that both PSOne and PS2 have installed over 40 million units in the PAL territories. Gravity has been defied.”
But the picture Deering paints of his father is not one of a demanding, high-powered, never-there business head. It is of a man with an impeccable moral code and love for hard graft; lessons which obviously had a salutary effect on his young offspring.
My father emigrated from Germany to New York at age 18,” explains Deering. He was in the catering trade and ended up managing the dining halls at Harvard University. When we finally got a car, we washed it on the street every three days. I had no allowance, so every penny I wanted to spend on myself had to be earned first. It is a tremendous motivator.”
That motivation took Deering through the ranks at Gillette in the late ‘70s, but his destiny was always in electronic entertainment.
The first recipient of his genius was Atari. Slipping into the role of VP of marketing back in 1981, he turned heads with inventive campaigns for the $350 million firm. Two years later, he moved on to Spinnaker Software – showing an intention to become a votary for gaming technology.
Deering upped sticks yet again in 1985 for his spiritual home: Sony. Over ten years as senior VP of sales and marketing – and executive VP and COO – for Sony Pictures, he steered the division to a massive $450 million profit.
Yet despite the sort of achievements that would leave lesser men ecstatic with their lot, bigger and better things were still on the cards. Deering’s appointment as president and CEO of SCEE in 1995 provided the perfect platform for his greatest ever feat.
By launching PlayStation in September that year, Deering single-handedly changed the face of gaming. Not bad for a man whose family couldn’t afford a car or television for the first 14 years of his life.
PS2 followed five years later – thrusting gaming into millions of alien hands at a time when ‘Wii’ was but a puerile euphemism.
Deering’s appetite for a challenge was obviously in his genes. And, as he candidly explains, his reign at PlayStation was not without its frustrations – and disagreements.
My biggest ever challenge was getting Sony to believe that PlayStation could be a community online and a source to ‘Play’ linear as well as game content,” he reveals. Ken Kutaragi (whom Chris greatly admires –
) always believed in online gameplay, but community was not on the map prior to MySpace and Facebook.
We had a secret test program in Europe back in 1997 on PSOne, running a black and white text-based, moderator-led community chat group with a special box called ‘Net-Station’ that hooked up PCs to the TV. Nick Parker ran it. The project codename was ‘Moccasin 5′. I have no idea where it came from.
Then, at Sony Europe, we worked on a PS2 concept called ‘Central Station’ which was planned to stream its own PlayStation TV channel, back in 2002. This was four years ahead of YouTube. But uptake in broadband and wireless routers took longer to reach mass market levels than we expected, and we couldn’t get other regions of the Sony PlayStation world to buy in.”
Deering was rewarded with the presidency of Sony Europe in 2004, where he continued his remarkable accomplishments, reducing fixed overheads of the colossal firm by $250 million. It was here that he was finally venerated with the BAFTA Interactive Industry Award for lifetime contribution to games – an apposite honour for a man who has dedicated his existence to the evolution of the industry.
He may have since left Sony, but his natural desire to remain at the forefront of new technology hasn’t waned. Deering still presides over a handful of major players, including his seat in the board at IGA and, of course, Codemasters.
As chairman of Codemasters, I am truly inspired,” he says. The approach to A&R and greenlighting is unique and very professional. The management team are all pros who are very streetwise. After Ken Kutaragi, Rod Cousens is the second hardest-working guy I have ever known. Codies has a terrific new-gen engine and the resources to double in size every two years. I am quite busy in retirement, but I like it that way. It keeps me young at heart.”
There is still one accomplishment that still occasionally evades Deering, however. But it’s one he’s gaining ground on – and which his tenacity for private equilibrium won’t let him forget.
I need to achieve a better balance of personal pursuits alongside helping others’ businesses,” he says. Live music is my passion.
"My daughter is in A&R, so I should hang out more with her world. My wife Jane and I are fixing up our original family home near Boston, so I will also be spending some more time there.”
With a scroll of record-breaking exploits behind him and passion, drive and ambition to burn, Chris Deering is an inspiration to us all.
Put simply, he has elevated the prospects of what the global video games industry can achieve. That’s an honest fact.
No soap required.
CHRIS DEERING – CV
2006 – Present:
IGA Worldwide, Board Director
Handheld Learning, Board Director
Jalipo, Board Director
2006 and 2007:
Edinburgh Interactive Festival, Chairman
2004 – 2005:
Sony Europe, President
1995 – 2005:
Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, President and CEO
1985 – 1995:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, SVP of Sales & Marketing (1985 1990)/Executive VP and COO (1991-1995)
1983 – 1985:
Spinnaker Software, Vice President
1981 – 1983:
Atari, VP Marketing, International
1979 – 1981:
Gillette, European Division, Marketing Director
1977 – 1979:
Gillette, International Division Marketing Director
1973 – 1976:
Gillette, Senior Product Manager