“He who dies with the most Toys, wins!”
Unless you have been living under a rock, in the sewers, or you’re one of those individuals who was born during the 90’s (goddamn Millennials!), you may have not been aware of the infamous date – September 9, 1995.
Said date, like many tremendous events in pop culture history, was the day that Sony launched its first Gaming console within the United States, known to most gaming enthusiast as the PlayStation!
Now, prior to discussing the venerable console’s arrival, let’s take a look back at how this system and brand name came to be.
What began originally as a joint project between Nintendo and Sony to create a CD-ROM for the Super Famicom circa 1988 was trashed when Nintendo had a sudden change of heart by denying the existence of the Sony deal. As late as March 1991, Sony revealed a Super Famicom with a built-in CD-ROM drive that incorporated the technology that is CD-i, codenamed “Play Station” (also known as SNES-CD) at the Consumer Electronics Show around June 1991.
But a day after the announcement at CES, Nintendo announced that it would be breaking its partnership with Sony, opting to go with Philips instead, however using the same technology. The deal was broken by Nintendo after they were unable to come to an agreement on how revenue would be split between the two companies, as in Nintendo wanting most of the profits and revenues from the proposed console.
As a result of ill-fated partnership, Sony- president Norio Ohga was pissed and responded via appointing Kutaragi with the task of developing the PlayStation project to rival that of Nintendo.
I guess the “N” in Nintendo, also stands for Nincompoops, Numbskulls and Nimrods. Who would’ve thunk that those stubborn pricks were the catalyst for Sony’s huge success?
3D or not 3D? That is the answer!
Many within the company (older generation executives) were skeptical about the ongoing PlayStation project to begin with. Also, there was uncertainty over whether the console should primarily focus on 2D sprite graphics or 3D polygon graphics. It was only after witnessing the success of SEGA’s Virtua Fighter in Japanese arcades that “the direction of the PlayStation became instantly clear” and 3D polygon graphics became the console’s primary focus.
It seems that AMD’s Yu Suzuki had also played a significant role in regards to Sony Playstation’s business model.
The Price was Right!
Now fast forward to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) as Sony held its first PlayStation keynote speech as a means to promote their upcoming product that would soon shake the gaming world to its knees.
After SEGA had announced the botched surprise release of the expensive yet under-powered Saturn, at a whopping $399.00 MSRP, the marketing strategists at Sony decided to undercut them via a $100.00 markdown.
After an impressive roster of games that, for the most part, came from Japan, it was all downhill for Sega and uphill for Sony as they had emerged the victor thanks to an impressive library and the more impressive (at the time when gourd shading and texture mapping were a big deal) capabilities of the PlayStation.
RED-e or U R not, here it comes!
“Remember, remember the Ninth of September!”
After waiting four months post- E3 announcement, I was one of the many who waited in line to be an early adopter of Sony’s console that was heavily marketed with ads like “eNoS Lives” (The first letter ‘E’ was printed in red to emphasize the word, ready. Enos stood for Ready, Ninth of September) and my personal favorite “U R Not e” (You Are Not Ready).
Well, after standing in line for 3 hours at “Electronics Boutique”, I was more than ready! During the wait, some reporter for a news network had interviewed a few people and I was one of the “lucky” contestants. I remember telling the journalist how the PSX will change how we view video games and that it will surpass the competitors.
Well, I guess u called it.
The system sales were a phenomenal success to say in the least. From then on, Sony’s lil’ Grey Box became a brand name. Many companies were quick to sign on for development of PSX games and I’m talking about the hard-hitters like Namco, Taito, Midway, and eventually Konami and Capcom!
Here were the games I got during and after the Playstation launch (I had to sell off my other consoles and games just to get this shit!):
- Twisted Metal
- Battle Arena Toshinden
These were the games that I remembered playing the most during the first two quarters post launch. I didn’t care for that Rabbit game. Too silly for my tastes. The nimble controller took some getting used to but it’s quite adaptable for 3D-gaming.
Sony was perhaps the first company to secure exclusives from third party developers, like the now defunct Midway Games who they brokered a deal to release the critically praised Mortal Kombat 3 over a year before it would arrive for the SEGA Saturn.
Although shrewd, it was an efficient strategy that paid off, not to mention how many developers bailed out of making games for the Saturn as it was too complicated to program games for due to its chipset.
Although the Saturn is more capable of handling 2D Games than the PSX, many had found it more convenient when developing games and with exclusives such as the aforementioned Mortal Kombat 3, this led more consumers to purchase the PSX while opting out of getting a Saturn. PSX became the console of choice!
Well played Sony, well played.
All that is Grey….
Despite the phenomenal sales of the console during the 1st quarter of launch, the PSX had its share of problems, most notably its optical disc drive failure rate had resulted in a huge rate of consumers returning the consoles for a replacement. While others were desperate to turn the console upside down in order to play the game discs…
1996 proved to be another banner year for PlayStation thanks to two incredible new franchises that were tailor made for this system:
Tomb Raider – An Indiana Jones inspired adventure game that incorporates platforming, shooting, and exploration. What’s also interesting is that the protagonist, Lara Croft, helped to push the boundaries of female action leads in gaming.
Then there is my favorite, Resident Evil!
Another videogame inspired by another film within cinematic history – Night of the Living Dead.
In Resident Evil, you play as either protagonist Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, who investigate gruesome murders that eventually lead to unraveling a bloody trail of conspiracies! RE was without a doubt, my favorite PSX game at the time and rightfully so, thanks in part to the claustrophobic atmosphere, scary ass sound effects and a chilling soundtrack.
This was the game Romero and Fulci wished that they could have made (Well, Romero at least. Lucio Fulci had passed months prior to the game’s launch).
Games like these helped solidify Sony’s hold when it came to dominating the market share of consoles and software.
Also of note, Konami’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the critically acclaimed reboot that is Metal Gear Solid! The latter title was not just some game, but an incredible experience that proved video games can be just as entertaining as a major motion picture.
20 Years later
Eventually Sony went on to develop a few successors to the PSX starting with the PlayStation 2, which now included an optical DVD drive enabling it to play other physical media such as movies (this innovative technology was the catalyst for declining sales of the Dreamcast and soon after SEGA abandoned the hardware business).
Sony didn’t stop there either, the introduction of the PlayStation 3 had ushered their latest proprietary physical media format (Blu-ray) that can hold 10x more data than a standard DVD and in higher definition as well.
Said format is now used in players as well as competing consoles like the Xbox One. PlayStation 4 is now a huge system seller that continues to gain momentum over its rivals and from the looks of it, the brand is here to stay for a very long time!
Do you have any fond memories, experiences, or favorite games from the PlayStation line?
If so, feel free to drop them in the comments section below.