15 Years of PlayStation: The PS1

Part One of an ongoing series looking back over the life of the PlayStation brand during the 15th Anniversary Celebration in North America (Part Two – The PS2) (Part Three – The PSP) (Part Four – The PS3)

September 9, 1995 – the beginning of a new era in gaming as Sony launches the PlayStation in North America. Granted, the syatem launched in Japan in December 1994 but SCEA is celebrating the 15th Anniversary now with a number of sales and giveaways on the PlayStation Store and in PlayStation Home. With that in mind, let’s dive right in with where it all began.

Born out of a failed partnership with Nintendo, the origins of the PlayStation One (as it was later known) have become the stuff of legend. Sony entered into an agreement with Nintendo back in 1986 to create a CD-ROM add on for the Super Famicom (SNES) but after the debut of the system at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1991, Nintendo dropped Sony and announced a partnership with Phillips instead.

Over the reluctance of many Board members, Ken Kutaragi the “Father of the PlayStation” eventually convinced the President of Sony to continue with the project and they were moved out of the main corporate offices to form Sony Computer Entertainment.

The use of the CD-ROM and ability to create 3D polygonal graphics drew the interest of a number of game developers and helped launch the original PlayStation to much fanfare. I remember walking in to a Toys R Us in September 1995 and seeing two kids playing Wipeout. I was blown away by the sense of speed and gorgeous graphics (for the time). I had already soured on Sega having been burned earlier that year with the 32X and after seeing this new machine in action, I was ready to jump ship.

At the time, Sega was in a free fall as sales of the Sega Saturn dragged along at a terrible pace. Fearing the competition from Sony, Sega decided to add a second processor to the Saturn late in the development cycle making the system much more difficult for developers to work with. Sega also made a critical mistake in surprising everyone during E3 in May 1995 (including key retailers) with a change in their launch date from September 3, 1995 to May 11, 1995. Many retailers, developers and consumers were caught unprepared and the $399 price point (versus $299 for the PlayStation) didn’t help either.

Nintendo was also taking a lot of flack from developers for continuing on with a cartridge based system in the Nintendo 64 while everyone else was moving on to the cheaper CD-ROM format. Sony was poised to make a big splash with their first entry into the world of video games and they did just that.

The PlayStation was a juggernaut selling over 100,000 units during its first week in North America compared to the Saturn’s 80,000 over the five months prior. It went on to sell over 102 Million units over the next ten years. During this time, we’d see the launch of the Gran Turismo and Twisted Metal franchises, PlayStation’s unofficial mascot Crash Bandicoot from a young development house called Naughty Dog, the much heralded and beloved RPG Final Fantasy VII, Silent Hill, PaRappa, Spyro, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Jet Moto, Riiiidge Racer and the list goes on and on. As of 2007, the software library had reached 7918 titles worldwide which sold over 962 million units.

The hardware itself had a number of revisions over the years including going from the original controller to an analog controller in 1996 to the more familiar twin stick Dual Analog controller in ’97 and then finally the DualShock in ’98 which added force feedback… and you thought the SixAxis to DualShock 3 was bad?!? The system itself was also redesigned and relaunched as the PSOne alongside the PlayStation 2 in late 2005.

Sony’s first foray into the Video Game business was a huge success and showed that they were a force to be reckoned with as the upstart outsold established players Sega and Nintendo combined by a more than 2 to 1 margin. But something even bigger loomed just over the horizon… the PlayStation 2.

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