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The PlayStation (abbreviated as PS, commonly known as the PS1/PS one or its codename PSX) is a home video game console developed and marketed by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was released in Japan on 3 December 1994, in North America on 9 September 1995, in Europe on 29 September 1995, and in Australia on 15 November 1995. As a fifth-generation console, the PlayStation primarily competed with the Nintendo 64 and the Sega Saturn.
|Also known as
|Sony Computer Entertainment
|Home video game console
|1994–2006 (12 years)
|¥39,800, US$299, £299, F1,490, DM599
|WW: 23 March 2006
|R3000 @ 33.8688 MHz
|2 MB RAM, 1 MB VRAM
|16-bit, 24 channel ADPCM
|PlayStation controller, PlayStation Analog Joystick, Dual Analog Controller, DualShock
|PlayStation Link Cable
|Gran Turismo, 10.85 million shipped
Sony began developing the PlayStation after a failed venture with Nintendo to create a CD-ROM peripheral for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in the early 1990s. The console was primarily designed by Ken Kutaragi and Sony Computer Entertainment in Japan, while additional development was outsourced in the United Kingdom. An emphasis on 3D polygon graphics was placed at the forefront of the console's design. PlayStation game production was designed to be streamlined and inclusive, enticing the support of many third-party developers.
The console proved popular for its extensive game library, popular franchises, low retail price, and aggressive youth marketing which advertised it as the preferable console for adolescents and adults. Premier PlayStation franchises included Gran Turismo, Wipeout, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Metal Gear, Tekken, and Final Fantasy, all of which spawned numerous sequels. PlayStation games continued to sell until Sony ceased production of the PlayStation and its games on 23 March 2006—over eleven years after it had been released, and less than a year before the debut of the PlayStation 3. A total of 3,061 PlayStation games were released, with cumulative sales of 967 million units.
The PlayStation signalled Sony's rise to power in the video game industry. It received acclaim and sold strongly; in less than a decade, it became the first computer entertainment platform to ship over 100 million units. Its use of compact discs heralded the game industry's transition from cartridges. The PlayStation's success led to a line of successors, beginning with the PlayStation 2 in 2000. In the same year, Sony released a smaller and cheaper model, the PS one.
The PlayStation was conceived by Ken Kutaragi, a Sony executive who managed a hardware engineering division and was later dubbed "the Father of the PlayStation". Kutaragi's interest in working with video games stemmed from seeing his daughter play games on Nintendo's Famicom. Kutaragi convinced Nintendo to use his SPC-700 sound processor in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) through a demonstration of the processor's capabilities. His willingness to work with Nintendo derived from both his admiration of the Famicom and conviction in video game consoles becoming the main home-use entertainment systems. Although Kutaragi was nearly fired because he worked with Nintendo without Sony's knowledge, president Norio Ohga recognised the potential in Kutaragi's chip and decided to keep him as a protégé.
The inception of the PlayStation dates back to a 1988 joint venture between Nintendo and Sony. Nintendo had produced floppy disk technology to complement cartridges in the form of the Family Computer Disk System, and wanted to continue this complementary storage strategy for the SNES. Since Sony was already contracted to produce the SPC-700 sound processor for the SNES, Nintendo contracted Sony to develop a CD-ROM add-on, tentatively titled the "Play Station" or "SNES-CD". The PlayStation name had already been trademarked by Yamaha, but Nobuyuki Idei liked it so much that he agreed to acquire it for an undisclosed sum rather than search for an alternative.
Sony was keen to obtain a foothold in the rapidly expanding video game market. Having been the primary manufacturer of the ill-fated MSX home computer format, Sony had wanted to use their experience in consumer electronics to produce their own video game hardware. Although the initial agreement between Nintendo and Sony was about producing a CD-ROM drive add-on, Sony had also planned to develop a SNES-compatible Sony-branded console. This iteration was intended to be more of a home entertainment system, playing both SNES cartridges and a new CD format named the "Super Disc", which Sony would design. Under the agreement, Sony would retain sole international rights to every Super Disc game, giving them a large degree of control despite Nintendo's leading position in the video game market. Furthermore, Sony would also be the sole benefactor of licensing related to music and film software that it had been aggressively pursuing as a secondary application.
The Play Station was to be announced at the 1991 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. However, Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi was wary of Sony's increasing leverage at this point and deemed the original 1988 contract unacceptable upon realising it essentially handed Sony control over all games written on the SNES CD-ROM format. Although Nintendo was dominant in the video game market, Sony possessed a superior research and development department. Wanting to protect Nintendo's existing licensing structure, Yamauchi cancelled all plans for the joint Nintendo–Sony SNES CD attachment without telling Sony. He sent Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa (his son-in-law) and chairman Howard Lincoln to Amsterdam to form a more favourable contract with Dutch conglomerate Philips, Sony's rival. This contract would give Nintendo total control over their licences on all Philips-produced machines.
Kutaragi and Nobuyuki Idei, Sony's director of public relations at the time, learned of Nintendo's actions two days before the CES was due to begin. Kutaragi telephoned numerous contacts, including Philips, to no avail. On the first day of the CES, Sony announced their partnership with Nintendo and their new console, the Play Station. At 9 am on the next day, in what has been called "the greatest ever betrayal" in the industry, Howard Lincoln stepped onto the stage and revealed that Nintendo was now allied with Philips and would abandon their work with Sony.
Incensed by Nintendo's renouncement, Ohga and Kutaragi decided that Sony would develop their own console. Nintendo's contract-breaking was met with consternation in the Japanese business community, as they had broken an "unwritten law" of native companies not turning against each other in favour of foreign ones. Sony's American branch considered allying with Sega to produce a CD-ROM-based machine called the Sega Multimedia Entertainment System, but their board of directors in Tokyo vetoed the idea when American CEO Tom Kalinske presented them the proposal. Kalinske recalled them saying: "That's a stupid idea, Sony doesn't know how to make hardware. They don't know how to make software either. Why would we want to do this?" Sony halted their research, but decided to develop what it had developed with Nintendo and Sega into a console based on the SNES.
Despite the tumultuous events at the 1991 CES, negotiations between Nintendo and Sony were still ongoing. A deal was proposed: the Play Station would still have a port for SNES games, on the condition that it would still use Kutaragi's audio chip and that Nintendo would own the rights and receive the bulk of the profits. Roughly two hundred prototype machines were created, and some software entered development. Many within Sony were still opposed to their involvement in the video game industry, with some resenting Kutaragi for jeopardising the company. Kutaragi remained adamant that Sony not retreat from the growing industry and that a deal with Nintendo would never work. Knowing that it had to take decisive action, Sony severed all ties with Nintendo on 4 May 1992.
To determine the fate of the PlayStation project, Ohga chaired a meeting in June 1992, consisting of Kutaragi and several senior Sony board members. Kutaragi unveiled a proprietary CD-ROM-based system he had been secretly working on which played games with immersive 3D graphics. Kutaragi was confident that his LSI chip could accommodate one million logic gates, which exceeded the capabilities of Sony's semiconductor division at the time. Despite gaining Ohga's enthusiasm, there remained opposition from a majority present at the meeting. Older Sony executives also opposed it, who saw Nintendo and Sega as "toy" manufacturers. The opposers felt the game industry was too culturally offbeat and asserted that Sony should remain a central player in the audiovisual industry, where companies were familiar with one another and could conduct "civili[s]ed" business negotiations. After Kutaragi reminded him of the humiliation he suffered from Nintendo, Ohga retained the project and became one of Kutaragi's most staunch supporters.
Ohga shifted Kutaragi and nine of his team from Sony's main headquarters to Sony Music Entertainment Japan (SMEJ), a subsidiary of the main Sony group, so as to retain the project and maintain relationships with Philips for the MMCD development project. The involvement of SMEJ proved crucial to the PlayStation's early development as the process of manufacturing games on CD-ROM format was similar to that used for audio CDs, with which Sony's music division had considerable experience. While at SMEJ, Kutaragi worked with Epic/Sony Records founder Shigeo Maruyama and Akira Sato; both later became vice presidents of the division that ran the PlayStation business. Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) was jointly established by Sony and SMEJ to handle the company's ventures into the video game industry. On 27 October 1993, Sony publicly announced that it was entering the game console market with the PlayStation. According to Maruyama, there was uncertainty over whether the console should primarily focus on 2D, sprite-based graphics or 3D polygon graphics. After Sony witnessed the success of Sega's Virtua Fighter (1993) in Japanese arcades, the direction of the PlayStation became "instantly clear" and 3D polygon graphics became the console's primary focus. SCE president Teruhisa Tokunaka expressed gratitude for Sega's timely release of Virtua Fighter as it proved "just at the right time" that making games with 3D imagery was possible. Maruyama claimed that Sony further wanted to emphasize the new console's ability to utilize redbook audio from the CD-ROM format in its games alongside high quality visuals and gameplay.
Wishing to distance the project from the failed enterprise with Nintendo, Sony initially branded the PlayStation the "PlayStation X" (PSX). Sony formed their European division and North American division, known as Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) and Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), in January and May 1995. The divisions planned to market the new console under the alternative branding "PSX" following the negative feedback regarding "PlayStation" in focus group studies. Early advertising prior to the console's launch in North America referenced PSX, but the term was scrapped before launch. The console was not marketed with Sony's name in contrast to Nintendo's consoles. According to Phil Harrison, much of Sony's upper management feared that the Sony brand would be tarnished if associated with the console, which they considered a "toy".
Since Sony had no experience in game development, it had to rely on the support of third-party game developers. This was in contrast to Sega and Nintendo, which had versatile and well-equipped in-house software divisions for their arcade games and could easily port successful games to their home consoles. Recent consoles like the Atari Jaguar and 3DO suffered low sales due to a lack of developer support, prompting Sony to redouble their efforts in gaining the endorsement of arcade-savvy developers. A team from Epic Sony visited more than a hundred companies throughout Japan in May 1993 in hopes of attracting game creators with the PlayStation's technological appeal. Sony found that many disliked Nintendo's practices, such as favoring its own games over others. Through a series of negotiations, Sony acquired initial support from Namco, Konami, and Williams Entertainment, as well as 250 other development teams in Japan alone. Namco in particular was interested in developing for PlayStation since Namco rivalled Sega in the arcade market. Attaining these companies secured influential games such as Ridge Racer (1993) and Mortal Kombat 3 (1995), Ridge Racer being one of the most popular arcade games at the time, and it was already confirmed behind closed doors that it would be the PlayStation's first game by December 1993, despite Namco being a longstanding Nintendo developer. Namco's research managing director Shegeichi Nakamura met with Kutaragi in 1993 to discuss the preliminary PlayStation specifications, with Namco subsequently basing the Namco System 11 arcade board on PlayStation hardware and developing Tekken to compete with Virtua Fighter. The System 11 launched in arcades several months before the PlayStation's release, with the arcade release of Tekken in September 1994.
Despite securing the support of various Japanese studios, Sony had no developers of their own by the time the PlayStation was in development. This changed in 1993 when Sony acquired the Liverpudlian company Psygnosis (later renamed SCE Liverpool) for US$48 million, securing their first in-house development team. The acquisition meant that Sony could have more launch games ready for the PlayStation's release in Europe and North America. Ian Hetherington, Psygnosis' co-founder, was disappointed after receiving early builds of the PlayStation and recalled that the console "was not fit for purpose" until his team got involved with it. Hetherington frequently clashed with Sony executives over broader ideas; at one point it was suggested that a television with a built-in PlayStation be produced. In the months leading up to the PlayStation's launch, Psygnosis had around 500 full-time staff working on games and assisting with software development.
The purchase of Psygnosis marked another turning point for the PlayStation as it played a vital role in creating the console's development kits. While Sony had provided MIPS R4000-based Sony NEWS workstations for PlayStation development, Psygnosis employees disliked the thought of developing on these expensive workstations and asked Bristol-based SN Systems to create an alternative PC-based development system. Andy Beveridge and Martin Day, owners of SN Systems, had previously supplied development hardware for other consoles such as the Mega Drive, Atari ST, and the SNES. When Psygnosis arranged an audience for SN Systems with Sony's Japanese executives at the January 1994 CES in Las Vegas, Beveridge and Day presented their prototype of the condensed development kit, which could run on an ordinary personal computer with two extension boards. Impressed, Sony decided to abandon their plans for a workstation-based development system in favour of SN Systems's, thus securing a cheaper and more efficient method for designing software. An order of over 600 systems followed, and SN Systems supplied Sony with additional software such as an assembler, linker, and a debugger. SN Systems produced development kits for future PlayStation systems, including the PlayStation 2 and was bought out by Sony in 2005.
Sony strived to make game production as streamlined and inclusive as possible, in contrast to the relatively isolated approach of Sega and Nintendo. Phil Harrison, representative director of SCEE, believed that Sony's emphasis on developer assistance reduced most time-consuming aspects of development. As well as providing programming libraries, SCE headquarters in London, California, and Tokyo housed technical support teams that could work closely with third-party developers if needed. Sony did not favor its own over non-Sony products, unlike Nintendo; Peter Molyneux of Bullfrog Productions admired Sony's open-handed approach to software developers and lauded their decision to use PCs as a development platform, remarking that "[it was] like being released from jail in terms of the freedom you have". Another strategy that helped attract software developers was the PlayStation's use of the CD-ROM format instead of traditional cartridges. In contrast to other disc-reading consoles such as the 3DO, the PlayStation could quickly generate and synthesise data from the CD since it was an image-generation system, rather than a data-replay system. Nintendo cartridges were expensive to manufacture, and the company controlled all production, prioritizing its own games, while inexpensive compact disc manufacturing occurred at dozens of locations around the world.
The PlayStation's architecture and interconnectability with PCs was beneficial to many software developers. The use of the programming language C proved useful during the early stages of development as it safeguarded future compatibility of the machine should developers decide to make further hardware revisions. Sony used the free software GNU C compiler, also known as GCC, to guarantee short debugging times as it was already familiar to many programmers. Despite the inherent flexibility, some developers found themselves restricted due to the console's lack of RAM. While working on beta builds of the PlayStation, Molyneux observed that its MIPS processor was not "quite as bullish" compared to that of a fast PC and said that it took his team two weeks to port their PC code to the PlayStation development kits and another fortnight to achieve a four-fold speed increase. An engineer from Ocean Software, one of Europe's largest game developers at the time, thought that allocating RAM was a challenging aspect given the 3.5 megabyte restriction. Kutaragi said that while it would have been easy to double the amount of RAM for the PlayStation, the development team refrained from doing so to keep the retail cost down. Kutaragi saw the biggest challenge in developing the system to be balancing the conflicting goals of high performance, low cost, and being easy to program for, and felt he and his team were successful in this regard.
Its technical specifications were finalised in 1993 and its design during 1994. The PlayStation name and its final design were confirmed during a press conference on May 10, 1994, although the price and release dates had not been disclosed yet.
Sony released the PlayStation in Japan on 3 December 1994, a week after the release of the Sega Saturn, at a price of ¥39,800. Sales in Japan began with a "stunning" success with long queues in shops. Ohga later recalled that he realized how important PlayStation had become for Sony when friends and relatives begged for consoles for their children. PlayStation sold 100,000 units on the first day and two million units within six months, although the Saturn outsold the PlayStation in the first few weeks due to the success of Virtua Fighter. By the end of 1994, 300,000 PlayStation units were sold in Japan compared to 500,000 Saturn units. A grey market emerged for PlayStations shipped from Japan to North America and Europe, with buyers of such consoles paying up to £700.
"When September 1995 arrived and Sony's Playstation roared out of the gate, things immediately felt different than [sic] they did with the Saturn launch earlier that year. Sega dropped the Saturn $100 to match the Playstation's $299 debut price, but sales weren't even close—Playstations flew out the door as fast as we could get them in stock.
Before the release in North America, Sega and Sony presented their consoles at the first Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles on 11 May 1995. At their keynote presentation, Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske revealed that its Saturn console would be released immediately to select retailers at a price of $399. Next came Sony's turn: Olaf Olafsson, the head of SCEA, summoned Steve Race, the head of development, to the conference stage, who said "$299" and left the audience with a round of applause. The attention to the Sony conference was further bolstered by the surprise appearance of Michael Jackson and the showcase of highly anticipated games, including Wipeout (1995), Ridge Racer and Tekken (1994). In addition, Sony announced that no games would be bundled with the console.
Although the Saturn had released early in the United States to gain an advantage over the PlayStation, the surprise launch upset many retailers who were not informed in time, harming sales. Some retailers such as KB Toys responded by dropping the Saturn entirely. The PlayStation went on sale in North America on 9 September 1995. It sold more units within two days than the Saturn had in five months, with almost all of the initial shipment of 100,000 units sold in advance and shops across the country running out of consoles and accessories. The well-received Ridge Racer contributed to the PlayStation's early success, with some critics considering it superior to Sega's arcade counterpart Daytona USA (1994). There were over 100,000 pre-orders placed and 17 games available on the market by the time of the PlayStation's American launch, in comparison to the Saturn's six launch games.
The PlayStation released in Europe on 29 September 1995 and in Australia on 15 November 1995. By November it had already outsold the Saturn by three to one in the United Kingdom, where Sony had allocated a £20 million marketing budget during the Christmas season compared to Sega's £4 million. Sony found early success in the United Kingdom by securing listings with independent shop owners as well as prominent High Street chains such as Comet and Argos. Within its first year, the PlayStation secured over 20% of the entire American video game market. From September to the end of 1995, sales in the United States amounted to 800,000 units, giving the PlayStation a commanding lead over the other fifth-generation consoles, though the SNES and Mega Drive from the fourth generation still outsold it. Sony reported that the attach rate of sold games and consoles was four to one. To meet increasing demand, Sony chartered jumbo jets and ramped up production in Europe and North America. By early 1996, the PlayStation had grossed $2 billion (equivalent to $3.732 billion 2022) from worldwide hardware and software sales. By late 1996, sales in Europe totalled 2.2 million units, including 700,000 in the UK. Approximately 400 PlayStation games were in development, compared to around 200 games being developed for the Saturn and 60 for the Nintendo 64.
In India, the PlayStation was launched in test market during 1999–2000 across Sony showrooms, selling 100 units. Sony finally launched the console (PS One model) countrywide on 24 January 2002 with the price of Rs 7,990 and 26 games available from start.
Marketing success and later years
The PlayStation was backed by a successful marketing campaign, allowing Sony to gain an early foothold in Europe and North America. Initially, PlayStation demographics were skewed towards adults, but the audience broadened after the first price drop. While the Saturn was positioned towards 18- to 34-year-olds, the PlayStation was initially marketed exclusively towards teenagers. Executives from both Sony and Sega reasoned that because younger players typically looked up to older, more experienced players, advertising targeted at teens and adults would draw them in too. Additionally, Sony found that adults reacted best to advertising aimed at teenagers; Lee Clow surmised that people who started to grow into adulthood regressed and became "17 again" when they played video games. The console was marketed with advertising slogans stylised as "LIVE IN YUR WRLD. PLY IN URS" and "U R NOT E" (red E). Clow thought that by invoking such provocative statements, gamers would respond to the contrary and say "'Bullshit. Let me show you how ready I am.'" As the console's appeal enlarged, Sony's marketing efforts broadened from their earlier focus on mature players to specifically target younger children as well.
Shortly after the PlayStation's release in Europe, Sony tasked marketing manager Geoff Glendenning with assessing the desires of a new target audience. Sceptical over Nintendo and Sega's reliance on television campaigns, Glendenning theorised that young adults transitioning from fourth-generation consoles would feel neglected by marketing directed at children and teenagers. Recognising the influence early 1990s underground clubbing and rave culture had on young people, especially in the United Kingdom, Glendenning felt that the culture had become mainstream enough to help cultivate PlayStation's emerging identity. Sony partnered with prominent nightclub owners such as Ministry of Sound and festival promoters to organise dedicated PlayStation areas where demonstrations of select games could be tested. Sheffield-based graphic design studio The Designers Republic was contracted by Sony to produce promotional materials aimed at a fashionable, club-going audience. Psygnosis' Wipeout in particular became associated with nightclub culture as it was widely featured in venues. By 1997, there were 52 nightclubs in the United Kingdom with dedicated PlayStation rooms. Glendenning recalled that he had discreetly used at least £100,000 a year in slush fund money to invest in impromptu marketing.
In 1996, Sony expanded their CD production facilities in the United States due to the high demand for PlayStation games, increasing their monthly output from 4 million discs to 6.5 million discs. This was necessary because PlayStation sales were running at twice the rate of Saturn sales, and its lead dramatically increased when both consoles dropped in price to $199 that year. The PlayStation also outsold the Saturn at a similar ratio in Europe during 1996, with 2.2 million consoles sold in the region by the end of the year. Sales figures for PlayStation hardware and software only increased following the launch of the Nintendo 64. Tokunaka speculated that the Nintendo 64 launch had actually helped PlayStation sales by raising public awareness of the gaming market through Nintendo's added marketing efforts. Despite this, the PlayStation took longer to achieve dominance in Japan. Tokunaka said that, even after the PlayStation and Saturn had been on the market for nearly two years, the competition between them was still "very close", and neither console had led in sales for any meaningful length of time.
By 1998, Sega, encouraged by their declining market share and significant financial losses, launched the Dreamcast as a last-ditch attempt to stay in the industry. Although its launch was successful, the technically superior 128-bit console was unable to subdue Sony's dominance in the industry. Sony still held 60% of the overall video game market share in North America at the end of 1999. Sega's initial confidence in their new console was undermined when Japanese sales were lower than expected, with disgruntled Japanese consumers reportedly returning their Dreamcasts in exchange for PlayStation software. On 2 March 1999, Sony officially revealed details of the PlayStation 2, which Kutaragi announced would feature a graphics processor designed to push more raw polygons than any console in history, effectively rivalling most supercomputers. The PlayStation continued to sell strongly at the turn of the new millennium: in June 2000, Sony released the PSOne, a smaller, redesigned variant which went on to outsell all other consoles in that year, including the PlayStation 2. The combined successes of both PlayStation consoles led to Sega retiring the Dreamcast in 2001, and abandoning the console business entirely. The PlayStation was eventually discontinued on 23 March 2006—over eleven years after its release, and less than a year before the debut of the PlayStation 3.