As the saying goes, “Rome wasn't built in a day.” The history of the PlayStation has been fraught with mishaps and triumphs, from being a newcomer in the videogame industry to emerging as a global phenomenon. With sales cumulativelyamounting to more than 342,000,000 units worldwide, the PlayStation is the #1 bestselling brand in the videogame industry. How did it get to where it is today? Before we get to that, let's take a look into where it all began.
Long ago, back in the golden age of Sega vs. Nintendo, Sega designed an add-on peripheral for the Genesis called the Sega CD as a means to outsell the SNES. To combat this new threat, Nintendo turned to Sony to assist in developing a console that would play cartridges and CDs, dubbed the Nintendo Play Station.Nintendo would supply the cartridges, while Sony supplied the CD-ROMs. Unfortunately, there were some disagreements as to splitting the profits that would come from the partnership, and with the emergence of CD-ROMs and their enormous potential of being the future, it was clear that Sony would be granted more control and profit over the sales. It was claimed by The Official PlayStationMuseum that this had alarmed Nintendo, and they did not want Sony to have the upper hand, so in a stunning turn of events, a day after the Nintendo Play Station was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show, they announced to the world that they were going to split up their partnership with Sony and join forces with Phillips instead. This made Sony furious, and little did Nintendo know that their betrayal would change the course of history forever. Fueled by the backlash, Sony went ahead and designed a console of their own, one that would directly compete with Nintendo and Sega's own offerings. On October 1993, Sony announced that they were working on a new 32-bit game console,codenamed the PlayStation X, or PSX. The architect spearheading this project was Ken Kutaragi, who would later be known as the “Father of the PlayStation.” At first, Sony's new foray into the videogame industry was met with heavy skepticism. Many developers believed that they would fail. Nintendo had a slew of popular franchises in its arsenal: Mario, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and Metroid. Sega had Sonic. In contrast, Sony had nothing. Not wanting to be outclassed by Nintendo or Sega, Sony went on a massive campaign to recruit 3rd party developers in making games for their system with the likes of major publishers such as Electronic Arts, Namco, Konami, Capcom, Square Soft, and many others. The PlayStation was launched in September 1995 at $300. Initially, sales of the system were sluggish,selling only 800,000 units within its first year. That all changed when in 1997, Square Soft, one of the biggest publishers in the industry, released Final Fantasy VII. Widely referred to as the game that sold the PlayStation, FFVII was a huge success, selling over 10 million copies. It was an important title for many reasons. Not only did it make the PlayStation the #1 system and make plenty of money for Sony, it also enticed many 3rd party developers to flock towards designing games for the system, leaving both Nintendo and Sega in the dust.
In 2000, Sony released the PlayStation 2, which was larger and more powerful than the original PlayStation and came equipped with the Emotion Engine chip. It was purposely named as such to emphasize the PlayStation 2's graphical capabilities. Sony boasted that it was so powerful that it could produce Toy Story quality graphics and allow characters to convey emotion never before seen in a videogame. It also had backwards compatibility, meaning it could play PlayStation games as well as games for the PlayStation 2. Expectations were high, and as many as 1 million pre-orders were made. It was such a hot item that many people camped outside stores awaiting the PlayStation 2's release. Despite Sony's issues in keeping up with the high demand,the PlayStation 2 was a massive success, and went on to sell 150 million units, easily surpassing its predecessor and making it the best selling console of all time. Thanks to the PlayStation 2, a billion dollar industry had been born.
But sometimes even an empire that may seem infallible can make mistakes, mistakes so costly that it could topple their dominance in the console war. In 2006, Sony released the PlayStation 3. Priced at $600, it was marketed as a videogame console designed to replace the PC. Many of its features included a Blu-Ray player, a powerful super-chip called the Cell processor which was developed by IBM, and a hard drive. Sony poured a whopping 2 billion dollars into designing and marketing the console. However, that investment would later turn out to be a costly mistake, and a string of woes were soon to follow. During its launch, there were problems with manufacturing and only half of the planned 1 million units were rolled out. Games like Resistance and Lair failed to utilize the powerful Cell processor and received mixed reactions from critics, there were numerous controversies surrounding whether the console's graphics were gameplay or prerendered, sales were behind expectations, and because of the console's steep price, Sony was bleeding money, losing $200 per unit. Many developers bashed the system, saying that it was too complex and expensive. Lawsuits left and right were filed against Sony. In 2011, the PlayStation Network was hacked, and 77 million accounts were compromised. It was by far one of the biggest disasters the industry had ever seen, and for a time Sony was made its whipping boy. Despite the number of setbacks,Sony quickly learned from their mistakes and was eventually able to turn their fortunes around. Sales that were once lagging began to pick up, profits were being made, and many classics such as The Last of Us and Journey received high praise. By the time the PlayStation 4 launched, Sony had sold well over 80 million units.
Not wanting to repeat the same mistakes it did with the PlayStation 3, Sony appointed Mark Cerny, one of the most respected game designers in the world, to oversee the hardware design of the PlayStation 4. To make this work, he and his team gathered the opinions of developers from across the world, something never done before under the old PlayStation regime. In February 2013, Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4 at a press conference, using the moniker “Greatness Awaits” as the centerpiece of its marketing campaign. It was similar to its older brother with some added new features, such as the Share Play function, voice control, live broadcasting, and the ability to share a second screen with tablets, smartphones, and the PS Vita. 9 months later, the PlayStation 4 was released. It was the most successful launch of any console to date, selling more than 1 million within 24 hours. By August 2014, it was able to surpass the 10 million mark, cementing its position as the flagship console.
Being enjoyed by millions worldwide,the PlayStation brand has become a household name that's been known by the world over. It was able to transform the videogames business from a niche market into multi-billion dollar industry. The sheer multitude of factors that play into Sony's favor - powerful hardware,robust development tools, a solid online infrastructure, the strength of the PlayStation brand, the enormous wealth of third party/indie support, not to mention that they command some of the very best in-house talent in the industry, there is a reason why the PlayStation brand reigns supreme as the #1 console brand today.