The machine hit Japanese shelves on 3 December 1994, barely a week after Sega’s rival Saturn console. But with its powerful hardware, geared toward real-time 3D graphics, and imaginative marketing, it was the Sony machine that triumphed.
To kick off a week of coverage, here are 20 facts about the first PlayStation that you may not know (or can argue about the accuracy of in the comments section). Enjoy!
1. Widely known as the father of PlayStation, Sony engineer Ken Kuturagi kicked off his video game career designing the revolutionary SPC700 sound chip for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).
2. In 1991, Sony revealed that it was working on a new version of the SNES, complete with a CD-ROM drive - it was to be called the “Play Station”. However, Nintendo pulled out of the partnership, and Sony’s enraged president Norio Ohga instructed his engineers to keep working on the technology. The resulting PlayStation console was announced in 1993, under its working title, PS-X.
3. In the early ‘90s, Sony also discussed the possibility of developing a console with Sega of America, mostly because its US software development team, Sony Imagesoft, was already making games for the Sega Mega CD console. However, Sega of Japan’s managers refused to consider the deal.
4. In the 80s and early 90s, most consoles came with flat joypads. However, Teiyu Goto, the creator of the iconic two-handled PlayStation controller, felt that the three dimensional design matched the 3D visuals of the games. Many managers within Sony were resistant to the concept, but Goto had the support of Sony president and keen pilot Norio Ohga, who liked the device because it reminded him of an airplane control wheel.
5. Goto also abandoned the traditional practise of labeling joypad buttons with sequential letters. He instead used four symbols: the triangle represents the player’s view point, the square represents a piece of paper (for menus or other in-game documents), and the O and X buttons respectively represent “yes/right” or “no/wrong” options – this was reversed in Western territories, so that the X button became the de facto “move ahead/action” option.
6. Sony updated the PlayStation hardware several times over its lifespan, removing defunct or expensive features to cut down on production costs. The earlier SCPH-1001 model featured seperate RCA output jacks for video and sound and some reckon it is one of the best audio CD players ever made.
7. The PlayStation saw a number of novelty controllers during its lifetime, including the huge PlayStation Analog Joystick, released in 1996 to accompany the mech battle game Armoured Core, and the official PlayStation mouse for strategy games. Officially endorsed third-party peripherals included Agetec’s Bass Landing fishing rod (which adventurous players also used with fighting games) and the bizarre Namco NeGcon controller, with a twisty middle section designed for racing titles.
8. The PlayStation launched for 37,000 yen and only 100,000 units were distributed to 4000 stores throughout Japan, selling out instantly. A further 200,000 were sold before the end of the month. At the time, however, Sega’s rival Saturn machine outperformed the Sony console, shifting 200,000 units on its 22 November launch day.
9. There were eight PlayStation games available on day one, including two mahjong titles, a train simulator and the genuine killer app, a version of Namco’s arcade driving sim Ridge Racer. The game ran a playable version of classic shooter Galaxian while it loaded, an idea suggested by producer Yozo Sakagami who once worked on - yes - Galaxian. Players who managed to shoot all the aliens, were rewarded with extra cars to drive in Ridge Racer itself.
10. The first major Sony-developed game was Motor Toon Grand Prix by a small team called Poly’s. It would go on to become Polyphony Digital, creator of the legendary Gran Turismo series.
11. In 1994, Namco also developed an arcade board named System 11, which was based on the prototype PlayStation specifications. The first major title to use the board was the fighting game Tekken, which originated as a test program to experiment with texture-mapped polygonal characters. It would later become a key PlayStation hit.
12. The PlayStation was the second major console to offer external memory cards for game saves – the first being SNK’s Neo Geo machine launched in 1990. However, while the Neo Geo’s card offered just 2k of storage, the PlayStation’s had 128k, separated into 15 “save” blocks.
13. Before the US launch of the PlayStation in 1995, head of Atari, Sam Tramiel, threatened to report Sony to the International Trade Commission if it launched the console for less than $300. Seeking to defend his own Jaguar console, he said “You can’t have the Japanese consumer paying a fattened dollar price, then subsidise the product and dump it in the United States for $249 and kill the U.S. manufacturers. It’s against the law.” Sony launched for $299 anyway.
14. In 1997, Sony released the Net Yaroze, a programmable version of the PlayStation, which allowed users to create their own games. Many current developers got their first break with the machine, including Mitsuru Kamiyama, whose homemade role-playing adventure Terra Incognita led to him working on the famed Final Fantasy series.
15. There were other rare variations on the PlayStation including a blue “debug” machine available only to game developers and a white version released in 1997 for the Asian market, which allowed users to play the VideoCD movie format. Later came a limited edition Midnight Blue edition created to celebrate 10m sales. An incredibly rare Men In Black version also exists, complete with the MiB logo on the disc lid.
16. Even rarer than that, in 2013, Sony sent a gold PS One to Minecraft creator Markus Perrson as an invitation to its VIP event at the E3 games conference.
17. The classic PlayStation TV advert “Double Life”, created by ad agency TBWA, was accepted into the prestigious Clio Hall of Fame in 2007. Inspired by the Rudyard Kipling poem, If, writer James Sinclair came up with the stirring monologue on the late train home from a lengthy brain-storming session. The ad was directed by Frank Budgen who would go on to make the hugely ambitious “Mountain” advert for PlayStation 2.
18. Launched in July 2000, the PSone, a substantially smaller and cheaper version of the PlayStation, went on to sell 28m units. It became the most successful console of the 2000 holiday season, easily beating the new PlayStation 2.
19. The best-selling game on PlayStation was the racing sim Gran Turismo shifting just over 10m units, followed by Final Fantasy VII, Resident Evil, Tekken 3, Tomb Raider and Crash Bandicoot.
20. PlayStation reached sales of 50m units by 1998, and doubled that figure within ten years of its Japanese launch, becoming the first ever games console to sell over 100m units. Launched in Japan in March 2000, PlayStation 2 reached 100m sales within five years.
This article was written by Keith Stuart, for theguardian.com on Monday 1st December 2014 12.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010