The Interesting History of the Sony PlayStation

The PlayStation is one of the best-selling video game console brands of all time, and it has expanded into numerous home video game consoles, handheld consoles, and even a smartphone. The PlayStation brand was created by Sony Interactive Entertainment, the video game and digital entertainment division of Sony. To know more about this video game console brand, here is the interesting history of the Sony PlayStation.

The Origins of the PlayStation Brand

The PlayStation brand was conceived by Ken Kutaragi, an executive from Sony who previously managed one of the company’s engineering and hardware divisions. Kutaragi would later be known as “The Father of the PlayStation.”

Before Sony created their own video game console, the company first produced and supplied components for consoles manufactured by other companies. One of these components is the sound chip for the Super Famicom (known as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System or SNES in the US), a home video game console produced by Nintendo.

In 1988, Nintendo and Sony launched a joint project where they will make a CD-ROM version of the Super Famicom. A CD-ROM, also known as a CD or compact disk, is a circular object that contains data. In the 1990s, CDs were becoming more common on the market, which is why Nintendo and Sony created the project in order to keep up with the trends in technology.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in June 1991, Sony unveiled the CD-ROM version of the Super Famicom that they called “PlayStation” or SNES-CD. [1] Unfortunately, a day after the unveiling, Nintendo announced that they would be breaking their partnership with Sony, as they decided to partner with Philips, who was also developing the same CD-ROM technology for video games.

The broken partnership made then-Sony President Norio Ohga angry, and his anger made him appoint Ken Kutaragi as the head of the project that would make the PlayStation a rival to Nintendo’s consoles. By 1992, Kutaragi and his team had already developed a CD-ROM-based gaming system that could play video games with 3D graphics.

Despite criticism and opposition from the older generation of Sony executives, Kutaragi was given the green light to continue the project, although his team needed to move to the headquarters of Sony Music, a separate financial entity that is still owned by Sony. The team moved to Sony Music in order to avoid further opposition to the PlayStation project. Kutaragi would later be the head of Sony Computer Entertainment, which was created with the help of Shigeo Maruyama, the CEO of Sony Music, and another executive of Sony Music named Akira Sato.

The Original PlayStation (PS1)

the original PlayStation

The original PlayStation was released in Japan on December 3, 1994, and in North America on September 8, 1995. The first PlayStation (later known as the PS1) belonged to the fifth generation of video game consoles, and it competed with the Nintendo 64 and the Sega Saturn.

Sony designed the PlayStation for video game developers to have an easy time designing and developing games for the console. The easy development process allowed Sony to have a huge library of games, including popular ones such as Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid, Tekken 3, Crash Bandicoot, and Gran Turismo.

The PS1 is considered to be one of the best-selling consoles of the 1990s, as Sony was able to sell more than 100 million units of the console. In fact, the original PlayStation was the first video game console to sell more than 120 million units, and this was made possible by the fact that there were still a lot of people who bought PS1 consoles in the 2000s.

On July 7, 2000, Sony released the smaller version of the original PlayStation called “PS One.” Interestingly, the Sony PS One would outsell all other consoles that were available during the year 2000, including the PlayStation 2, which was also released in the same year. It is the PS One that would become the inspiration behind the slimmer and lighter versions of the PlayStation consoles that Sony would release throughout the years.

The PlayStation 2                     

the original and the Slim version of the PlayStation 2

Following the success of the original PlayStation, Sony decided to create a second video game console that would serve as the successor to their best-selling PS1. However, it is interesting to point out that the development for the PlayStation 2 already started just a few weeks or months after the launch of the original PlayStation in 1994. But, in order to keep the project secret, Sony has denied any of the rumors about the console during the 1990s.

The Sony PlayStation 2 or PS2 was released in Japan on March 4, 2000, and in North America on October 26, 2000. It served as Sony’s entry to the sixth generation of consoles, which also included the Nintendo GameCube, the Microsoft Xbox, and the Sega Dreamcast. The PS3 would go on to become the best-selling video game console of all time, as it has sold more than 155 million units worldwide. [2]

The PS2 had over 4,000 video games that were developed by Sony’s video game studios or third-party video game companies. In 2004, the slimmer and lighter version of the PS2 called “PS2 Slim” was released by Sony. Because of how popular the PS2 was, it was still produced and sold until 2013, which was already the era of the seventh generation of consoles (that included the PlayStation 4).

The PlayStation Portable

PSP

The first handheld video game console manufactured and sold by Sony was the PlayStation Portable. The PlayStation Portable, better known by its acronym “PSP,” was first released in Japan on December 12, 2004, and was released in North America on March 24, 2005. The PSP was Sony’s first entry into the handheld video game market, which was heavily dominated by Nintendo, who had already released different versions of the Game Boy by the 2000s.

An interesting feature that the PSP has is its ability to connect to the PlayStation 3, and the PSP can be used to view photos, watch video, and listen to music that are stored in the PS3’s memory through Remote Play. The PSP was the most powerful handheld video game console in the 2000s, as it sold more than 80 million units worldwide.

The PlayStation 3

PlayStation 3

The PlayStation 3, also known as the PS3, was released in Japan on November 11, 2006, and in North America on November 17, 2006. This console belonged to the seventh generation of video game consoles that included the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii.

The Sony PlayStation 3 was the first video game console to use Blu-ray Disc technology, which is said to be capable of storing more data than the standard DVDs and CDs. The PlayStation 3 was also backward compatible with PS2 games, meaning that people can play games released for the PS2 on their PS3 console. But, the PS3 Slim model that was released in September 2009 didn’t have the backward compatibility feature that the original version had.

Unlike the PS1 and the PS2, the PlayStation 3 wasn’t well-received critically and commercially during its first months of production. But the reception for the console became much more positive over time. The PlayStation 3 was discontinued in 2017 after 11 years of being in production.

The PlayStation Vita

PlayStation Vita

The second handheld video game console released by Sony was the PlayStation Vita, which was launched in Japan on December 17, 2011, and in North America on February 22, 2012. The PlayStation Vita belonged to the eighth generation of video game consoles and served as a competitor to the Nintendo 3DS.

The PlayStation Vita featured a 5-inch OLED touchscreen, two analog joysticks (which is an upgrade to the PSP’s one joystick), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and optional 3G connectivity. A second version of the Vita, known as the PS Vita 2000, was released in 2013. This second version featured extended battery life, an LCD panel instead of an OLED panel, and a slightly smaller and thinner size.

Unfortunately, the PS Vita didn’t sell as well as the PlayStation Portable, possibly due to having a limited number of games compared to the Nintendo 3DS. Nonetheless, Sony was still able to sell about 15 million units of the PS Vita before discontinuing it in 2019.

The PlayStation 4

PlayStation 4

The PlayStation 4 or PS4 is Sony’s entry for the eighth generation of home video game consoles. The PS4 was released on November 15, 2013, in North America. It was the first time that a Sony video game console was released in North America before Japan, as the PS4 would be released in Japan two months after its launch in North America. The PS4 competed with Nintendo Wii U and Switch, as well as the Microsoft Xbox One. Unlike the previous consoles, the PS4 didn’t have backward compatibility with PS2 and PS3 games.

The classic PlayStation DualShock controller was redesigned to be more ergonomic, and the new DualShock 4 Controller also featured improved buttons and analog sticks, as well as a touchpad in the middle that can be used for playing specific video games or as a mouse for the console’s web browser.

Released to critical acclaim, the PS4 would become one of the most successful consoles that Sony has ever made in terms of sales. By October 2019, the PS4 became the fifth-best-selling video game console of all time, with Sony selling more than 117 million units. [2]

Much like its predecessor, the PlayStation 4 became available in a smaller and thinner “Slim” version. However, there was another version of the PS4 that was released called the “PlayStation 4 Pro,” and this video game console featured 4K resolution and an upgraded GPU (graphics processing unit).

The PlayStation 5

PlayStation 5

Sony’s PlayStation 5, or PS5, was officially released on November 12, 2020, in North America. The PS5 belongs to the ninth generation of video game consoles and is regarded as the rival of the Microsoft Xbox Series X/S.

There are two editions of the original PS5 that can be purchased. The first version is the Disc Edition, which has a built-in optical disc drive that can read Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, while the other version is the Digital Edition that doesn’t have an optical disc drive, so the only way to gain access to video games on the console is by downloading them on the official online PlayStation Store. A slimmer version for both versions was released in November 2023.

The DualShock controllers that were present in the previous PlayStation consoles were retired in favor of the new DualSense Controller, which features bigger hand grips and haptic feedback. A returning feature for the PlayStation brand is backward compatibility, so the PlayStation 5 can play PS4 games seamlessly.

Conclusion

The PlayStation is still one of the most iconic brands in the realm of gaming and technology, and its popularity won’t decrease soon, as a lot of people are regularly buying PlayStation-related products like controllers and accessories.

References

[1] Donovan, T. (2018, June 23). The story behind Nintendo’s betrayal of Sony — and how it created its fiercest rival. Venture Beat. Retrieved November 8, 2023, from https://venturebeat.com/games/the-story-behind-nintendos-betrayal-of-sony-and-how-it-created-its-fiercest-rival/

[2] Bowen, T. (2023, July 18). The Best-Selling Video Game Consoles of All Time, Ranked. GameRant. Retrieved November 8, 2023, from https://gamerant.com/best-selling-video-game-consoles-most-sales/