Sony’s PlayStation has a long history of rivalries (Nintendo, Microsoft), successes (rebooting the video gaming industry and helping it become a powerhouse industry worth over $100 billion in revenue per year), and more. But with all the ups-and-downs, such as the successes of the PlayStation 1 and PS2, or the unmitigated financial failure of the PS3 ($3.5 billion lost because of outrageous R&D costs and a high price-tag), there are some interesting things that some fans might not know about the console’s history.
The Sony PlayStation was first introduced at the end of 1994 in Japan as the brainchild of Ken Kutaragi, who wanted to rival other popular gaming consoles at the time. The PlayStation became the first video game console to ship 100 million units, and the PS2 is the best-selling home console of all time.
With numbers like that, industry-leaders start to notice, and video gaming has since become one of the most financially lucrative industries in entertainment. That’s all fine, and most people know all of that, but here are 10 facts about the PlayStation that you might not know.
10. PlayStation Started as a Partnership With Nintendo
In the early ‘90s, Nintendo wanted to jump in on the CD-quality video and audio aspects of the new emerging CD market. PlayStation boss Ken Kutaragi, who helped design the SNES’s sound chip, helped to create the Nintendo Play Station. The console would play SNES titles, and new SNES-CD games.
Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi wanted control of the licensing, and neither company could decide on how to split market-profits for the machine, which led to the dissolution of their partnership. Nintendo announced their planned change at the same CES in 1991 where the PlayStation was revealed, a slight which Sony would not forget, and which would be the catalyst for the biggest gaming rivalry in history.
9. First PlayStation Mascot Was Replaced
Before PlayStation was even released in the US, they had gone through many mascots in Japan. One they settled on, was the aptly named Polygon Man – a head shaped with purple polygons that tried to showcase the PlayStation’s awesome graphics. Well, Playstation boss Ken Kutaragi hated the character when he saw it at E3 1995, and dropped the mascot.
That mascot was replaced by Crash Bandicoot, who had years of success before disappearing into obscurity. Even then, Kutagari hated Crash, saying he looked too ‘kid-friendly,’ which Kutagari was trying to avoid. He even confronted Naughty Dog developers saying that he thought their “game is crap!” Eventually, Naughty Dog Studios became owned by Sony in 2001.
8. The U.S. Air Force Built a Secret Computer Using 1,760 PS3s
This was somewhat big news at the time, and made headlines, but some may forget that the power of Sony’s PS3 was strong enough to be used by none other than the US government. In 2010, the US Air Force created a Supercomputer using a cluster of 1,760 PS3 units into what they called the ‘Condor Cluster.’ At the time, it was the 33rd largest Supercomputer in the world – and the fastest computer in the whole US Defense Department – and could process billions of pixels a second.
7. PlayStation Logo Revisions
When designer Manabu Sakamoto sat down to come up with the PlayStation’s iconic logo, it didn’t just come over night, which makes sense when you consider that Sony wanted the PlayStation to rock and dominate the gaming world.
And that feat takes spot-on marketing and promotion, which the PlayStation succeeded with its sleek logo and brilliant TV ads. Sakamoto came up with over 20 logo designs, finally ending with the four-colored ‘P’ and ‘S’ symbols which any gamer instantly recognizes. It’s interesting to think how the PlayStation would have sold had they gone with one of these other logos.
6. The Playstation Button Controls Had a Purpose
The PlayStation’s distinct controller was designed by Sony’s Teiyu Goto, and became a hallmark in video game controller designs, with its sleek, futuristic look. But rather than have to remember letters like ‘A’ and ‘B,’ he wanted users to remember symbols instead. The four symbols he opted for were chosen to consider each button’s function.
The triangle represented a player’s perspective; the square symbolized an option menu or map; and the ‘X’ and ‘O’ represented “no” and “yes” symbols, respectively. Eventually, American developers scrapped the symbols’ functions because American audiences were used to the lowest button being the ‘ok’ button, but many Japanese games still use the ‘O’ to mean ‘yes,’ or ‘ok,’ and the ‘X’ to mean ‘no,’ or ‘cancel.’
5. PlayStation Hidden Soundtracks
Back when Easter Eggs and hidden gems were a big deal in many video games, and to show how much time was spent on making these games great, Sony pulled a genius move by releasing hidden soundtracks on many of their titles.
In a move that’s somewhat akin to playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon against Wizard of Oz, or playing an album backwards to uncode some hidden message, many games like Castlevania and Cool Boarders could be thrown on a CD-player, be read, and then hidden tracks could be heard from the stereo.
4. Final Fantasy VII Started Out as a Detective Story
Final Fantasy VII became the RPG that set-off the RPG-craze for the PlayStation 1, with unparalleled 3D graphics, story, and design for its day. Originally designed in 1994 for the SNES – and subsequently the Nintendo 64 – designers realized that only PlayStation’s CD-ROMs had the storage capacity to fully render the game, and even that took three discs.
What many fans of the iconic game and series might not know (I sure didn’t), was that Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi originally envisioned the game as a detective story, not starring Cloud Strife, but rather a detective named “Hot-Blooded Detective Joe.” Some of that game’s ideas can still be seen in the opening area of Midgar. There’s no doubt that the original vision of Final Fantasy VII would have certainly veered the entire RPG industry – if even making a splash at all.
3. The PS2 Design Was Adopted From Atari
Though many thought the PS2 had a spiffy, sleek design – with it’s vertical approach and black paint job – it was actually one of the more old-school designs out there. Sony heavily stole/borrowed from Atari’s 1993 model of the Falcon030 Microbox, after they acquired Atari Inc. The form of the console helped to make the PS2 the best-selling console in history, with over 150 million units sold as of 2011.
2. Secret Hidden Demo Games
Continuing on with hidden stuff, it’s no secret that many game demos were released with big-named game releases, to try and pre-publicize a separate game’s release. For instance, Sony released many demos with its PlayStation magazine, while other games like Final Fantasy VII and Twisted Metal were first released as demos inside other games.
But what you might not know, is that there are even more hidden gems that first came out for PS1. Gamers found that if you popped underneath where the disc in the original VHS-shaped game box, underneath where the game’s disc was stored, you could find other demos and cases below the discs.
1. Net Yaroze Helped Create a Generation of Indie Game Developers
Although not that big of news now, with soaring technology that allows practically any person to develop their own indie games, in the ‘90s, a system called Net Yaroze was a big deal. Sony wanted to get in contact with “garage developers,” so they developed a $750 black PlayStation in 1997 that could interface with a user’s computer.
Most of the designed games never made their way past bundled demo discs, but the Yaroze coding kits allowed a generation of would-be coders to get their first crack at making video games. Some success stories live, such as Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles developer Mitsuru Kamiyama, who first began coding with the Net Yaroze system.