20 Year Anniversary of the Sony PlayStation
This month marks the 20 Anniversary of Sony's PlayStation brand. Although it might seem like the success of the PlayStation took place overnight, the road to success for the Japanese company over the last twenty years as Sony became a major player within the console space was interesting and progressive.
Perhaps the electronic brand's early signs of success can be attributed to a major business upset. In the period leading up to the original PlayStation's launch (from herein the PSX) history could have told a very different story. Sony was due to enter a collaboration with fellow Japanese developer and publisher Nintendo in creating a CD-based home gaming system for the consumer market. However Nintendo partnered with Phillips in its future endeavours, infuriating Sony and causing the company to create a gaming console that would take on the likes of the already popular SEGA and Nintendo. As a result the man credited with being the creator of the PlayStation brand, Ken Kutaragi, and Sony launched the PlayStation in Japan in December 1994. The new 3D-based games console was well-received, cementing Sony's reputation as a major competitor in the consumer games market the world over.
Highlights of the PSX era include the likes of Wipeout, Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, Tekken 7, Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Silent Hill, Parappa the Rapper, Twisted Metal and other such noteworthy franchises that made Sony's brand a cool and fierce competitor in the market previously dominated by the likes of SEGA and Nintendo.
Building on its earlier established success, Sony released the PlayStation 2 in March 2000. Despite being released after its direct competitor, SEGA's Dreamcast, the combination of credibility among the gaming audiences, developer loyalty and a stellar line-up of titles released over the console's life cycle contributed towards SEGA bowing out of console development within two years after they had launched their beloved console. The PS2 era could even be seen as one of SCE's most successful to date as according to current 2012 figures the sales of the console are the most successful of all time, standing at an impressive 155 million units sold.
Notable releases from the era of the PlayStation 2 include titles such as Final Fantasy X, Tekken Tag Tournament, Gran Turismo 3, Metal Gear Solid 2, GTA, God of War, Ratchet & Clank, Jak and Daxter, Devil May Cry, Shadow of the Colossus, Sly Cooper and Kingdom Hearts among many others. It was a fantastic era for gamers who were able to select from a great range of titles as Sony's brand helped make gaming cool, broadening the appeal of gaming (despite the overprotective attitudes of well seasoned gamers). The PS2 also experienced a redesign, being re-released as a slim version that saw the machine's disc drive replaced with a top-loading mechanism for game discs (rather than putting them into the machine's disc drive slot).
With such a phenomenal level of success with the PS2, Sony boldly moved forward with release plans for that console's natural successor and released the PlayStation 3 in November 2006. Not only was this Sony's first foray into HD gaming but the company's new console came with a hard drive included as standard, a new element in home gaming at the time but we take as granted now in 2014. This allowed gamers to install games to the hard drive if given the option and put music, video and photos on their PS3 from compatible devices via the system's cross media bar (XMB). This console generation also introduced downloadable content to console gamers (commonly known as DLC) which covered everything from additional game content such as characters and stages through to game version updates and exclusive promotional unlocks. Although seen as the bane of the games industry for some, DLC still exists today in consumer gaming (and is probably here to stay). These new features are commonplace among today's gaming, an essential part in meeting players' expectations and the requirements of the games industry as a whole (at least until the shape of the industry significantly changes again).
The PS3 has had its fair share of high-quality releases and new franchises such as Valkyria Chronicles, Metal Gear Solid 4, Ridge Racer, Virtua Fighter 5, Motorstorm, Heavenly Sword, Uncharted, Killzone, Demon's Souls, Infamous, Resistance, The Last of Us, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, Dragon's Crown, Little Big Planet, Puppeteer, Siren: Blood Curse among many indie and original titles too. The PS3's release library provided gamers with an even greater breadth of experiences to choose from and enjoy through the wide catalogue available. The machine also had two redesigns as the console was re-released in both slim and super slim versions (the latter having the top loading disc tray games that was used for the PS2 Slim). The machine also saw the release of the PlayStation Move, a motion controller in the vein of Nintendo's own Wiimote for their highly successful console, the Nintendo Wii. Although the PS Move was not a great success it was well made and had a number of original and compatible titles to use it with, including notable titles such as Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition giving players the ability to play through the whole game with the control method.
After two highly successful console generations and one great but challenging generation due to heavy and aggressive competition from the likes of Microsoft and Nintendo, Sony is once again in an interesting position with its launch of the PlayStation 4 in the States in November 2013. The newest console from Sony launched to great fanfare in lieu of their proposals at that year's E3, promising gamers that they would be able to continue playing used games on the new console and also lend their games to their friends and family (which sounds bizarre but was like sweet music to gamers' ears after Microsoft early proposals with the Xbox One until they changed many of those).
The PlayStation 4 including exciting new features such as a Share button on the control pad, allowing players to share and stream game sessions from their own bedrooms. The option for Share Play was also introduced, allowing players to invite friends into their game session, even if they do not own the particular title. The machine also came with a 500 GB hard drive as standard to facilitate larger game installs and other content that gamers may want to install on the console's internal hard drive. Within the first year of the console's release sales figures suggest that the PlayStation 4 has shifted 10+ million units which is a good start for Sony's newest home console.
The console also carries a number of current and upcoming exclusives including Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, Bloodborne, Day Z, Drive Club, Gran Turismo 7, Guilty Gear XRD, Hotline Miami 2, Infamous Second Son (and First Light), Little Big Planet 3, No Man's Sky, Persona 5, Resogun, Silent Hills, Street Fighter V, The Last of Us Remastered, The Order 1886, Until Dawn and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Although the PS4 is in the early years of its life cycle it appears to have an exciting line-up of exclusive titles such as those mentioned here, perhaps suggesting that the current generation may be a return to the exclusivity practices of Sony, Nintendo and SEGA back in the 90s and early 00s. Many of the previously mentioned titles have also been (and will be) available to consumers in both physical and digital formats in most cases. Sony's upcoming PlayStation Now service will also allow gamers to rent a variety of current and back catalogue titles for varying amounts of time, letting them experience the wealth of game experiences that Sony has provided the world of gaming over the years.
The PlayStation family would not be complete without mentioning the company's endeavours into the portable gaming space with the PlayStation Portable (PSP), PSP Go (which allowed owners to store games digitally on the device) and its current offering with the PS VITA. The PSP was a large success for Sony, allowing them to claim part of the mobile gaming market comfortably from the ever-present gaming monolith, Nintendo. The PSP Go may have been introduced to the games market too early hence the lack of sales for the device. The PS VITA has experienced a moderate level of success, frequently offering a mixture of interesting physical titles, indie experiences and regular reduced price sales on Sony's PlayStation Network that allow gamers to pick up high-quality titles for prices more akin to the likes of mobile phone games or Valve's Steam platform. This is not to mention the recently launched PlayStation TV that allows users to play their PS VITA on their home TV as well as the PS4 remotely via another connected TV in their home.
Reaching 20 years is a great achievement for any electronics company and with the current sales numbers of the PS4 Sony is in a comfortable position to continue being one of the most reputable companies in the console gaming space. Here's to another twenty years and beyond for the PlayStation brand.