Sony PlayStation: Twenty Years and Still Going Strong

Sony has recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of PlayStation in Las Vegas in a grand event called ‘PlayStation Experience.’ 3rd of December, this year, Sony’s flagship video game console turned 20. It’s been two decades since the brand hit the market in Japan. And yet, after all these years, the charm still hasn’t faded away.

Nostalgia, bittersweet nostalgia…

A crown snatched away from Nintendo and worn:
When PS made its debut in 1994, it was a huge, fancy event, more of a NASA rocket launch, an iPhone inauguration, that had immediately shadowed and slammed every leading brand of that time. This included even Nintendo, the brand that was filthy famous and the superior-most in the market of those days. Japan’s Sega was another horse in the league, which had set ablaze a million dollar rivalry against Nintendo. Blake J. Harris in his book ‘Console Wars’ describes this very rivalry that later had made history.

Nintendo’s original idea was to carry forward the enmity by partnering with Sony and subsequently releasing a CD-ROM add-on enabled SNES-CD game media format. This add-on was titled ‘PlayStation’ back then. But, as fate would have it, the partnership never bloomed. Instead, Nintendo went on to partner with Sony’s arch-rival, Philips, to bring about the development of the add-on. By cursed luck, this too never happened and Sony went on to release its PlayStation alone in 1994, with Ken Kutaragi being the renegade-turned-game-changer for the company. Later, how Nintendo toppled down from the throne is a diegesis, sort of.

Sega had the chance, but never had the stars:
Backstabbed by Nintendo, Sony had approached Sega. It had almost joined the team. But, due to some unfortunate events that followed the alliance, Sega gave up on Sony, ultimately releasing the ‘Saturn’ a CD-equipped 3D game console of its own with much pomp and show. Saturn was supposed to combat PS but never did. Because of its low-quality 3D staging and unnerving high prices, the product shot like hayfire and soon died down.

A load of other consoles, like the Atari Jaguar, 3DO, Amiga CD32 and the lot had followed suit after that, only to crash, burn and eventually turn into scrap. And, with the new PlayStation, Sony, now had overtaken the market, emerging as the undisputed king amongst all video game console manufacturers. The once ignorant company was now creating an amazing 3D-enabled console to play hyper-realistic games. And it was doing good, really good.

Why was PS loved so much?
Sony PS and Nintendo N64 had started off almost at the same time. Of course, Nintendo had an upper hand both technology-wise and opportunity-wise. The N64 was by all means a superior machine than PS. It had a 93.7 MHz, 64-bit CPU chip that carried a 62.5 MHz Remote Control Production and a 4MB of RDRAM. It’s cartridge medium was a big advantage regarding speed. Sega, on the other hand, did try to give PS a huge blow, but failed miserably.

Sony’s was only a 32-bit system with a graphics chip not famous enough in the technology world. But, the latter had this amazing appetite for data that enabled seamlessness to play games. It was a better, more mature product that didn’t have the drawbacks of limited storage and difficult development. It could give the gamers the experience of CD-quality sound and Full Motion Video cutscenes. Above all, it came for a price which was a lot cheaper than N64.

Have PS 2, 3 and 4 lived up to their predecessor?
Yes, they have and that too with glory. Although the third version wobbled initially, it had soon caught up with the track in time and carried on the legacy with pride. The fourth and very recent version, further, has turned out to be the best selling console of this generation. But, of course, the fame and popularity of the first version can never be forgotten.

Sony hasn’t just created a product. In fact, it has set up an industry, a market, a history.

A post by Chayanika Deka. 8th January, 2015.


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