For readers old enough to remember, the original PlayStation was an inescapable cultural phenomenon. Nintendo and Sega had their ongoing competition for several years, and then suddenly Sony comes in to shake up the whole system in 1995 (1994 in Japan) with their new hardware made for 3D games. The aggressive marketing campaign, strong relationships with third-party developers, and affordable price tag all helped the company's console debut come out of the gate swinging. Since then, Sony has remained a formidable force in the gaming space, creating one successful console after the other, with great exclusives to boot.
Success, however, is never so easily won. The road to getting the first PlayStation created was a tough one filled with hard decisions, uncertainty, and even a little betrayal. The next ten entries will shine a light on lesser known facts behind the PlayStation's inception and development. These tidbits will range from stories about the people behind the console, details regarding the development, and a couple of facts about the system itself and why it was designed that way.
As the entries will show, it wasn't easy getting the PS1 off the ground, but all the hard work paid off in the end.
10 It All Started With A Nintendo Partnership
It is hard to believe now, but the roots of the PlayStation's birth all came from a partnership between Sony and Nintendo. The latter was interested in exploring CD technology for gaming and contacted Sony to develop a disc-based add for the Super Nintendo. Deals were signed and work was commenced on the Super NES CD-ROM.
Prototypes were being tinkered on, but Nintendo was ultimately unhappy with the financial arrangements between the two and went behind Sony's back to negotiate a new deal. What really rubbed salt in Sony's wounds was Nintendo's announcement of the partnership just a day after Sony unveiled the ultimately unreleased system to the public.
9 The Face Buttons Carry Meaning
Instead of being numbers or letters, the iconic PlayStation controller's face buttons have symbols. Teiyu Goto, the controller's designer, gave the buttons each a unique function. Triangle is meant to be the player's viewpoint; the square is a piece of paper meant to refer to a map or documents. Finally, circle and X mean yes and no, respectively.
The last two buttons exchange purpose depending on the region. In Japan, the circle symbol is meant for approval, similar to check marks in the west. X in the west is used to select.
8 Why The CDs Are Black
The PlayStation used CDs to play their games, but they are different than the typical compact disc. The backs of PS1 games are black, while most other CDs are silver.
Why the difference? The most obvious answer would be to make piracy harder. Another important reason was Sony wanting to differentiate their software from the PC scene and give themselves a cool, signature look.
7 Sound Was Made A Priority
Ken Kutaragi, the man dubbed "The Father of the PlayStation" got his start in the industry making sound chips. It makes sense, then, that sound was a priority for the system.
Ken wanted the PS1 to have superior sound capabilities than the competitors. Because of this, the console ended up being one of the best CD players on the market, especially for the price.
6 The Indirect Cause Of The Philips CD-i
The dissolution of Sony and Nintendo's partnership came with the secret deal between the latter and Philips, Sony's competitor in the CD market. While no legal action was taken and attempts were made to salvage the relationship, the betrayal was considered personal and could not be mended.
What resulted from the Nintendo and Philips deal was the infamous Philips CD-i, a failed console that is remembered for housing some of the worst Nintendo games ever released.
5 CD's Won Over Square Soft
One of Sony's main strategies was winning over third-party developers by showcasing the new disc-based technology and the ease of development.
Many companies were convinced, but one of the biggest successes had to be Square Soft. The company was deeply associated with Nintendo, but the 3D console's potential caused them to switch sides. 22 years would need to pass for Final Fantasy VII to make its debut on a Nintendo.
4 Ken Kutaragi Worked On The SNES
Ken Kutaragi had been an employee with Sony since the mid-1970s. This didn't stop him from heeding Nintendo's call when they wanted him to design a sound chip for the SNES.
The work was done in secret and infuriated Sony when they found out. Only by the grace of Sony's CEO (Norio Ohga) did Ken manage to keep his job and finish his gig at Nintendo.
3 Sony Music
Ken Kutaragi and his team created the majority of the system at Sony Music Entertainment, which presented its own set of advantages. Mainly, discs could be produced internally and cheaper.
It also laid the foundation for Sony Computer Entertainment Inc, which Ken founded with Sony Music's CEO, Shigeo Maruyama. This Sony subsidiary was founded in the early 90s specifically to aid Sony's quest to tackle the gaming market.
2 Sony Had No Faith In Gaming
By the early 1990s, video games had proven their worth in the market. However, many of Sony's higher-ups believed that they had no business entering the gaming space. The PS1's development came close to being shut down several times but managed to stay afloat.
Ken Kutaragi would often remind Norio Ohga of Nintendo's betrayal as a way to keep the project going. This opposition was the main reason Ken was moved to Sony Music Entertainment, which was technically a different company.
1 Virtua Fighter Inspired Sony To Embrace 3D
Early in the system's development, the team had to decide whether to make a console focused on 2D or 3D graphics. The former had already proven successful for over a decade. Striving for the latter meant entering new, uncharted territories; potentially breaking new ground in the medium while risking catastrophic failure.
It was an encounter with Virtua Fighter that led to the system going into the third dimension. The game's revolutionary graphics and commercial success gave Ken confidence that players were ready to take on a whole new world of interactivity.