When Sony entered the video game market with their PlayStation system in 1995 it turned the gaming world on its head. Despite a few failed attempts from Sega, the PlayStation was the first successful disc based game console and thus helped lead games away from the tried-and-true cartridge format and in to the brave new world of CDs. The PlayStation was a huge success and would become the first console ever to ship 100 million units.
The PlayStation actually began life as collaboration between Sony and Nintendo. In the early 1990s Sony was developing a disc based add-on for Nintendo’s Super Nintendo system but, after financial disputes, Nintendo pulled the plug on the project. Sony went on to continue production of the PlayStation and when the system hit shelves a few years later it was in direct competition with Nintendo.
Sony aggressively marketed their machine as a more mature and adult oriented console, not only in their advertising but also with the focus of their top tier titles. While Nintendo had begun to be known as a family friendly machine with their mascots like Mario and censoring of certain titles, Sony positioned the PlayStation as an edgier, “cooler” console with titles like Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, and Tomb Raider.
Unlike Nintendo, who owns all of their biggest properties and develops their own offering of titles “in house”, Sony is not particularly renowned for making games. Instead, all of the biggest hits for the PlayStation are produced by what are known as third-party publishers. Game companies such as EA, Activision, and Rockstar create titles and then release them, sometimes exclusively to one system but often across platforms.
In the year 2000 the successor to the PlayStation, aptly named the PlayStation 2, ushered in a new era of Sony dominance. The PlayStation 2 is the highest selling system of all time with more than 150 million units sold. More than three thousand games were made for the system and, as a result of the overwhelming popularity of the console, software continued to be produced for the aging machine for years after the release of its successor. By the end of its lifespan the PS2 had been active for thirteen years, an unprecedented run in console history.
The PS2 established Sony as the new leader in gaming as it decimated its direct competition the Sega Dreamcast and effectively sent that company out of the console making business. The PS2, behind the strength of blockbusters like Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear Solid, and Final Fantasy, reigned supreme over the market for seven years. The machine played a pivotal role in Sony overtaking Nintendo as the de facto head of gaming and also fended off the threat of Microsoft’s emergence in to the field with their Xbox system.
The PlayStation 3 was released in 2006 and introduced blu-ray, high definition, motion control, and much more robust online capabilities to the Sony brand. While the system was certainly a success with more than 80 million units sold, it was not able to entirely live up to the high bar set by its predecessor. More significantly, the PS3 lost ground to Sony’s competition with the overwhelmingly positive response the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 received.
Sony has ventured in to the portable gaming market with mixed results. Their first handheld system, the PlayStation Portable, was largely a success and was the first time anyone had posed a serious threat to Nintendo’s iron grip on portable gaming. Unfortunately, with the rise of smart devices and the popularity of the Nintendo DS, Sony’s current portable machine, the PlayStation Vita, has failed to gain much traction.
With the release of the PlayStation 4 in 2013 Sony is back on top of the gaming throne. The PS4 broke records right out of the gate by selling over a million units in twenty four hours, earning it the distinction of the most successful system launch ever. Nearly a year after its release it has doubled the total sales of the Xbox One and has already surpassed Nintendo’s Wii U, which released a year earlier. The PS4 already seems set to dominate this generation of systems, with many observers and analysts proclaiming that it has already won this round of console wars.
Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk