The path from the PlayStation 1 to the upcoming PlayStation 5 lines up neatly, but only if you’re looking at it numerically. In actuality, for more than 25 years the PlayStation team has had to navigate some of the industry’s most difficult terrain. During that time, a dedicated team of visionaries, engineers, and software developers established a brand from scratch, propelled it to unprecedented heights, struggled to maintain dominance, and eventually returned to what initially made them so successful.
In the following story, we’ll hear some of the stories behind PlayStation from the people who were there when it all happened.
It started as a collaboration. Nintendo and Sony were initially going to be partners on a Super Nintendo project that would take the gaming console – still in development at that time – into the exciting new age of CD-ROM. The technology was still a relative novelty in 1988 when the partnership between the tech giants was formalized. Games could be bigger, featuring full-motion video and actual CD-quality music. The TurboGrafx-16 supported optical discs at the end of the year in Japan, but that console lacked the library of games and large user base that Nintendo enjoyed. Sony was a pioneering force in the development of the CD-ROM standard, and the company was going to develop a special Super Disc format for Nintendo, as well as a version of the console with the add-on built in. That hybrid system would be called “PlayStation.”
Under Ken Kutaragi’s leadership, Sony’s engineers continued to work on the project while the company also dabbled in games publishing through its Sony Imagesoft imprint. Things seemed to be on track until they weren’t. At the Consumer Electronics Show in June 1991, Sony revealed its PlayStation plans to the public. It was particularly exciting in North America, since the Super Nintendo hadn’t been released at that time. Not only was the successor to the wildly popular NES coming in a few months, but it was also going to support CD gaming. Hours later, Nintendo announced what was seen by many as a surprising betrayal: The company had entered into a partnership with Sony rival Philips. Read more…