Sony’s PlayStation, through its many different faces and generations, has really been through the mill.
The PlayStation has had a long list of rivalries (such as Nintendo and Microsoft), has had more than its fair share of success (such as rebooting the video gaming industry and helping it become a powerhouse industry worth over $100 billion in revenue per year, as well as having two of its consoles – the PlayStation and the PlayStation 2, make up the top three of the highest selling consoles of all time) and it’s fair share of failures (such as the financial disaster that was the sales of the PS3, which despite selling 80 million units worldwide, still managed to lose just over $3 billion due to a ridiculous price-tag and outrageous R&D costs). But with all the ups and downs, there are certain little titbits of information that some fans might not know about the console’s history.
The Sony PlayStation was first introduced at the end of 1994 in Japan as the brainchild of Ken Kutaragi, who wanted to rival other popular gaming consoles at the time. The PlayStation became the first video game console to ship 100 million units, and the PS2 is the best-selling home console of all time.
With numbers like that, industry-leaders start to notice. And video gaming has since become one of the most financially lucrative industries in entertainment. That’s all fine, and most people know all of that, but here are 10 facts about the PlayStation that you might not know.
10. Final Fantasy VII started out as a detective story
Final Fantasy VII became the RPG that set into motion the RPG-craze that swept over the PlayStation 1, with 3D graphics, story and design features that, for its time, were completely unparalleled and completely without peer. Originally designed in 1994 for the SNES – and subsequently the Nintendo 64 – designers realised that only the PlayStation’s CD-ROMs had the storage capacity to fully render the game, and even then it still took three discs. What many fans of the iconic game and series might not know was that Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi originally envisioned the game as a detective story, not starring Cloud Strife, but rather a detective named “Hot-Blooded Detective Joe”. Some of the game’s original plans and ideas can still be seen in the opening area of Midgar. If the plans would have gone ahead as they were originally intended to, then there’s no doubt that the original version of FF VII would have almost certainly missed the entire RPG industry, if it even made a splash at all.
9. The PlayStation button controls had a purpose
If you want the full story on this fascinating titbit of insider information then you should check out our recent article on the subject. But if you want the short-hand version, then it goes like this: the PlayStation’s distinctive controller was designed by Sony’s Teiyu Goto, and became a hallmark in video game controller designs due to its lustrous and futuristic look. It was a far cry from the clunky, cumbersome controllers of the past. And rather than have to remember letters, he wanted to use symbols instead. The four symbols he opted for were chosen in consideration of each button’s function in gameplay. Triangle represented a player’s perspective, square symbolised an option menu or a map, because a square looks like a map, and the X and O represented ‘no’ and ‘yes’ symbols respectively. Eventually, however, American developers scrapped the symbols functions because American gamers were used to the lowest button being the ‘ok’ button, but many Japanese games still use the ‘O’ button to mean ‘yes’ or ‘ok’ and the ‘X’ button to mean ‘no’ or ‘cancel’.
8. The U.S Air Force built a secret computer using 1,760 PlayStation 3s
This was somewhat big news at the time, and made headlines, but what some people may forget is just how powerful the PlayStation 3 at the time in which it was released. Specifically, people may forget that the PlayStation 3 was powerful enough to be used by none other than the US government. In 2010, the US Air Force created a Supercomputer using a cluster of 1,760 PS3 units into what they called the ‘Condor Cluster.’ At the time, it was the 33rd largest Supercomputer in the world – and the fastest computer in the whole US Defense Department – and could process billions of pixels a second.
7. Net Yaroze helped create a generation of indie game developers
Although it’s not that big of a deal nowadays, as we inhabit a world with soaring, Metropolis-esque technology that allows practically any person with a bit of know-how to develop their own indie games, back in the 1990s, a system called Net Yaroze had one thing in common with Ron Burgundy – it was kind of a big deal. Sony wanted to get in contact with “garage developers”, so they developed a $750 black PlayStation in 199 that could interface with a user’s computer. Most of the designed games never made their way past the bundled demo disk stage, but the Yaroze coding kits allowed a generation of would-be coders to get their first crack at making video games. Some success stories live on, such as Mitsuru Kamiyama, the developer of Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, who first began coding with the Net Yaroze system.
6. The PlayStation logo revisions
The PlayStation logo is quite possibly the most iconic logo of any games console, and when designer Manabu Sakamoto sat down to put together the first selection of drafts that would eventually become the iconic logo, it didn’t just come to him overnight, which makes sense when one considers the fact that Sony wanted the PlayStation to dominate the gaming world. Care and time was needed to find the perfect logo for what would become the most iconic games console of all time. Such a feat takes pinpoint accurate marketing and promotion, which the PlayStation succeeded at with its brilliantly simple and sleep logo and amazing TV ads. Sakamoto came up with a long-list of over 20 logo designs, finally ending with the four-coloured ‘P’ and ‘S’ symbols which any gamer (and most non-gamers for that matter) would now instantly recognise.