The story behind Sony’s PlayStation is a fascinating and dramatic one. Would you have ever guessed that the PlayStation began as a joint venture between Nintendo and Sony? That’s right. The console that would solidify Sony as a gaming giant shouldn’t have even existed.
Back in the days of the SNES, Nintendo was interested in using the brand new CD technology of the time to enhance its console. They wanted to create a CD add-on for the SNES, similar to the Sega Genesis’s Sega CD, which it was competing against. Nintendo approached Sony for helping creating such an add-on, and Sony agreed.
However, on the day of the Consumer Electronic Show in 1991 when Nintendo was meant to announce the SNES-CD, they instead announced they had cancelled their partnership with Sony and were instead partnering with Phillips (though no SNES CD add-on would ever see the light of day). At this very same CES, Sony had announced their new “Play Station” console that was compatible with SNES games, but following Nintendo’s surprise announcement, Sony backed out of the project.
Sony then went to Sega, Nintendo’s main competitor, to try and work out a deal for a standalone console, but Sega turned them down. Rejected by both major gaming companies, Sony set out to create its own game console — and it succeeded hugely. Dropping the space from the name to avoid legal repercussions from Nintendo, the new PlayStation would go on to blow the Sega Saturn out of the water and even greatly outsell the Nintendo 64. It first went on sale in Japan at the end of 1994 and reached North America and Europe by September of 1995.
This newcomer to the gaming industry surprised everyone. Sony was already entering a crowded market, competing against the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, the Atari Jaguar, the Sega Saturn, and eventually the Nintendo 64. It had the advantage of hitting the scene two years earlier than the N64 in Japan and one year earlier in North America, but it was a 32-bit console up against Nintendo’s 64-bit console.
Still, the PlayStation proved that it could handle its own with incredible 3D games that amazed gamers at the time. Games like Crash Bandicoot, Banjo Kazooie, Gran Turismo, Final Fantasy, Rayman, and Spyro the Dragon cemented the PlayStation as a revolutionary console that gamers loved.
Its controller took on the form that would come to define modern gaming controllers. Past controllers were essentially plastic rectangles with different button configurations, but the original PlayStation controller added thick handles and two more shoulder buttons — a staple of modern gaming controllers. They also opted to use shapes for their buttons (an X, circle, triangle, and square) rather than letters, a departure from its competitors that would come to symbolize the PlayStation brand.
The original PlayStation controller, however, was phased out surprisingly soon and replaced by the Dual Analog Controller in mid-1997, which was subsequently replaced by the DualShock in late 1997 in Japan and early 1998 in North America. The DualShock had several improvements that made it substantially better than the original controller: it had two analog sticks for better directional movement, it had two more buttons (L3 and R3) that were activated by clicking the analog sticks, and it had two rumble motors that allowed for fantastic feedback. The DualShock brand and style would go on to become so popular that Sony still uses it today, and it has influenced controller design across the gaming industry.
Shortly after the release of the PlayStation successor, the PlayStation 2, Sony released a redesigned version of the original PlayStation called the PSOne that was slimmer, smaller, and white instead of grey.
Nowadays, the PlayStation is often referred to as the PS, PSOne, PS1, or PSX. It’s an extremely popular console to emulate since it was the first massively popular console to use CDs, which were easy to rip games files off of for PC emulation. As the best-selling console of its generation, the PlayStation has nestled its way into many people’s hearts, and the ability for those people to play their favorite console on their PC, smartphone, or tablet is mind-blowing.
As one of the most modern devices that is easy to emulate, the PlayStation offers relatively great graphics and a massive game library of unique hits. This is a console that will live on in emulators for many years to come.