Posts Tagged ‘PlayStation’

2014 marks the 20th Anniversary since the 1st PlayStation was launched to the general public. We look back at how it became a dominate player in the gaming world.

PLANNING STAGES & ORIGINS

Even though the first PlayStation was released in 1994, the idea of the firm entering the gaming market was actually first introduced 6 years before that. In 1988 Sony and Nintendo had a collaboration between them to develop a console that used compact disk technology. This project driven by Ken Kutaragi led to a SNES prototype with a CD-ROM drive with was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1991. However this partnership failed to materialise and a day after the CES, the original partnership ended with Nintendo opting to go with Phillips instead. The main reason behind the break-up was due to the two companies unable to agree on how the revenue would be split from the joint venture.

The SNES-CD prototype shown at the CES 1991

The SNES-CD prototype shown at the CES 1991

This enraged Sony and after this decided to stay in the game. After a meeting in July planning litigation against Nintendo, the president Norio Ohga was quoted saying “We will never withdraw from this business. Keep going.” However during this time there was still talks between the two companies, with Nintendo offering a non-gaming role but this was rejected. Talks finally ended in 1992 and a few months later, Sony decided to push forward with their plans.

1993 saw the establishment of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. which was a joint venture between Sony Corporation and Sony Music. The partnership was formed so that Sony Music could assist Kutaragi with attractive talent with developing computer and video games and also helping manufacturing processes with CD-ROM’s. Sony then finally gave the green light for production of the PlayStation which was released a year later.

More Information about the origins of the PlayStation is here

ENTERING THE MARKET

The end of 1994 saw the launch of the PlayStation in Japan, and it was an instant success. Not only was it cheaper for customers than its main rival at the time the Sega Saturn, but it was much cheaper for game developers to use the PlayStation platform as well. Companies such as Namco took advantage of this and released games at launch such as Ridge Racer which was praised for its gameplay and 3D graphics. Eventually, the PlayStation was released in September 1995 in North America and Europe and at that point its arch-rival Nintendo responded to the fifth-generation of gaming with its Nintendo N64. Despite the increased competition the PlayStation continued to sell well in all regions. In North America, between September and December 1995 Sony managed to sell 800,000 units compared to 400,000 Sega Saturn’s sold since May of that year. By 1998, the PlayStation had completed dominated the market and continued to appeal to the masses with the new “Dualshock” controller and more popular games were available such as Crash Bandicoot, Gran Turismo and Tekken. It went on to become the first console to sell over 100 million units worldwide and eventually sold 104.25m.

Also in 1999, Sony released the PocketStation which was a memory card peripheral for the PlayStation. With its monochrome display, flash memory and infrared connection capabilities, the PocketStation allowed users to download mini-games from full game titles such as Crash Bandicoot 3 and Ridge Racer Type 4. It was so popular in Japan that to satisfy demand it was never released in any other market.

PLAYSTATION EXPANSION

By the start of the 21st century, Sony released a redesigned version on the PlayStation called the PSOne and unveiled the successor – the PS2. The PSOne had the same specifications as the original PlayStation but was much smaller and had other changes such as the reset and power button combined. Sony also released a “combo pack” that inculded a 5″ LCD screen that can be attached to the back of the PSOne. It went on to be the best-selling console in 2000.

The PlayStation 2 was also launched in 2000 and was an even bigger success than the PlayStation. With its backward-compatibility for PlayStation, next generation graphics (at the time) and built-in DVD player, Sony really struggled to cope with demand due to not only the sheer amount of people who wanted to get their hands on a PS2 but also there are maunfacturing delays. Nevertheless, in the first 24 hours of its release, Sony managed to make $250 million through PS2 consoles, games and accessories. Even though the Sega Dreamcast got discontinued, Microsoft entered the market with its Xbox and Nintendo responded with its GameCube. However the PS2 went on to be the best-selling console of all time with over 157 million consoles sold worldwide.

With the PS2, there were a few firsts for the company. The expansion of online gaming started in 2001 when online services were lanuched for its games. This required an adapter that slots in the back on the console which was sold separately. Also in 2003, Sony released the EyeToy – a motion detecting camera – which allowed gamers to play using their body rather than the traditional way of a controller. Over 10.5 million EyeToy’s were sold.

Not all PlayStation unveilings were successful however. In Japan Sony released the PSX in 2003 which was a combination on a DVR (Digital Video Recorder) and a PS2. The high price of 79,800 yen (£463, $778 as of 21/04/2014) resulted in poor sales and it was never released outside of Japan.

The PSX failed to reach sales targets

The PSX failed to reach sales targets

Following the trend of downsizing with the PSOne, Sony released a “silmline” version of the PS2 in 2004. As before other than its dramatic decrease in external size, there was very few other changes. For the PS2, the silmline had the following changes;

  • a built-in ethernet port (and in some countries a modem as well)
  • the removal of the 3.5″ expansion bay which is needed for the internal HDD
  • doesn’t feature a interal power supply
  • has a modified multi-tap expansion

In 2004, Sony entered the portable gaming market with its 1st proper attempt to take on its arch-rival Nintendo with the release of the PlayStation Portable (PSP) in Japan (2005 in all other markets). A rival to the Nintendo DS, but it took a different approach to what was considered the best handheld. It had a 5″ LCD screen as opposed to touchscreen controls and arguably focused more on “reality” than “old-fashioned fun”. It is also the only device that uses a disc – UMDs (Universal Media Disc) – as an storage medium. Over 80 million were eventually sold.

7TH GENERATION WAR

November 2006 saw the release of the PlayStation 3 (PS3) which was launched in Japan first and then North America and Europe a week later. Its rivals were Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Unlike its predecessors, Even though the console was released in all global markets around the same time, it wasn’t an instant success. In its first 2 full years of when all 3 consoles were available (2007 & 2008), the PS3 only sold 6.1 million units – compared to 16.44 million and 9.35 million for the Wii and Xbox 360 respectively. In the end it went on to sell over 80 million – just over half the amount the PS2 sold and 20m less than the original PlayStation.

Like its predecessors however, it set the trend for new disc technology for a games console. The original PlayStation had a CD player, the PS2 had a DVD player and the PS3 was the first to use a Blu-Ray disc drive. At the time when the PS3 was launched, Sony was in a war with Toshiba regarding what should be the standard format for storing high definition audio and video and the PS3 helped Sony win the Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD war. Other technological advances for the PlayStation platform was its Sixaxis controller (and later the Dualshock 3) which had motion-sensors built-in.

Also with the PS3, the PlayStation Network (PSN) was officially launched. It was a competitor to Microsoft’s Xbox Live and it effectively replaced the online services provided for PS2. With the PS2 every game had its own specific service online and so the PlayStation Network, was able to provide a unified online service for all the games released. There’s a standard subscription that was originally free (up until 2013) and during registration the user’s required to create a Online ID for online services. With the PlayStation Network came the PlayStation Store as well. Available on the PS3 at first and then eventually other Sony products, it was an online virtual market that allowed users to download demos, add-on contact and full games, movie trailers and also themes for PlayStation consoles.

In 2007 the PlayStation Eye was available as a successor to the EyeToy. Like the EyeToy for the PS2 it was a gaming webcam but with “two times the sensitivity” and had improved specifications. When launched it was bundled with games such as The Eye Of Judgment. Also just like other consoles in the PlayStation family the PSP was re-released as a silm model. Called the PSP-2000 (also called Silm & Lite in some other markets), the redesign featured changes such as double the internal memory and brighter 5″ LCD screen. A year later the PSP-3000 replaced the Slim & Lite and had new additions like a microphone and a further improved LCD screen.

2 years after the first PSP was redesigned, the PS3 had its makeover as well. Launched in 2009 to address some of the criticisms of the original “fat” model, not only was the slim version was 32% smaller, 36% lighter and consumed at least 34% less power, but it also had 4 times at much memory available (320GB compared to 80GB). However unlike the original model, it didn’t have backward-compatibility, therefore it couldn’t play PS1 and PS2 games. To address this, Sony released PS1 games available for download on the PlayStation Network and also launched the “Classics HD” series which was a number of PS2 games (usually 3) re-mastered for high definition onto a blu-ray disc.

Also in 2009, Sony released another version of the PSP called the Go. Unlike the pervious versions, the Go was completely redesigned with a sliding mechanism and didn’t have a UMD slot – games have to be downloaded from the PlayStation store online when connected to a Wi-Fi network. Other differences include 16GB internal memory, a M2 memory slot rather than a Pro Duo slotand the battery isn’t removable. As a result of the redesign, the Go was 43% lighter and 56% smaller than the original PSP-1000, and 16% lighter and 35% smaller than the PSP-3000. However like the PSX in 2003, due to its high asking price it wasn’t a success and resulted in poor sales. As various reviewers pointed out, the PSP Go’s RRP in the UK was £225 at a time when the PSP-3000 was £150 which allowed downloaded games AND games on UMDs. Also the PS3 was only £25 more and had a built-in Blu-Ray DVD player.

The PSP Go was criticised for its high price

The PSP Go was criticised for its high price

By 2010, the success of Nintendo’s Wii had created a demand for motion-sensing games that allowed the players movements be the gaming input rather than the regular controller. Microsoft and Sony both responded and Sony’s answer was the PlayStation Move. With its new Motion and Navigation controllers (similar to the Wii Remote and Nunchuk respectively) and the PlayStation Eye, it had similar gameplay to Nintendo’s console but with much more accuracy and responsiveness. It was praised by critics with the only downside being the games itself that use the Move’s functionality.

In 2011 in Japan (2012 in all other main markets), the PlayStation Vita (PSVita) was released as a successor to the PSP and as a rival to the Nintendo 3DS. Like the PSP before it, it had a super oval design and featured a dominating large screen with PlayStation’s signature control buttons (cross, triangle, square and circle). However, the screen on the Vita was 1.2″ (3cm) bigger than the original design of the PSP and was also touch-sensitive. The PSVita also had a rear touchpad and Sixaxis motion-sensing as other gaming inputs. Like tablets, it was available with either 3G & Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi only models. Also the PSVita had its own format for software in the form of a “game card” rather than using the UMD’s that was used for the PSP and had its own memory card instead of using MicroSD’s or even Sony’s own M2 or Memory Stick Pro Duo memory cards. It got positive reviews but had the same criticisms as the PS3 – impressive technology but too expensive.

Around the same time as the PSVita was launched the PSP had one last redesign in the form of the E-1000. Released as a budget model alongside the PSVita, it doesn’t feature Wi-Fi capabilities, it doesn’t have a microphone and has a mono speaker as opposed to a stereo speaker. Also another portable PlayStation product released in 2011 in the form of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. It was Sony’s attempt to combine a Sony Ericsson phone running on Google’s Android software and Sony’s own PSP gameplay experience. In terms of design it was very similar to the PSP Go with a large screen and all the PlayStation signature controls only on display when the handheld is slided open. Sales of the product was been low – part due to the high asking price.

During 2011 it wasn’t all hardware that Sony unveiled. During that year the PlayStation App was released in Europe and Australia (2013 in North America) for iOS and Android. The app doesn’t have any gaming functionality but it provides users to access and manage their online ID account and send and receive messages between PlayStation systems.

Shortly after the PSVita and PSP E-1000 was launched another redesign of the PS3 was also released in the second half of 2012. Dubbed the “super-slim”, like the 1st slim back in 2009 it was smaller, lighter and had more memory available. Unlike the first two designs of the PS3 the disc loader is different. Rather than having a “slot-loading drive” it has a “sliding-disc cover” which gave the super-slim a “cheap” feel to the console which was criticised. Also PlayStation Mobile – known as the PlayStation Suite when launched – was available during 2012. It allows Sony machinery (and eventually others like HTC) to download PlayStation software as long as they’re PlayStation Certified. The first handset was the Xperia Play and as of April 2014 there are over 40 phones ans tablets. So far only Android handsets that’s running at least 2.3 Gingerbread and other unknown requirements and the PSVita are PlayStation Certified.

NOW AND THE FUTURE

At the end of the 2013 (in North America and Europe (2014 in Japan) the PlayStation 4 (PS4) was released and Sony made sure it had learnt from the mistakes with its predecessors launch. There was much more emphasis on the console for its gaming and social abilities rather than its technical specifications (part due to the Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD war) and it wasn’t as expensive as the PS3 at launch. However like its predecessor it was the most powerful console in its generation with its class-leading specifications. Its rivals are Nintendo’s Wii U and Microsoft’s Xbox One and as of April 2014 it is the best-selling in the eighth-generation consoles of despite being the last to be released. As of April 2014 7 million console have been sold worldwide.

With the PS4, Sony launched the PlayStation camera. As an successor to the PlayStation Eye and an rival for the Xbox One’s Kinect, it features 2 1280×800 pixel cameras which can be used for different applications. Also to compete with the Wii U’s gamepad and the Xbox One’s SmartGlass app, the second screen feature for the PS4 was added onto the existing PlayStation App and also the PSVita.

Also in Q4 2013 the PlayStation Vita TV was launched in Japan. As the name suggests, it’s a small set-top box/microconsoles device that allows users to not only stream media from the internet but also play PSVita games on a TV with a PS3 or PS4 controller (via HDMI rather than its large 5″ screen). Even though some PSVita games are not compatible with the Vita TV because they depend on the handheld’s touchscreen, touchpad, microphone and/or camera, they’re over 100 games available as of April 2014.With its dual usages, its rivals are not only set-top boxes like Apple TV, Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV but also other microconsoles like the Ouya. As of April 2014, sales outside Japan hasn’t been confirmed.

At 6x10cm, the PSVita TV is about the same size a pack of playing cards. Here it is compared to a Dualshock 3 controller.

At 6x10cm, the PSVita TV (right) is about the same size a pack of playing cards. Here it is compared to a PS3 controller.

 

In January 2014 Sony annouced Playstation Now – a video game streaming service to allow playstation games to work on PS3, PS4, PSVita and eventually other Sony products like smartphones, tablets and Bravia TV’s. Once its released (due to be sometime in Q2-Q3 2014 in North America and later in other markets) and linked to the PlayStation store, users will have the opportunity to either pay a subscription to explore a range of games or just rent them out for a period of time. Its origins goes back to the previous year when it purchased Gaikai in June. Gaikai was responsible for delivering PC titles on TV’s from deals with Samsung and LG but once Sony brought the technology from the firm in 2013 it found a way to emulate PS3 titles as well. In theory, this will allow PS1, PS2 and PS3 titles to be played on PS4 to address the criticisms Sony received for the PS4 not being backward-compatible.

2 months after PlayStation Now was announced, Sony unveiled its Virtual Gaming Headset for the PlayStation 4. In its 4th year of development and currently only a prototype. Currently codenamed Project Morpheus, the VG Headset is a head-mounted unit with a 5″ LCD display with 1080p resolution and a 90 degree view. It also has accelerometer and gyroscope sensors, binaural audio, and its tracking and motion control works with the PS Camera and PS Move respectively. For now it won’t be available until at least 2015.

Sony have definitely taken the world by storm with the PlayStation brand by pushing new technology to the masses and producing setting record-breaking sales. They have changed the way people think of gaming by setting new standards and by the looks of it that trend it set to continue…

 

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