Since the SNES and Mega Drive creation was winding up, SEGA began toying with the concept of using CDs rather than cartridges, even going so far as to launch the SEGA CD add-on to the Mega Drive.
Sony spent money and time learning about the gambling industry and constructing their prototypes but discussions between the two Japanese companies broke down. Based on who you ask, possibly Nintendo agreed terms with a different company in secret and allow Sony find out at the last minute, or Sony were asking for a lot of money and Nintendo baulked on the offer. Whichever is true, the result was the same; Sony was out on their ear in relation to the SNES-CD. While that deal had not worked out for anyone, what became apparent was that the gambling industry was moving towards CD as their medium of choice.
Sony chose to use what they had learned and developed working with Nintendo to produce their own console and enter the fray; they dubbed it the PlayStation and released it in 1994, about two years before Nintendo would launch their next major console. What nobody expected was that Sony would finally dethrone Nintendo as the hottest console maker in the world and start a twenty five year dominance of the business.
One of the principal reasons that Sony was powerful with the first PlayStation was their superb marketing of the console. Before the PlayStation, just about all games consoles were aimed at youngsters. Sony made a sensible move in especially targeting young adults in their advertising, making PlayStation a hit among players that had grown up with a Nintendo console but now wanted something a bit more, well, grown up.
Sony would place the PlayStation in clubs and have actors endorse the console or be photographed playing one. Games generally begun to drift more towards an adult tone, and new titles such as Tomb Raider were viewed as completely cooler than Mario or Zelda. Finally, Sony chose a hobby which was generally seen as for kids and publicly mocked by many, and helped to make it to the respected medium we see now. While it would be silly to say they did it out of the kindness of their hearts – they made a hell of a great deal of money through making gambling more accepted in the public eye – we can not overlook exactly what they did. Sony made gambling cool.
When it came time for the upcoming big Nintendo console, the N64, the business surprised plenty of people by declaring that it would still use cartridges rather than CD. The logic behind the decision made enough sense; CDs are much easier to pirate than capsules, and they feared that using CDs would cost them plenty of money thanks to replicated games. The decision to stick with cartridges and the additional two year development time Nintendo had with the N64 supposed the system was stronger than the PlayStation and load times were virtually non-existent. Cartridges did have drawbacks though – they made games more costly to make, they were more difficult to develop for, and it meant that the N64 would battle with storage, music quality and FMV.
Squaresoft had been working with Nintendo and had brought all the past Final Fantasy games to Nintendo consoles. But seeing the additional storage space CDs would manage them, and knowing that they could push the bounds of production values with high quality cut-scenes, Square jumped ship and decided to create another title in their Final Fantasy series for the PlayStation: Final Fantasy VII.
It is impossible to overstate just how significant Final Fantasy VII was. As an RPG, it introduced countless players to their first Japanese role playing game, and the subsequent popularity of this genre meant that role playing mechanisms started to filter into practically every genre. Today we’ve got RPG systems in FIFA.
However, as significant as Final Fantasy VII was to games, it was even more significant for Sony. Final Fantasy was a big deal in Japan along with the movement to PlayStation supposed that earnings for the console went up in Sony’s homeland cementing the console’s standing as the one to have for fans of JRPGs. In the years that followed, the PlayStation would see dozens of top notch JRPGs published, and even now this time period is remembered fondly as a golden age for the genre. What was surprising was how nicely Final Fantasy VII was obtained out of Japan, however.
While the Final Fantasy series was fairly popular with gamers around the planet, Final Fantasy VII became a phenomenon. Thanks to stellar reviews, infectious word of mouth, and a hefty advertising effort, Final Fantasy VII went on to be a enormous hit that meant more to the business than just some impressive sales numbers. Final Fantasy became a premier manufacturer, and future releases for the show became occasions that players would look ahead.
Final Fantasy VII also featured impressive – to the time – visuals which would not have been possible had Squaresoft made the game for the N64. The quality of the FMV sequences in Final Fantasy VII was one of the main talking points surrounding the match, and the cinematic advantage that Squaresoft attracted to the name was something that other games still replicate to this day.
Thanks largely to Final Fantasy VII that the PlayStation made a significant mark upon the gambling industry, and from there things just got better. The excess power the N64 had was negated by the increased storage capacity of the disks the PlayStation utilized, and the higher quality of audio and video that accessible to programmers. Titles like Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Resident Evil and Tomb Raider just would not have worked on N64, and each of them became major selling points for Sony’s console. What is more, Nintendo had no response for games like these, rather generally sticking to the tried and tested games such as Mario and Zelda.
Whether they underestimated the threat of Sony as a credible competitor or if they did not realise the effect that CDs could have upon the business, Nintendo were eventually number two to a different company in the gaming area.
Nintendo made a smart move in including an analogue stick in their control since 3D gaming would require a bit more precision than the standard D-Pad would allow. However, Sony took the idea and did something inventive by it. With a single analogue stick to control the player character, and one analogue stick left to command the camera, how we play games has been redefined.
However, Sony was the company that used what they found to construct the gaming industry into what it is now. PlayStation has become the premier brand in video games more than Nintendo ever was.
Part of the reason behind that is the achievement of the first PlayStation console. The initial steps into 3D gaming could have been awkward, but after the foundations were laid, console gaming was transformed forever. The PlayStation helped to establish that through a combination of clever marketing, shifting people’s perceptions of the business, and championing a couple of important franchises that would go on to become some of the greatest in the world.
Nowadays, the original PlayStation is recalled as a games console that changed gaming for a good deal of people.