20 years ago today, the world gained a new major console manufacturer. The arrival of Sony’s PlayStation permanently altered the balance of power in the gaming market and set the stage for an incredible run in which it became the first games console to sell over 100 million units.
The console made its debut in Japan on December 3rd, 1994 and immediately turned heads thanks to Namco’s stunning conversion of Ridge Racer, one of the most visually impressive arcade games of its era. The 3D power of the machine wowed gamers and industry figures alike and proved to be a big advantage over Sega’s competing console, the Saturn. By the time the North American and European launches rolled around in September 1995, the likes of Wipeout and Battle Arena Toshinden had been added to the line-up and the arrival of Tekken before the end of the year helped Sony to build a massive lead in the West.
While 1996 saw the debut of many iconic franchises such as Crash Bandicoot, Resident Evil and Tomb Raider, the PlayStation had still achieved only a fraction of its eventual success, having sold 10 million units by the end of the year. It wasn’t until Final Fantasy VII hit in 1997 that the PlayStation’s lead over the Saturn in Japan became decisive. Competition from Nintendo’s new console, the N64, was held off with shrewd marketing tactics including the launch of the Platinum budget range, which offered slightly older best-sellers at just £20 – far less than N64’s cartridge-based games, which retailed for up to £70.
The hits kept coming over the years that followed, including Gran Turismo, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VIII, Grand Theft Auto, Spyro The Dragon, Driver, Medal Of Honor and Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding. In 2000, the console was re-released with a new, smaller form factor as the PSone. This paved the way for the move towards the incoming PlayStation 2, which launched in the same year. However, the PlayStation would find further life as a budget platform for younger gamers, and continued to see new releases up until 2005. In fact, you could still find PlayStation magazines competing for shelf space with early issues of Retro Gamer when the magazine launched in 2004.
We’ve been ramping up PlayStation coverage over the last year to build to the anniversary, and you’ll have seen features on readers’ top 25 PlayStation games, the making of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Medal Of Honor as well as retrospectives on the history of the Driver and Tekken series – you can find those in Retro Gamer back issues on GreatDigitalMags.com. We’ll also be providing a full 20th anniversary retrospective in issue 137 (on sale January 2nd 2015), including a look back at the machine itself and a feature on the best PlayStation games you’ve never played. Look forward to it!