If we roll the clocks back 30 years ago, Nintendo was the king of the castle. Thanks to the introduction of massively popular games such as Super Mario Brothers as well as a user-friendly design and a cost-effective pricing plan, millions of these consoles were sold throughout the world. Although there is no doubt that Nintendo still has a massive impact upon the world of gaming, there is no denying that the Sony PlayStation now enjoys the number-one spot. What has allowed this franchise to continue its domination within the midst of other consoles such as the Xbox and the Nintendo Switch? Let’s take a look at where the developers of PlayStation got it right as well as why the online community is now playing an increasingly pivotal role in future progress.
The Undeniable Role of Technology
Believe it or not, the first PlayStation was released in Japan as far back as 1994. The one aspect of this console which set it miles apart from competitors was the fact that it employed CD technology as opposed to the cartridge based 32 and 64-bit games that otherwise dominated the industry in the generation before it. Advances in hardware likewise signified that the storage capacity of the PlayStation was vastly superior; enabling games to retain more information and for the graphics to take on more realistic appearances. Almost every aspect of the presentation was enhanced – video cutscenes were commonplace, CD quality audio brought games to life with lavish soundtracks and the increase in storage space meant that voiceovers became the norm and not a luxury.
It has to be said that we should really be thankful for Nintendo here. The PlayStation was originally intended to be an add-on for the SNES and then a hybrid console with Nintendo and Sony working together to produce a console jointly. Fortunately (for us, that is) Nintendo changed their minds and walked away from the deal deciding to stick to the tried and tested cartridge format for their future console plans which eventually became the Nintendo 64. Sony, having already developed optical drive and 3D technologies for Nintendo decided to go it alone…
We should also mention that Sony kept the original PlayStation available for 11 years after its initial inception; helping to build a loyal base of followers for well over a decade. During the iconic release of the PlayStation 2, all of its games were backwards-compatible with the original unit. This was a mark of creative genius – no doubt learning from Nintendo and their early Gameboy strategies. By offering backwards compatability it meant that existing customers could upgrade to the latest hardware and still had a full library of games they could use from day one keeping all of their original games. This feature appealed universally to players.
This compatability certainly extended the life of the original PlayStation beyond what would have been expected, and with a hi-fi quality CD player being incorporated into the console from day one it didn’t fail to impress. By the time the PS2 was released however, the future of PlayStation as a whole had been all but cemented.
The Role of Online Sales and Publicity
The experts at Sony were no strangers to why only the best B2B ecommerce solutions needed to be employed alongside more traditional forms of advertising. They realised (and still realise) that the best way to attract players of a younger generation is to provide them with access to the latest marketing campaigns and sneak peeks through the power of the internet. Not only are they now able to reach and interact with a global audience, but they have established an entirely new fan base.
This is not to say that other developers have failed to embrace such approaches. Indeed, the major names in the business all employ online cross-channel marketing techniques to their advantage. The undeniable fact is that Sony has continued to cater to the needs of its audience while not straying too far from the base appeal of the PlayStation itself. This sense of progressive familiarity has served as a strong foundation for any future ventures and if history is any indicator, the entire PlayStation franchise is not going away any time soon.
Going Portable, Round One
One area where Nintendo was dominating throughout the 1990s was that of portable gaming. While Sega, Atari and SNK all released their own handheld consoles, none matched the success of the Gameboy family. Moving on into the 21st Century Nintendo cemented this success further with the DS and 3DS range. From the mainstream console point of view, Sony was already the dominant player with the original PlayStation and then the PlayStation 2 setting new standards (helped even more being he cheapest commercially available DVD player on the market when it launched). In contast, the Nintendo 64 hadn’t been a commercial success but their handheld platforms continued to dominate and Sony, understandably wanted a piece of this…
The PSP was launched boasting specifications close to that of the PlayStation 2 and intended to be a companion device to the PS3. Offering gamers console power in their hand, a huge range of games at launch and ongoing and the ability to play movies on the go from its own custom disc format it sounded too good to be true. But Sony managed to deliver. With major titles landing on the system including entries in most of the respected PlayStation franchises – Gran Turismo, God Of War, Ratchet and Clank, Killzone and countless others it deserved the success it gained. With digital downloads being affordable with the budget priced Minis range, and original PlayStation compatability added, it could do no wrong. And the 80 million owners agreed.
PS3 – A Slow Burner
The PS3, in contrast, had a slow start. While it was undeniably a more powerful console than the XBox 360 and featured a blu ray drive as standard (again as with the PS2 before it making it the most affordable domestic blu ray player at the time) it was significantly more expensive than its rival. It was also much harder to develop for. Early sales for the XBox 360 were higher and studios couldn’t afford to invest extra time to take advantage of the PS3’s greater capabilities so more often than not there were negligible differences between both platforms for games. Things only really changed later in the PS3s lifespan when sales leveled out and more developers were pushing the hardware to its fullest. Eventually the PS3 claimed the top spot of the two systems but not without a struggle.
Going Portable, Round Two
What had the potential to be one of Sony’s biggest achievements turned out to be their biggest failure commercially as a console. On paper, the PS Vita couldn’t go wrong. Stunning performance, plenty of capacity in its physical media, dual analogue sticks for its controls, motion sensors, touch screen – it was a gamers dream. But then it launched and was plagued with problems. Expensive memory cards, abysmal marketing from Sony and dwindling software support from them lead to a lack of consumer confidence. With most games being released digitally potential buyers didn’t realise the scope of its library and Sony failed to communicate this – both to the gaming community or to retail. It was a shambles. People didn’t see games in stores despite the high number of releases, saw the price of memory cards and voted with their wallets and went elsewhere.
What could have been a phenomenal success, especially with its connectivity to the PS4, ended up struggling with under 20 million sales worldwide. It’s sad to see it happen to the Vita especially with the incredible range of games it has. Even more so as most people outside of the Vita owning community don’t even know – or believe – that such a strong and diverse range of games exist.
PS4 – World’s Best Selling Console?
Not quite… that honour belongs to the PlayStation 2 with almost 160m sales worldwide but it’s doing remarkably well and is the best of the current generation by a long stretch with over 90m and counting. Sony got everything right first time with the PS4. While Microsoft made significant errors from day one with their announcements about the XBox One, Sony said all of the right things and got the hardware right and managed to deliver the goods and did exactly what they promised. There have been a few hiccups along with the way and on a technical level Microsoft now has the edge even after the launch of the PS4 Pro, but the range of games and sheer popularity of the PS4 has meant that it’s become a priority platform for developers.
In terms of its long-term sales potential, the PS4 is showing no signs of slowing down yet and is on target to beat the Wii’s 101m and original PlayStation’s 104m unit sales just leaving the Gameboy, Nintendo DS and the PlayStation 2 for it to take the top spot. With the PlayStation 5 still another year or two away, it may just well achieve it…
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I’m an animal lover and vegetarian.
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