“I wondered what was happening in that silver box.”
December 3, 2019 8:25 AM   Subscribe

The PlayStation is 25 Years Old! [YouTube][Documentary: Memories of Play] [Every PlayStation Startup Sound] “On December 3rd, 1994, Twenty-five years ago, the original PlayStation went on sale for the first time in Japan. With a lineup led by Ridge Racer and the promise of a 3D future, Sony quickly outpaced Sega and Nintendo and went on to dominate the video game console market. Rather than focus on games, we wanted to highlight the business and technology behind Sony’s hardware. So we brought together former Sony executives Makoto Iwai and Shuji Utsumi alongside tech experts Kazuyuki Hashimoto (Final Fantasy 7) and Masanori Yamada (Tekken) to reflect on the challenges Sony and its developers overcame getting PlayStation off the ground. From working with temperamental visionary Ken Kutaragi, to the limited memory available for games, to not being allowed to leave their office without permission due to tight deadlines, the group came prepared with stories to tell.” [via: Polygon]

• PlayStation 25th anniversary issue [The Verge]
Twenty-five years ago, the original PlayStation ushered in the era of 3D gaming on a home console. Over that period, the company has consistently changed things up with new advancements, whether that’s the DVD storage of the PS2 or the influential twin-stick design of the DualShock controller. It’s hard to argue today that the video game industry isn’t better with Sony in it. The company’s influence now spans four generations of hardware — alongside a pair of portable spinoffs — and some of the biggest modern franchises in video games. That includes the likes of Uncharted, God of War, Gran Turismo, and a host of indie games and innovative titles like Shadow of the Colossus. What’s perhaps most remarkable, though, is how consistent PlayStation has been over that lengthy period. While other console makers have come and gone, PlayStation has remained steady.
How the PlayStation logo became a streetwear icon
The rise and fall of the PlayStation supercomputers
One of PlayStation’s most important studios makes games about loneliness
How the PlayStation’s DualShock shaped modern controllers
Naughty Dog’s president on how games changed since the first PlayStation: ‘They’re barely recognizable’
• Take a look inside the original PlayStation on its 25th anniversary [Engadget]
“If you're a gamer of a certain age (cough), you're about to feel very old. Sony released the original PlayStation 25 years ago on December 3rd, 1994, and iFixit has marked the occasion by tearing down the very first, Japan-only model that never officially made it to other countries. To say it's a throwback to another era would be an understatement. It's not just the inclusion of now-quaint technology like a CD-only disc drive, a modest 32-bit MIPS CPU (the base PS4 is roughly 50 times faster), an S-Video port and slots for 1MB memory cards -- the post mortem highlights a fundamentally different approach to electronics design. For one, it's ridiculously easy to get into the system and replace parts. You just need a Philips screwdriver and a spudger to remove everything, underscoring the contrast with modern electronics that are virtually impossible to fix yourself. There are also very few things to remove, and the modest computing power meant that Sony could cram even the power supply into an enclosure that makes most modern consoles seem gargantuan. You rarely see electronics like this in 2019, and while few would demand a return to 1994-era computing power, the simplicity is appealing.”
posted by Fizz (28 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I urge everyone to take the time to watch the documentary. It's fascinating to listen to these old masters discuss the work culture and the differences in how they approached gaming as opposed to a company like Nintendo or Sega. That Sony and Nintendo might joined forces at one time, it's still something that makes me wonder. I'm sure it wouldn't have worked out. They're just too different in their philosophies.

It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years.

I wasn't lucky enough to have picked up a PlayStation. Our family was always very Nintendo oriented and Sony was always priced just a little bit more out of our budget. I was always envious though, I looked on in wonder as my friends would play Metal Gear Solid. It's taken 25 years but I finally have a PS4 and I'm having a shit ton of fun with it.

Sidenote: There was one Sony product I did eventually pick up: Playstation Vita. I love the fuck out of that tiny portable beast. It would have worked but it never really planted roots here in the Western market. It's a shame, so many wonderful games and fully backwards compatible. If you enjoy JRPGs, you should still consider picking one up. There's a large library of games to choose from.

*Also, apologies for not capitalizing the letter S in PlayStation in my links/post. I should know better. Blurgh.
posted by Fizz at 8:43 AM on December 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

“Kutaragi took the first flight to the U.S. and killed Polygon Man.”
Lol. So much lol.
posted by Fizz at 8:59 AM on December 3, 2019

I've got a big 'ol PC shaped hole in my heart right where a PlayStation ought to be, by other people's reckoning.
posted by wierdo at 9:06 AM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Playstation was my first "proper" console (prior to that I'd only ever owned an original Gameboy and various home computers). It was around during my teenage years meaning I spent a lot of time with my friends after school playing on it - mostly Tekken 3 (I still have the muscle memory for a lot of Ling Xiaoyu's moves and I still remember the pain you got in your thumb from pressing the d-pad too hard for too long).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:08 AM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

The PlayStation was a key point in my life. If my family had instead picked up whatever the next-gen Nintendo was at that point (64?), maybe my early forays on the Web would have been looking for info on Zelda. That didn't happen. Instead, I saw a commercial (first one) for Final Fantasy VII and read a little blurb about the game in Newsweek and knew I needed a PSX for Christmas. That decision was the first of many that led to who I ended up associating with at websites and communities I visited over the next fifteen years.
posted by Fukiyama at 9:37 AM on December 3, 2019

I still have a working Playstation, mainly for playing Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo... so if anyone wants to come over for a game...
posted by pipeski at 9:42 AM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I remember being one of the first kids in the UK to play a PlayStation. My dad took the same train to work as the marketing manager at Psygnosis, which later became SCE Studio Liverpool. I was 11 years old and got to go with my brother on the guise of writing for our school newspapers, so we were able to try out Tohshinden and, I think, 3D Lemmings.

It was just glorious although I didn't quite get the school cred I'd imagined because the PS wasn't cool enough yet – it wouldn't release in the UK for months.

Later, I made the tragic mistake of saving up for a Nintendo 64 with its £100+ (in today's money) games. Sure, those were great games but they were punishingly expensive. I think I only ever owned three or four at a time, and most were used. If only I'd bought a PlayStation, I could've had all the pirated games imaginable! In fact I ended up doing that a few years later by getting a chipped PSOne in order to play imported copies of DDR and Katamari Damacy. Good times.
posted by adrianhon at 10:00 AM on December 3, 2019

It's the 5th anniversary of the free PlayStation 20th anniversary theme I've used on my PS4 this whole time.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:05 AM on December 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'm still pissed that the only way to play Katamari on PS4 is the subscription.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:34 AM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

the base PS4 is roughly 50 times faster

nitpicky but this is definitely dividing the clock speed and the difference in power is definitely far larger than that
posted by atoxyl at 11:32 AM on December 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

The original PS4 is 300 times more powerful than the PS2, in FLOPS (guessing this includes the dedicated video hardware?)
posted by atoxyl at 11:36 AM on December 3, 2019

I will never forget walking into the video game section of Dragon Con in Atlanta in the summer of 1995 and seeing a demo unit of the PS, and then playing Battle Arena Toshinden (Sofia 4 Lyfe!) in a tiny room for hours and hours, taking turns with others and marveling at the 3D feel of it. It was completely mind blowing at the time; it looked so cool! We bought one on release day after standing in line for a looong time, and we played the f*** out of that thing.

Then in Taiwan in 1998, we spent too much money on a modded version that would play all the pirated games, and that introduced me to Metal Gear Solid (in Japanese, which I do not speak, so that was fun) and one of my all time favorites Bust a Move: Dance & Rhythm Action!

I'm a PC gamer, so I don't console game much anymore. When I do it's an XBox. But man, I looooved the first Playstation so much. Ahhh the memories...
posted by gemmy at 12:20 PM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I can thank the original playstation for mostly three things:
- kickstarting my soldering abilities and making me less nervous about modding things
- introducing me to "Pepsi Man"
- my love for gloriously cheesy and poorly acted dialogue

I honestly think that there were so many forgettable games on the original PS, but that was probably because it was the first console in a long time that had that many games to choose from. There are definitely some gems that stand out that I keep coming back to:

- Tenchu, for the above dialogue, but also because it's a damned great stealth game - It was one of the earliest examples, and worth coming back to despite the limitations of the hardware and rudimentary engine.
- Symphony of the Night, the second part of the "MetroidVania" combo, which arguably would have otherwise resulted in games simply being called "Metroid-like" if it didn't exist
- Parappa the Rapper, because it's awesome and ridiculous.
- Einhander, as a rare modern shmup that still holds up quite well with some unique mechanics and excellent production values.

I'm not saying there weren't other games worth playing, but those are what I felt a need to hang on to in some form or another - I still have the original Tenchu CD and case in my desk.

I tried to replay several of the JRPGs that sucked away hours of my life, but I think I'm old and impatient now because they just seem tedious and grindy. I mean, it was awesome seeing the FF7 summon animations the first time, and those alone sold a few playstations to people I knew - and they are still technical marvels, despite the low poly count and low texture res, but it gets stale fast, and in 2019, I just don't have the patience to play games where the bulk of them are random encounters that take no skill but consume a lot of time.

FF7 is the game that I feel like almost everyone I know would associate with the PS1 - it seemed to spread like a virus, and even if you weren't playing it, chances were that you were around someone who was. My brother still reminds me of how I demonstrated the PS1 to him by summoning Nights of the Round (A minute and a half long overkill summon) on a singular frog, and I have a picture buried away somewhere of where my roommate at the time fell asleep with the controller in his hands mid-battle after a 20 hour plus binge.
posted by MysticMCJ at 12:50 PM on December 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I somehow managed to walk into a Toys R Us and pick up a copy of FF7 just on vague name recognition alone, ridiculously early in the release cycle. I'd had a few PSX games before then, I'm pretty sure, but mostly arcade ports and such. But it was FF7 that glued me to the screen for weeks on end. I've played through it a few times since then, but man that first time just blew me away.

And yeah, it was the first console I had chipped, which introduced me to so many ridiculous Japanese imports.

Remember the Sony demo discs? I collected them for a while, despite how much jank there was on them. But that felt like such a cool thing at the time and Sony went all in on that, it wasn't just a stupid text menu or a single game per disc, it was all multimedia and swoopy crashy fabulousness wrapped around pre-beta and minimum-effort demo versions of games.

The thing I legitimately miss the most while playing emulated PSX games is the BIOS chime. Both the PSX and PS2 chimes are deeply ingrained in my memories of playing those systems, and emulators just dropping you into the boot screen is slightly anticlimactic.
posted by Kyol at 1:03 PM on December 3, 2019

My gaming days started with the Odyssey and its 3-4 variations on Pong. Followed by Intellivision. Followed by Colecovision, followed by a Commodore 64. Then there was a long, long gap.

Started back again around 2005 or so with the Xbox 360. And while I enjoyed some games on that system (bought it for Oblivion), my PS4 is easily the best gaming-thing I've ever used (played some laptop games here and there, but never had a gaming PC). The exclusives alone have been amazing, and many other games as well. I'm ready to hop aboard the PS5 some time in late winter 2021 once the earliest bugs have been squished and the 5 has a somewhat good library of games. I cannot even think of a single exclusive for this latest edition of Xbox that I have any interest in. The PS rules the game world right now, as far as I'm concerned.

(tried the Switch, but it falls into a Goldilocks-zone for me... too small for handheld, and plugged in it's just an underpowered console with bad controllers. Plus, I skipped all the Nintendo stuff over my lifetime so I have no interest in Mario Product XXVII.b)
posted by SoberHighland at 1:06 PM on December 3, 2019

Man all y'all with your fancy mod-chipped PSXs missed out on one of the system's greatest joys: The Double Swap Trick. Jam a pencil into the lid sensor, rest a World Book Encyclopedia on the pencil, practice 100+ times and buddy, you're in import/CDR heaven.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:12 PM on December 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

I remember prevaricating over getting one and then wandering into HMV multiple times before picking up my first PS, with Wipeout and the first Resident Evil, which checking the dates, means I picked it up in 1996. No buyer's regret for me. Quality titles I got tons of gameplay from.
posted by biffa at 1:39 PM on December 3, 2019

I remember visiting relatives in London for a family wedding. They had a Playstation and we spent so much time playing Tekken and Soul Blade. So much time. It was great.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:48 PM on December 3, 2019

My dad's friend worked at Visual Concepts, a game developer in the bay area, when they got a japanese release PS in the office. I went to work with him one day and played Tekken until my thumbs hurt.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 2:15 PM on December 3, 2019

My dad won a PS1 at a work raffle, it came with that demo disc with Spyro, Metal Gear Solid, and something else. We got Metal Gear Solid ASAP but forgot to buy a memory card, so I just payed it as far as I could and left the system on. Eventually got the memory card and restarted.
posted by gucci mane at 3:04 PM on December 3, 2019

My first experience with a Playstation was playing Final Fantasy 7 at a family reunion. Despite having played games my entire early-teenage life this was still somehow the first JRPG I ever played. I didn't get a Playstation for a while afterwards but this did prompt me to get into emulation and play all the SNES and NES games I missed the first time around. I vividly recall playing a game in 1998 that came out in 1993 felt like plumbing the depths of ancient history to me, despite having had played plenty of games in 1993 myself.

Anyway, I eventually saved up enough money and bought a used Playstation sometime in the late 90s and played the absolute shit out of FF7, Metal Gear Solid, and a lot of other good and terrible PS1 games. I skipped the Playstation 2 for what it did to my beloved Dreamcast, and by the time PS3 came out I was far more interested in what the Xbox 360 had to offer. By the time I came back to Playstation with the free PS4 we won at a command picnic it really didn't matter which console you had, and it's mattered even less as time as gone on.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:43 PM on December 3, 2019

I had a sufficiently old US PS1 that I could swap in Japanese discs with the aid of a small spring. The trick also let you access other locations on some US games - music, animated sequences. I remember having fun trying it out, but not exactly what I found. I think Xenogears showed some of the anime cut scenes in sequence?
posted by esker at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2019

I have similar fond memories. I myself didn't own a PS1 until I was considerably older, but a friend had one which we played religiously. Except he didn't have the stable of games that everyone so far has mentioned.

He had Rayman, Descent, And... Aquanaut's Holiday.

I still have no idea how to play that game, or what you're supposed to do, or anything really, but it charmed me enough that it's a physical disk I still have hanging around. A talisman of good times gone past, I suppose.
posted by Kikujiro's Summer at 7:58 PM on December 3, 2019

The PlayStation was based on the MIPS architecture, which had hitherto been used only in high-end UNIX workstations such as the DECstation; if I recall correctly, the DECstation was used to bootstrap the PlayStation, and early prototypes were basically modified DECstation hardware or something similar.

When I went to university in the early 90s, the workstations used in the computer science department were big pizza-box DECstations with large glass-bottle monitors. (This was before the Windows-everywhere and/or commodity-Linux era.) They upgraded them and, in their generosity, donated one of the old low-end ones (a DECstation 2100, with 8Mb or so of RAM) to a student group to run as a public-access multiuser UNIX BBS. It would take 10-15 minutes to log in at lunchtime, and once you did, you could use USENET or telnet to MUDs or similar. A few years later, it was bittersweet to see a mass-produced gaming console appear that turned out to be, internally, a more powerful version of the multi-user UNIX box you used.
posted by acb at 1:36 AM on December 4, 2019

I picked one up with my own money. I didn't have enough money to get any games with it, but I played the hell out of the demo disc I got.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:19 AM on December 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

PSX personal top 5:
Vagrant Story (played so much the console overheated and it had to get repaired due to melted solder)
Harvest Moon
Breath of Fire IV
Chrono Cross
Soul Reaver
posted by curious nu at 8:14 AM on December 4, 2019

25 years ago my old boss brought one into the studio, having just returned from a trip to Japan. Playing Ridge Racer on a home platform was a revelation. Changed my life.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:03 PM on December 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lots o' unix heritage, as the N64 also used a MIPS, the R4300 - and a big deal was made of its SGI origins.

I worked at an SGI shop that used 10K+ SGI O2s as workstations. The only thing that I could do on that that I couldn't on our OS/2, Win98 and Mac workstations was run the 3D file browser (co-starring in Jurassic park as "the unix system"), which mostly existed as a gratuitous tech demo - so I of course ran it constantly.

A big deal was made over the 3D processing power of our systems, and it was not appreciated when I mentioned that I was positive that the OpenGL capabilities would do wonders for our ability to host email and basic HTML sites.
posted by MysticMCJ at 5:07 PM on December 5, 2019

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