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Birthday Memories: Sony PlayStation Turns 15
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Birthday Memories: Sony PlayStation Turns 15

September 9, 2010 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

It's hard to overestimate the significance of the PlayStation 1. The console market, in the 16-bit generation, had been split pretty evening between Nintendo and Sega -- but Sega was decimated, and Nintendo began its long pre-Wii downward slide with the Nintendo 64, thanks to a new competitor: Sony.

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the original PlayStation's launch in North America: September 9, 1995. And while some of the biggest franchises that were built on the PlayStation may be in very different places than they once were -- Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, WipeOut -- we remember them all as titans of the era.

In fact, in a testament to that, Final Fantasy VII has recently been the most-downloaded title on PlayStation Network for many months, beating out original, new games posted to the service.

To get a window to the system's launch, Gamasutra spoke with Peter Dille, Sony Computer Entertainment's senior vice president of marketing. In 1995, Dille moved to California to help bootstrap Sony Computer Entertainment, and worked on the system's launch.

He speaks here about that experience, the company's troubled history with Nintendo over the cratered plan to launch the PlayStation as a peripheral for the Super Nintendo, and much more.

So, Peter, I wanted to talk about your personal history -- when did you join the company, and how involved were you with the original launch?

Peter Dille: I worked at Sony since the early '90s. I think I joined in maybe '90, '91, and I was working at the parent company at Manhattan at that time. This actually predates the formation of Sony Computer Entertainment.

The parent company had recently purchased Columbia Pictures and CBS Records, and it was the early days of multimedia and what they called "synergy". You probably remember Sony Imagesoft, a small, not terribly successful publisher of Nintendo and Sega video game products.

As Sony was preparing to launch the PlayStation, when they had decided to compete with Nintendo instead of purely support Nintendo -- because we had been a chip supplier to Nintendo... And you're probably by this point well aware of the debate about the original PlayStation, which was going to be a peripheral to the Nintendo machine.

At that point in time, I was sort of tasked, or recruited, by some of the folks in New York to help pay attention to the video game space and prepare for the launch of PlayStation. There was a newly-created group called Sony Electronic Publishing that the Sony Imagesoft group reported up into, and I was part of that organization, and we were managing Sony Imagesoft from New York.

Ultimately, the decision was made to combine the Sony Imagesoft operation into the Sony Computer operation, so in February of 1995, I moved out to California and became part of the Sony Computer Entertainment team. I was here for the launch, and it was an exciting time.

So, I'll stop there because that's probably a lot of history. For me, it's a chance to go into the Wayback Machine.

At that point, when you came to California, the PlayStation was actually out in Japan. It came out in December of '94. So how far back did your involvement with the project as in, "We're going to launch this into the U.S. in the fall of '95," take shape?

PD: Well, again, I had a unique opportunity to have a bird's eye view, I think, of actually the moment that decision was made. I was, again, working in Manhattan for the parent company.

And one day, [CEO] Mickey Schulhof, who ran all of Sony's U.S. operations, hardware and software, and was on the board of directors of Sony Corporate in Japan -- which I think was, you know, one of the first non-Japanese, and one of the first Americans to be on the board. He was as big as they come.

He called me into his office -- and I never had got a call to Mickey Schulhof's office -- and he asked for my help to develop a press release announcing this thing called the PlayStation, which was going to be a peripheral to the Nintendo.

And again, this is all out in books now, so I'm not passing secrets along, but what Mickey was doing was in effect, negotiating with Nintendo in the press by saying, "We're prepared to launch this thing on our own if you don't honor the agreement that we had with you." And I thought it was just fascinating to sort of watch this all go down and see how this high stakes game of poker was being played.

And when Nintendo made their decision, they put out an announcement with Philips. This was on the eve of CES, you might remember. At that very moment in time, Mickey and a number of senior executives at Sony, said, "We're going to launch our own product, and we're going to compete to win."

And so it was from that point in the early '90s that I was aware of Sony's interest in launching a product and competing... It was several years in advance of 1994 or 1995.

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Jonathan Jennings
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happy birthday Ps1, I may have had my reservations and complaints with the Ps3 , but the ps1 and ps2 were osme of my favorite consoles and my first introductions to 3d and " next -gen " gaming.

Jeffrey Fleming
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There was an undeniably “cool” element to the PlayStation. Early on the machine was crossing age and culture barriers. I was 25 when the PlayStation launched and I can vividly remember about a year later when I considering buying one the Nintendo 64 had just come out. Looking at Wipeout XL next to Mario 64 made my decision for me. Whatever its merits as a game might have been, Mario 64 said nothing to me as young man in his mid-twenties, whereas Wipeout XL on the PlayStation, with its booming soundtrack from the Chemical Brothers absolutely did. The PlayStation was cool and modern in ways that its console competition (and PC games) could never quite match.

Rodney Brett
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Great interview, Christian! I chuckled when you said that Ridge Racer was the game that sold you on the Playstation because it was the same for me.. I saw that game demoed and immediately skipped college class that day to run out and buy one.. I totally agree with Jeffrey on his comment. There was something very "adult" about the Playstation. We were still trying to come out of the "furry mascot" trend that the 16 bit consoles had an abundance of and many of us in our 20s were looking for games that felt less childish.. Playstion games had narratives that you just never saw in many N64 titles. The optical disc gave developers a chance to show entire story cut scenes(in it's infancy) and Metal Gear Solid gave us one of the first games to implement those cutscenes in "realtime". While technically not a "3d" system, the polygon rendering was really impressive at that time. Moving around in 3d space was a new and exciting experience for gamers. I have been playing video games since the Magnovox Odysee and to this day, I would say without a doubt that I've dumped the most amount of raw video game hours into the original PLAYSTATION.. Happy Birthday, my old friend! :)

DanielThomas MacInnes
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Happy birthday, Sega Dreamcast! You're the best! Oh, and happy birthday, Sony Playstation.

I'm very curious to know how popular the original Playstation still is in 2010. What games would make you drop your modern consoles and run to the nearest used game shop? The PSX doesn't have quite the diehard fanbase of the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast, which is rather interesting. Perhaps this is due to the enormous success of the Playstation brand?

I'm thinking of my favorite PSX games, and I come up with Wipeout & Wipeout XL, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 & 2, the Namco and Williams arcade collections, Tempest X3 (never play that game after drinking a liter of vodka), maybe Final Fantasy 7, maybe the first two Tomb Raiders.

I'm really not fond with the rise of franchises or the cinematic games, which came of age in the Playstation era. I think I've been burned out on too many crummy sequels over the years, so that games like, say, Resident Evil 2, Silent Hill, or Metal Gear Solid just turn me off. That said, the famous moment with the dog in the window from the original Resident Evil was SPECTACULAR.

Jonathan Jennings
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I think it's primarily because both of the playstations successors allow for backwards compatibility. unlike with my dreamcast who i have to turn to if i want my power stone or sonic adventure fix I can play bushido blade on the playstation 2 or tenchu on the playstation 3. Not to say I don't love my psx, but the ease of popping in a discs into my ps3 to play games kind of makes me not revere it as much as my DC.

John Gordon
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From the PS1 era the only games I go back and play are the Final Fantasy games. I still play the PS1 versions of FF6-9 and FF Tactics. Most other games were ok at the time, but didn't stick with me. I kind of think action games as a whole are less fun when they went 3D. (There are a few exceptions.) But I like the extra content that came with the CD format. That made RPG's a lot better in my opinion.

Jason Weesner
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Tomba 1&2, Ape Escape, PaRappa the Rapper, Wipeout XL (and 3), Silent Bomber, FF7, Tail Concerto, Klonoa, Ridge Racer 4, Metal Gear, Bloody Roar 2, Super Puzzle Fighter, Castlevania SOTN, Spyro Ripto's Rage, Devil Dice, Driver 1, Gran Turismo 2, Grandia, Jumping Flash, Mr. Driller, Oddworld, Persona 2, Point Blank, Resident Evil 3, Silent Hill, Valkryie Profile, Vagrant Story, Wild Arms, etc. So many great games!!!

Emperador Alencio
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Amir Sharar
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Excellent interview. I too bought a PS1 for Ridge Racer, but also for another reason not mentioned here.

Price. I thought it was priced much better than the competition. The Saturn had to drop the price right away to even compete.

To have hardware superior to the Saturn sitting at a better price point is a remarkable achievement. Part of that was a mistake on SEGA's part, but it does demonstrate that Sony was very focused on the right trend (3D gaming) from the get-go.

Glenn Sturgeon
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I can only say i'm glad nintendo backed out.

After the way nin treated alot of developers during the 8-16 bit days it was good to see another company end up leading the industry.(many of you know what i mean)

The 1st game i got was twisted metal, but the game that sold me on the system was an import title i saw in a magazine, the game was From softwares King's Field.

Well it was never released here in the US but the sequals did make it out here.

I still play a few of the PS only titles every now and then like the Kings field games, Rollcage2 and Raiden project.

Some of my best PS memories were using the link cable to play Wipeout XL, Ridge Racer revolution & coop Doom with friends.