Birthday Memories: Sony PlayStation Turns 15
September 9, 2010 Page 2 of 4
You're right that we've heard some of this stuff before. But one insight that you hear a lot, but I've never really heard someone really talk about, is how that motivated Sony to really drive forward and show Nintendo who's boss? Do you think that was really what was going on?
PD: Well, Sony was passionate about the category and passionate about the technology. We felt like we had an advancement that would change the industry, the optical disc and CD-ROM expertise that we were bringing to the table.
So, it was a vision as much as anything, but again, initially, I think Sony was planning on partnering with Nintendo. And when Nintendo demonstrated that they weren't terribly interested in that, the senior folks at Sony decided that "We best go alone", and we've done quite well.
Talk about the Wayback Machine, but at the time, Sega was a really, really strong competitor having come off the success of the Genesis. Were you guys concerned with competing with them as well, not knowing how the Saturn was going to ultimately turn out?
PD: I don't think you enter any category cavalierly. You certainly understand who the entrenched players are. But again, I think Sony has always been a very visionary company, and that's something that is still true to this day as I sit here 15 years later.
When Sony announced it was going to go to the games business, I think a lot of people assumed, "Well, they're just going to do what the other guys do", but of course, that's not the way Sony operates; we had a point of difference.
And so, the long answer to your question is Sony doesn't get scared because of their competitors, when we've got unique points of difference and a superior product offering.
I can visibly remember that the media pundits and the analysts and the retailers... To some degree, I think the world was betting against Sony at the time. It's easy to forget that at that time Sony was a huge underdog.
Now, people think of us as a leader in this category, and that's flattering, but at the time, again, we didn't have a pedigree in the games business. It was really the early days of Sony making the hardware parts of the company work together with the software parts of the company.
And I can vividly remember a front-page article in the New York Times business section that predicted that not only we wouldn't be successful, there wouldn't be another console at all that would be successful because PCs were going to be where gaming was going and, you know, console gaming was dead.
So, there was a lot of noise in the pre-PlayStation phase. Conventional wisdom was we weren't going to be successful, and "What does Sony know about competing with the mighty Nintendo and the mighty Sega?" Well, again, 15 years later, Nintendo's still here and Sega's still in business, but of course they got out of the hardware business, and the rest is history.
Like I said, it was an exciting time. I don't want to be too nostalgic about it, but it was a really fun time. It was highly energetic, and I think people had a sense that they were working on something that was going to make history.
You moved to California about seven months before launch. As you drew close to launch, were you confident in the kind of hit system that you would have on your hands, and the strength of the launch you would have?
PD: I think we were confident we had a hit product, but, you know, you hook me up to a lie detector, I think it would be hard to find anyone maybe short of [PlayStation creator Ken] Kutaragi-san who knew the length to which PlayStation would change the business and what type of global iconic brand...
It's not just that we had success launching a product, we created one of the most recognizable brands in the world and created something that is still going strong to this day. Yeah, I think what Sony brought to the table wasn't just technology, but the combination of the Sony brand and the PlayStation approach to the category changed the business model.
We gave people older than 17 years old permission to play video games, and really legitimized this category in a way that I think hadn't been done up until then. Not withstanding the great success that Nintendo and Sega were having -- and I'm not suggesting that people older than 17 didn't play games -- but that Sony brand really took it from being a kids' category.
They were huge players back then, because kids were the dominant part of the demographic that played games. And today's generation, you're just as likely to talk to a kid and ask them what they do for entertainment, and video games are just as much a part of the vernacular as TV or internet or movies.
It's something that people older than 45 might not understand because they didn't grow up with it, and so they think, "Well, eventually they'll grow out of that," but today's gamers don't think that way. It's just a natural part of the entertainment landscape.
And I think Sony largely deserves the credit for that because of the way that S-O-N-Y brand, it just brings something different to the table that gave adults... It made it cool to play games again.
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