With our continuing look at the world of the console in a bid to find the fans favourite, we find ourselves moving on from Nintendo and Sega and onto Sony’s PlayStation series of consoles. Hailed in the beginning as the young upstarts pushing in on the big two mainstays of home gaming consoles, Sony launched their brand with all the flair that the 90’s could handle. Consoles popped up in unlikely places such as pubs, raves and over as much tv as they could possibly handle. Sony were serious about making this new arm of their global empire a success. 20 years on, the brand has become a household name. With a series of consoles under their belt including some record breakers that its competitors could only dream of having along with a console lifespan that is hard to believe, Sony have made the PlayStation a force to be reckoned with and a serious contender for the top spot on anyone’s favourite console list.
Launching at the end of 1994, the PlayStation 1 became a fan favourite very quickly. Aimed originally at the teenage to early 20’s market, Sony went for a less conventional means of marketing the console. Rather than stick with the usual advertising campaigns cemented in our minds by its competitors, Sony preferred to market the PlayStation as the rebel of the gaming world which could also be seen by the range of games available. More adult themed titles such as Resident Evil and Doom mixed with fast paced, psychedelic and bass thumping racers such as the formidable WipeOut sat well along with Tomb Raider and Crash Bandicoot. The competition at the time was Nintendo’s N64 and Sega’s Saturn, both of which couldn’t hold up to the might of the PlayStation. Even Microsoft’s chairman Bill Gates himself stated that he preferred the PlayStation over the Sega Saturn. High praise indeed from the company that would later become PlayStation’s main rivals. Including its smaller redesign 6 years later, the PlayStation sold over 120 million consoles.
The PlayStation was indeed a formidable console in its day and has also seen a rise in popularity over recent years as a retro console to collect mainly due to its large library of varied games as well as its second-hand price tag. Heading away from cartridge gaming, the PlayStation went with disk based gaming along with the use of memory cards for game saves. The use of disks gave developers the ability to create bigger and more diverse games for the PlayStation and stretch their metaphorical muscles with what they could do. With many additional peripherals including light guns, driving wheels and fighting sticks helped to make sure that the PlayStation was considered a serious piece of gaming kit. Some peripherals are still highly sort after even to this day. Another feather in PlayStation’s cap also came from its CD drive. certain models of the PlayStation 1 are considered by many music lovers as a high quality audio CD player. With CD players ranging wildly in price during the life cycle of the PlayStation 1, this became a staple music player in many a students dorm or teenagers bedroom thus furthering this consoles diversity in the tough market.
After Sony’s success with the PS1, it would be hard to come out with something to better it in the eyes of many gamers. Sony launched the PlayStation 2 in 2000, Sony beat their main rivals, Microsoft to the punch by a year while their other main rivals at the time, Sega were having troubles getting the DreamCast to be a console to be considered due to its issues with pirating games. The PlayStation 2 had a few features that really put it at the forefront of many gamers lists including 8meg memory cards meaning you could store more game saves, backwards compatibility, a feature that many gamers loved even to this day. The Dualshock controller from the PS1 had minor redesigns internally but stayed largely the same meaning gamers muscle memories had the same effect on sequels such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Gran Turismo. The biggest feature which held it in high esteem amongst its fans and peers was the inclusion of a DVD player. This feature was a massive blow to its opponents as not only did the competition fail to add this to their consoles but the PlayStation 2 was actually cheaper than some stand alone DVD players on the market! The PS2 went through a redesign to create the PS2 Slim, the same console but half the size and half the weight.
The PlayStation was so successful and so versatile that Sony even added the console built in to a model of its Bravia TV series. Games for the PS2 came thick and fast over its lifespan with a catalogue of over 4000 titles ranging from children’s games right through to some more adult themed games made possible by the processing power of the console. Graphically during its time it was hard to beat. The space afforded to the developers by the DVD disk space and the processing power gave rise to bigger and more detailed games from racing sims through to detailed and complex JRPG’s. Again, like the PS1, the PlayStation 2 was a haven for peripheral makers, with a massive selection of controllers, attachments and accessories to personalise each individual games time with the console. The console even saw a time as the preferred console for modders both internally and externally. The PlayStation 2 finally went out of production in January 2013, 13 years after its launch, making it the worlds most successful console with over 155 million consoles sold.
Sony’s third instalment in the console world was always going to be a tricky affair. Not only did it have to follow on from two huge successes in the forms of the PS1 and the PS2 but it had real competition in the form of Microsoft and their Xbox brand. Launching in November 2006 with large upgrades in terms of power and abilities from its PS2 predecessor, the PlayStation 3 upped its game with internal memory for not only game saves but also for the ability to download digital versions of games from its PlayStation Store. along with this was the inclusion of a DVD player just as before but a Blu-Ray player as well, hoping to cash in on the home entertainment sector again as they had done with the PS2 and its DVD player. The controller had a spruce up again internally at least with the inclusion on sixasxis motion control but again keeping its tried and true external ergonomic look familiar to many gamers by now. Originally launching with 20gb, 60gb and 80gb models to allow gamers to choose just what they wanted. One addition that was included in only one model and then later stripped away was the backwards compatibility on the 60GB model. This model proved to be the most popular of the three options yet also suffered the most from an unexpected issue. Reliability for the original PS3 models was called into question with reports of the Yellow Light Of Death (YLOD) coming in from gamers. Different reasons were given for the fault but the most common was an overheating issue that led to the boards inside the console to warp and bend. The PS3’s competition had its own issues with the Red Ring Of Death and many rivalries were born on which console was best and which lasted longest etc.
On launch the PS3 also suffered from a subsequent lack of big titles in its initial opening months which lead to many questioning if the console had been rushed out to hit the competitions launch window. Developers rushed to produce titles for the console but its Cell Processing CPU made it a harder machine to code for than its competition. The inclusion of a modem which allowed easier access to the internet for online gaming and the digital store was a big draw for many gamers as online gaming although tried on previous consoles, had become a huge mainstay of many gamers as they were able to connect and play with new friends from around the world on their favourite games. Over the years since launch, the PlayStation 3 caught up with its catalogue of games and with many improvements to its firmware and abilities including access to third-party companies such as Lovefilm and Netflix made the console a mainstay in many households. Although not overly utilised, the ability to play both 3D games and films was also on the menu for owners. Some saw this as a fad but users enjoyed both the choice and the ability to use 3D technology on their console without the need to buy adaptors or extra add ons, apart from a compatible tv that is. The PlayStation 3 went on to have 2 redesigns in the form of the Slim and Super Slim as well as being a great device to upgrade at home with the ability to swap out hard drives to add more storage meant that the PlayStation 3 was a firm contender in the console wars even with its rocky launch. Sales of the PS3 stand at over 80 million. A strong number although it still has some way to go to beat its predecessors although they have had many years to reach such numbers. Time will tell if the PS3 can match or succeed the PS2 in sales.
Technology moves on and so too does its inclusion in the consoles. Both Sony and Microsoft were locked in a hefty battle for the loyalty and wallets of gamers after being looked at as the two main companies in the console world. Nintendo seemed to be off on their own little journey into gaming. Sony wanted to learn from the past issues with the PS3 and bring out its latest offering with both fanfare and the weight to back it up. The PlayStation 4 launched in November 2013 after being announced officially at a Sony press conference the February before. Boasting massive power compared to its predecessor, The PS4 was claimed to be the most powerful console on the market. a claim that of course is questioned by its competitors but largely stands up to question by critics. With DVD, Blu-Ray and more recently DNLA abilities available to gamers, it holds up well as its predecessor the PS3 did as a home entertainment unit as well as a gaming console. With internet access, access to Netflix, Amazon and a host of other apps, the PS4 gives owners many choices in what it can do. The main owness of course its gaming abilities. With mind-blowing graphics and the ability to portray fast action on-screen as well as complex and detailed worlds, gamers are spoilt for choice when it comes to games. A strong line up at launch including mainstays such as Madden, Call of Duty, Need For Speed and Killzone. The PlayStation 4’s catalogue has seen a steady flow of quality games come from triple A studios and indie developers alike although there has been a question raised over the amount or rather the lack of first party titles coming from Sony since its launch. The console also has a host of other features that gamers have come to use in varying degrees. One major advantage was the ability to take screenshots and video of your gameplay without the need for a capture device. Not only could you capture and save your gaming videos but you could edit and post them to FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube. Another popular feature is the use of Twitch and UStream services letting gamers host their own channels for viewers to watch and comment on. Inclusion of a camera attachments in some boxes as well as add ons make it a streaming console that has some legs. Although not as diverse as Microsofts Kiniect, the PlayStation Eye camera does have voice activation and motion control abilities. Features that will largely be viewed as a success or familiar depending on the use by developers over the coming years.
In its first year the PlayStation 4 sold close to 20 million consoles, outselling its competition by a claimed almost 3 to 1 margin. This number has raised up to around 25 million consoles sold. Will it be Sony’s most successful console yet? Only time will tell but it’s fair to say that it has some serious work to do to keep up with its heritage especially the hugely successful PlayStation 2.