Console Wars – World War Console is a continuing series that details the history of the Console Wars. Part I can be found here.
The second generation of Nintendo’s and Sega’s consoles was coming to an end and Nintendo was looking for the next step in console gaming. Nintendo was deeply invested in the Nintendo 64, which was the first home console to support 64-Bit games, when the shift from cartridges to CD-ROM’s where taking place and being adopted by Sega. CD-ROM was capable of storing more data for longer and deeper games, as well as enough space for voice acting. Prior to CD’s you could only have sound effects and music on cartridges because of limited space, while with CD’s your characters could now be brought to life with voices. Nintendo couldn’t afford to scrap the progress they made with the N64 so they reached out to Sony. In the partnership the Nintendo “Play Station” was born, a CD-ROM disk player that would attach to your N64 post launch to give you the best of both worlds.
However the partnership wouldn’t last long and went south when Nintendo learned that in this partnership that Sony would own all the IP’s (Intellectual Properties) that used the “Play Station” peripheral. This was not ideal for Nintendo and in turn caused them to secretly terminate the deal with Sony and partner with Philips for the CD peripheral. When Sony caught word of this they pulled their partnership, even though Nintendo never intended to fully go through with the deal. These events changed gaming forever.
Sony now had a choice; to continue on this road that leads to the gaming world or to scrap everything and focus on there thriving home electronics products, they made a choice and continued on their path to a new game console. Sony now had something to prove to Nintendo, and the world, that they could not only be successful making a game console, but be better then the competitor. By December 1994 in Japan the Sony PlayStation was born and on store shelves.
Sony entering the gaming world did not bode well for Sega; the headlines where full of news about Sony and Nintendo’s falling out and the new console that was born from the ashes. Sega released its third generation game console in November 1994 the Sega Saturn, a month before Sony. This new system was the first console to use CD-ROM. The had start however, proved unfruitful. With the release of the PlayStation in 1994 and the N64 two years later the Sega Saturn was discontinued after four years, selling only 9 million units. Sony and Nintendo were now the two major contenders, and even with Sony releasing the PlayStation two years prior, both companies were pretty even in sales. However this wouldn’t last long. The attempt to release a CD peripheral for the N64 never materialized, and because of this, Nintendo lost to Sony. The CD could not only hold more information, but it was also vastly cheaper then cartridge. This was not only important for profit but it is also what lead to PlayStation obtaining more third party exclusives, and ultimately what propelled Sony into the lead.
PlayStation had some amazing exclusives the world had never seen before. Naughty Dog showed the world how amazing 3D platforming could be with Crash Bandicoot, and Polyphony Digital blew everyone away with realism in Gran Turismo. Sony owed much of its success to Squaresoft and Final Fantasy VII. Without this game, it’s hard to say if PlayStation would have ever made it to 102 million units sold in its eleven years on the market. Most of us can agree that number would be smaller without FFVII, and PlayStation would only get bigger with the next generation.
This is part of a five part article series that will continue to outline the history of video games console wars. Stay tuned for part three, which will be posted next week, right here.