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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December 2004, 09:04 GMT
Decade of dominance for PlayStation
By Jo Twist
BBC News science and technology reporter

In the 10 years since Sony launched its first games console gaming has become a multi-billion pound entertainment and leisure business.

Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider heroine synonymous with PlayStation
Game icon Lara Croft drew in many PlayStation fans
Gaming has ensconced itself in popular culture, and this is in no small part due to Sony's first PlayStation console, which went on sale in Japan on 3 December 1994.

It had its own early pin-up in the form of Lara Croft, and it spawned a term for those who grew up in this popular culture.

"We are the 'PlayStation generation'. We make beats on whatever we can," claimed London rapper Dizzee Rascal after accepting the 2003 Mercury Prize.

Growing up

The PlayStation opened up gaming and technology to a whole new audience. It drew together the right hardware, design, and games, at the right time.

"PlayStation introduced the idea that gaming can be for grown-ups," explains games researcher and Guardian games blogger Aleks Krotoski.

The PlayStation family of consoles
Sony's PlayStation console family has been dominant for a decade
"It moved the games console out of the little boy's bedroom into the family front room, where everyone had access, and everyone could play."

Sean Dromgoole, games analyst at Some Research, agrees that right from the console's grey beginnings, its design and functionality opened up the appeal of gaming.

"It took gaming consoles from being toys to being grown-up bits of kit, gadgets, functional consumer items like hi-fis were.

"But it did it with style. It managed to keep it technologically interesting."

What Sony also did, however, was to target the right people at the right time, just as technology was getting better.

It was very clever, says Mr Dromgoole, about marketing it initially at early adopters - people who liked to own things first.

'Cool cachet'

Until the PlayStation hit Japanese stores in December 1994, the world of games consoles had been dominated by Nintendo and its Super NES console, Sega and Atari.

By the following year PlayStation had gone on sale worldwide and by January 1996, global sales hit 3.4 million.

Sony shipped its 100 millionth PlayStation earlier this year, helped along by the 2000 launch of a smaller version of the original, the PSOne.

The audience of kids who played games on other consoles did not want to stop doing that as they grew up
John Houlihan, Computerandvideogames.com
The millennium also saw the release of the second generation console: the PlayStation 2. By March 2004, Sony had sold 70 million PS2s

According to John Houlihan, editor of Computerandvideogames.com magazine, PlayStation's contribution to how the culture of gaming came at a crucial time and its influence since has remained powerful.

"The market was growing but games back in those days were regarded as preserve of kids," he says.

Sony wanted to bring gaming into mass popular culture, not just geek culture, with the aim of making the games console the main multimedia entertainment system in homes.

"It offered a 'cool cachet' to gaming. It suddenly went from being sad geeks allegedly spending all their time in the bedroom and bought it into the living room much more," says Mr Houlihan.

Wider appeal

As early console gamers grew and grew up, that culture of cool stuck.

"Technology pushed the medium forward because they were cutting edge for a long while with the original PlayStation.

"But also the audience of kids who played games on other consoles did not want to stop doing that as they grew up."

This explains why the original PlayStation has had an organic life of more than 10 years.

The social impact of the console, as a "breakthrough" product, cannot be underestimated.

"Homes are as likely to have a games console as a DVD player," explains Ms Krotoski.

Older woman playing Sony EyeToy for the PlayStation
Sociable games like the EyeToy have encouraged diverse gamers
"Games are now an alternative form of mainstream entertainment, appealing to an audience as broad as the television-viewing public," she adds.

The console also triggered more expansive thinking about the possibilities of interactive multimedia, adds Ms Krotoski, as well as invited competition from Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube.

Being part of the mainstream has also meant gaming's appeal has widened further and many more women and casual or social gamers have taken up the control pads.

"Certainly recent releases like SingStar [a karaoke game] and the dance mat-controlled games have encouraged people who wouldn't have considered picking up a controller to get in on the fun," says Ms Krotoski.

"With a more diverse audience, the designers of games have had to re-think their theories of design.

"Games which appeal to older players are different than those which appeal to kids. Greater depth of storyline, graphical immersion and more mature content have become an integral part of the gaming experience."

Next generation

Since its launch, PlayStation has dominated the console market over Nintendo's GameCube and Microsoft's Xbox.

But the next 10 years are set to be and even bigger battlefield and anything could happen in a fast-moving business.

Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all intend to launch their next generation consoles next year.

The new consoles, expected in the shops sometime in the next two years, will have more processing power, emphasise online gaming, pack in voice recognition and motion detection technology, so that play can become a more social experience.

How games consoles respond to the growth into online environments, and how they enable players to play in ever more social ways, will be a vital weapon in the battle over the next five years, says Mr Dromgoole.

"Sony won't have it all their own way," agrees Mr Houlihan. "Next year we are looking at three console launches, so the future is up for grabs."

How influential was the PlayStation in the evolution of video games? How did you get into gaming? Here are a selection of your comments.

Nintendo invented playability
Ben Leighton, Oxford, UK
The original Nintendo was the ultimate console when I was a kid in the late 80's. I recently bought a piece of software that emulates the Nintendo on my PC. Fantastic. The games were (and still are) so much fun! PlayStation definitely redefined 90's gaming, but they owe everything to the pioneers of the 80's, from the design of control pads to the games themselves. Nintendo invented playability.
Ben Leighton, Oxford, UK

Sony's marketing was helped by Sega's bizarre decision to move out of console manufacture and purely into software. It's arguable that should they have remained in the hardware market, the amazing Dreamcast system would have been the market leader.
James, Oxford, UK

Sony sped up the industry more than anything else. Sega had already started moving to 3D graphics with the Sega Saturn before PlayStation was released, and even before that with its 32X plug in for the Megadrive. Indeed Tomb Raider launched on both the Saturn and PS1. Sony popularised console gaming certainly, but as with all things it is hard to predict whether this would have happened anyway. The truly innovative games makers, including Sega and Nintendo, have been sidelined by Sony's more populist approach. Sony's major grip over the market will be hard for both Microsoft and Nintendo to weaken, despite both having produced technically superior consoles.
Charley Coleman, London, UK

My first real gaming machine was a Sinclair Spectrum, I've moved on through the ranks of Sega Megadrive, Sony PlayStation and PlayStation 2. Where Sony have been successful is to convince adults that it's OK for them to buy and play games for themselves, rather than something for the children - the influence of the PlayStation lies more in it's marketing than it's technology.
Carl Elgerton, Stourbridge UK

The problem there has been with the new generation of consoles is that, the era of PS2, Xbox and GameCube will not be remembered because most of the titles released have been unoriginal and rehashed
Naveed Khan, London
I am now 28 and have been playing games since the Atari and haven't looked back since. There were three moments which redefined gaming. The Sega Master System as it was leagues ahead of the NES. The second stage was the Super Nintendo. This in my opinion was arguably the greatest console to be released, as it bought forward in its time cutting edge graphics and originality. And then came the PlayStation, which without any doubt paved the way for the next generation consoles. The problem there has been with the new generation of consoles is that, the era of PS2, Xbox and GameCube will not be remembered because most of the titles released have been unoriginal and rehashed.
Naveed Khan, London

My first games console was a Sega Master System. It was the coolest thing I'd ever played on. The games loaded immediately and they had an 'arcade' quality to them. Since then I bought a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), a Nintendo 64 (N64) and I've stuck with Nintendo ever since. I've always found Nintendo games on each of the consoles since the SNES to be more fun and more universally accessible to all my friends than the Sony games consoles. Sony spend a lot of money on marketing, which I think is why they're so successful. Nintendo seem to focus on game quality instead of game quantity. The PlayStation has been very successful, but in terms of gaming (DVD functionality is not gaming-related) evolution I think they have held back the industry.
Richard Allen, Woking, UK

I think that the GameBoy has to be considered as the most influential over the Playstation - 89 million units and counting. I know people that don't normally play or like video games but are prepared to, and enjoy playing games like Tetris. The PlayStation was loosely based on a combination of consoles and computers - the Commodore Amiga, PC and Sega Saturn. Its technology and games weren't as capable as some other consoles but it was fortunate enough to benefit from excellent marketing and being sold at the right place at the right time.
Jack Ellacott, London

I'm still a Nintendo kid at heart, but the PlayStation has forced its way into my gaming life, and its been a pleasant experience
Alan Donald, Shetland, Scotland
I was a child of the Nintendo Generation. I had a friend that had the first Donkey Kong handheld, and then a NES. Despite being told by school friends that Sega were the better company, I stood by Nintendo. I got my own Super Nintendo console not long after they were released in the UK and then moved onto the Nintendo 64 as games developed. After that, I had my first falter from the Nintendo market when I bought a Sega Dreamcast, it unfortunately suffered in a market dominated by Sony and Nintendo and I was forced into buying another console. I swallowed my pride and with a heavy heart, I abandoned my beloved Nintendo and bought a Sony PlayStation 2. I'm still a Nintendo kid at heart, but the PlayStation has forced its way into my gaming life, and its been a pleasant experience.
Alan Donald, Shetland, Scotland

The genius of PlayStation was it's marketing synergies. By placing its product in the context of the mid-nineties dance culture (notably Wipeout) it gained credibility. On another level the games themselves were noteworthy because they were not aimed at children but the 18-30 age bracket. Of course it was helped by the fact that the PSOne generation of consoles was the first to introduce realistic 3D gaming. However, out went the primary colours of Mario et al, and in came more sombre tones and mature situations such as Resident Evil. Due to all this it is now socially acceptable to like gaming
John-Paul Upton, Manchester, England

The PlayStation arrived at exactly the right time and with the right message. If, like me, you had grown up with computer games, evolved as they had evolved, you reached a point where suddenly there was nothing more for you. You are 20 years old, into nightclubs, socialising, dance music and beer, but any games were distinctly kid orientated. The only alternative were the computers, but the decent home machines are on the way out (namely the Amiga and Atari ST) and the PC is too expensive and too difficult to use. Sony produced the PlayStation, targeting it directly at you and your peers. It had Wipeout, all funky visuals and thumping tunes, it had Tekken with realistic graphics and crunching sound effects, it even had a trippy visualisation program that reacted to your own CDs for pity's sake. This was a grown-up, edgy machine. Suddenly the games scene was cool again for your age group. The PlayStation will go down in history as one of the best planned product launches ever and it also allowed gaming to grow up with its original audience, those of use who had Atari 2600s and Sinclair Spectrums.
Simon Oxalate, Swindon, UK

The PlayStation brought computer gaming culture into the mainstream, but I don't have one - the games are generally too shallow and generic
Phil Haswell, UK
My first console experience was the clunky Atari TV console, but it was the Sinclair Spectrum that got me hooked. The technology was basic, but the imagination and innovation of the game designers were boundless. The PlayStation brought computer gaming culture into the mainstream, but I don't have one - the games are generally too shallow and generic. Serious gamers play on the PC, which has much better support for depth of gameplay, sophisticated concepts, online multiplayer, and custom hardware.
Phil Haswell, Bishops Stortford, UK

Sony dared to take on the big boys (then Nintendo and Sega) and beat them at their own game. Sony has realised that the first generation of gamers (me included) has grown up. But their appetite for quality gaming remains. A fact that Sega, and to a lesser extent Nintendo, seem to have forgotten. Who would ever have thought that Sonic would ever have appeared on a Nintendo console? If you'd said that when the Megadrive was at its height you would have been laughed at for weeks.
Graham Bourke, Billericay, Essex

The PlayStation was a revelation when it was released. It brought more people together than any other media since the cinema hey-day of the '50's. It has evolved, and will continue to evolve for the foreseeable future. Hopefully knocking TV off the top-spot for home entertainment. Why settle for a passive experience when in the world of gaming, you're part of the experience. Roll-on the PS3.
Mick, Dover.

The Japanese never cease to change the world through technology and even re-invented gaming culture to something that was one person playing to a social gathering of a few friends beating each other up on a TV screen. Gaming can be even as social as watching TV with the family.
Paul Sands, Glasgow, Scotland

I played my first games on Commodore 64, I also enjoyed the original Nintendo, but Sega Megadrive was a revelation. The gaming experience it provided was out of this world; and not to mention Sonic 2, which I truly think is the best game of all time. I have spent many years on the PlayStation (PSX) and PS2 but its not just the same.
Mohammad Ali Asif Khan, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

Back in 1993 I was sharing a house with a video game programmer, and I remember him telling us about the new console coming from Sony called "The Play Station". We all laughed at the time thinking what a really stupid name for games console. How wrong we were. I eventually bought the PSOne, which has now been handed down to my parents on the purchase of a PS2.
David, Yarm, UK

The PlayStation brought together the best bits of Nintendo's and Sega's games consoles. Fantastic games (from Nintendo) and games on CDs (from Sega). But it was Sony who put it together and released some of the best games like Tekken and Tomb Raider. When it first came out, there was nothing that could beat it. The N64 and Dreamcast were made to look ancient almost overnight. That said I didn't buy a PS2, but bought an Xbox instead, although the new slim line PS2 is calling me back to the cause.
Matt, Birmingham

The PlayStation series is the keystone of the resurgence of console gaming in the US. After the fall of the Atari, it was Nintendo who reintroduced consoles. However, it wasn't until the fourth generation (PS and N64) that gaming became mainstream. And one of the reasons for the PS's popularity is the widespread availability of role-playing games, especially the Final Fantasy series. Although the series began on the Famicom, made by Nintendo, it really didn't kick off until Final Fantasy VII, which of course was released on the PS. I credit the insane popularity of the Final Fantasy series for the success of the PlayStation series, as much as any other game series.
Nick, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, USA

Most of my teenage years were spent gaming, as the introduction of consoles like the PlayStation and N64 moved gaming into the 'cool' side of teenage culture. I enjoyed all sorts of consoles for various reasons. I had an N64 for its quality of gaming, but also enjoyed the PlayStation for its sheer playability and fun. Now I have an Xbox, and I think it far outweighs the PS2, due to various games now being multi-console, and the Xbox makes these games look and play better.
Jon, Birmingham

The PlayStation 2 is cold and unappealing. Its games lack the ability to have fun. Nintendo was the pioneer of early gaming, present gaming and providing it gets its marketing strategy correct for its DS and next-generation console, it may well dominate the market again, largely due to the fact that Nintendo is all about fun gaming.
Christopher Banner, Leek, England

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