The Surprising True Story of How The First PlayStation Came to Be
Sony & Nintendo Teamed Up!
The name PlayStation is easily associated with Sony as being their exclusive, iconic gaming console. Right?
Well, What if I told you that the name PlayStation was originally formed from a joint venture with — and it was actually "Play Station" with a full space in the middle?
I hear you saying — "WTF?" Like many things, the devil is in the detail, and the name Play (space) Station, became the no-space PlayStation by an interesting turn of events.
Back in The 80s, Nintendo and Sony Planned to Team Up
Let me set the scene. It was an exciting time to be a consumer back in the 80s and 90s. There were so many rival gaming consoles competing for the podium finish at the figurative Console Derby. The odds had always been on the reliable Nintendo pure breeds. The big N had proven to be a safe bet, consistently up the front, near the finish line.
To ensure the odds remained in their favor, #Nintendo in 1986 initiated a project to move them even further ahead of the pack. The idea was to work with Sony to incorporate a CD-ROM add-on to their Super Nintendo Entertainment System console. The idea could have looked something like this:
As part of the deal, Sony was also to develop a second standalone console that would be a hybrid of both companies tech. The console would be capable of playing Nintendo’s SNES cartridges and the newly developed Sony formatted CD-ROM. The console was called a name very similar to the one so familiar to us today — Play Station.
The Original Play Station Would Play CD-ROMS and Nintendo Cartridges
What a powerful partnership this could have been when considering the strength of Sony today, and the comparatively similar strength Nintendo represented back then. Don't get me wrong, Nintendo remains a viable and essential player in the current console market, but it can no longer be considered top of the podium.
But Nintendo Realised The Deal Would Benefit Sony Way More Than Anticipated
"What went wrong, and how did Play Station become PlayStation?" Good question, and I am glad you are paying attention, two koala stamps for you.
The project goal for Nintendo was to future-proof their consoles by partnering with Sony. The benefits of this partnership however were not all Nintendo's, with the devil in the detail later being the main drive for the failure of this collaboration.
The turning point was when Nintendo eventually realized that in the terms and conditions of their partnership. Sony would have complete control of the CD-ROM format.
It seems crazy, how Nintendo let this slip in negotiations. Nintendo had done all the hard work building their brand, but with one stoke of a pen Sony would have contractually taken a significant portion of Nintendo's revenue over two consoles.
The CD-ROM was to be the keystone to keep the momentum going for Nintendo by transitioning to a CD-ROM technology with SNES CD-ROM add-on and the new Play Station console. By missing this key element in the contract, Sony had tipped the balance of the relationship by essentially handcuffing Nintendo’s future growth to Sony’s CD-ROM technology. Imagine being the guy walking into the boss's office and delivering that news.
Also Rejected By SEGA, Sony Had Only One Thing To Do
When Nintendo realized this mistake they immediately set upon secretly removing themselves from Sony by seeking an alternative developer. Behind closed doors, Nintendo struck up a deal with the then electronics giant #Phillips. I am sure at the time Nintendo would have been very smug in correcting their initial mistake by partnering with Phillips, to the detriment of Sony.
If only they could turn back time (don't sing Cher, resist!). Phillips was also a good bet back then. I guess we can answer Nintendo’s wisdom in choosing Phillips by a show of hands. "Who here has any Phillips branded products in their possession?" No one, well except that noob in the back corner dressed like Marty from Back To The Future.
Nintendo's switch to Phillips left Sony searching for a partner, pleading their strengths and desires into the dial up web. When they approached Sega, they got another No — “it’s not you, it’s me.”
In the end, Sony decided to go it alone using the name Play Station. Nintendo, of course, did not like that idea and put their legal foot down by attempting to enforce their legal rights to use the name and system. After much to-ing and fro-ing, Sony’s best of the best at Sony (had to be), came up with the idea of removing the SNES cartridge from their console.
This cut any proprietary ties with Nintendo and allowed Sony to finally move forward with their own version of a console, which Nintendo had inadvertently helped develop.
Finally, The First PlayStation Was Born in 1994
The rest it could be said is history, Sony removed the space between the two words and introduced the #Sony PlayStation gaming console to the world in 1994 with the CD-ROM. The gaming console ran until 2001 and eventually outsold Nintendo's efforts.
There have been many descendants from the original PlayStation, with the PlayStation 4 Pro now doing the rounds. The foundation for them all can be traced to the first console and the turn of events that proved so fruitful for Sony. It could so easily of been a photo finish between Sony, Nintendo, Sega and 3DO in the 90s.
The cause and effect of the choices these companies made back then is evident in what we see today. It will be interesting to see who will transition to the podium through the coming Virtual Reality gaming era. It is hard to gauge the odds, I would say history will more than likely repeat itself with new partnerships and collaborations, forming new entities and systems we haven't event comprehended. Until then, hats off to Sony and their PlayStation.
What would the world look like today if Nintendo and Sony remained friends?